Teens Killed Professors for Money, Indictment Says
An indictment unsealed in New Hampshire on Tuesday alleges that two Dartmouth College professors were fatally stabbed at their home a year ago by a pair of teenagers who hatched a plot to steal their ATM cards and PINs by posing as students conducting a survey.
According to the indictment, Robert Tulloch, 18, and his 17-year-old accomplice, James Parker, were unable to gain entry to four other randomly chosen homes in the six months before they managed to talk themselves into Half and Susanne Zantop’s residence on Jan. 27, 2001.
On the very day the Zantops were killed, the two youths from Vermont tried their ruse at another house on the same street but were foiled because no one was home, the indictment says.
Internationally renowned as academics, the Zantops were also known for their open-door policy to students around Hanover, N.H. The indictment says Tulloch and Parker unwittingly took advantage of the couple’s friendliness by telling Half Zantop they were students conducting an environmental survey.
The 62-year-old Earth scientist and his 54-year-old wife, the head of Dartmouth’s German department, were found slain in their study when a fellow faculty member arrived for a dinner engagement later in the day.
The details contained in the indictment brought some sense of resolution to a college town so peaceful that many residents fail to lock their front doors. The Zantops’ slayings were only the third case of homicide in Hanover in 50 years.
Still, said Dartmouth College spokesperson Laurel Stavis, the nature of the material contained in the indictment was unsettling.
“All the developments in this story are troubling in one way or another,” Stavis said Tuesday.
The two teenagers charged in the killings were high school students from Chelsea, Vt., a poor and isolated village about 40 miles from Hanover. Tulloch was an honor student; Parker was the class clown. Both boys had had minor skirmishes with local law enforcement, including instances of entering homes in Chelsea when the owners were absent.
The two best friends apparently dreamed up their robbery-murder scheme in June 2000, the indictment says.
The indictment did not specify whether the information about the plan to steal automated teller machine cards and personal identification numbers was provided by Parker, who has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Susanne Zantop, and who has agreed to testify against Tulloch.
Tulloch, charged with first-degree murder, has indicated he will use an insanity defense at his trial in April. The new indictment also charges Tulloch with murder conspiracy.
The penalty for each of the multiple murder indictments he still faces is mandatory life in prison without parole.
The document unveiled Tuesday shows that Tulloch and Parker made their first attempt to put their plan into action in July 2000. Before knocking on the door of a home in Vershire, Vt., the pair cut the telephone line. Parker hid in the bushes while Tulloch told the person who answered the door that his car had broken down. He was refused entry and the two left, the indictment relates.
By Jan. 19, 2001, Tulloch and Parker were using the fake environmental survey as their ruse when they went to a home in Rochester, Vt. Again, they were turned away.
Next they directed their attention to Etna, N.H., a pocket of homes next to Hanover occupied largely by Dartmouth faculty. The indictment reveals they tried at least one other home on the secluded road where the Zantops lived--again, with no success.
On the day the Zantops were killed, they again tried a home “located in close proximity” to the residence of the two professors, according to the indictment. Again, no one was home.
Finally, the indictment says, Half Zantop opened the door and led the pair to the study. Tulloch allegedly asked questions, the indictment says, and Parker took notes.
It is not clear from the indictment where Susanne Zantop was at the time of the mock interview.
Although the indictment does not describe the stabbings, authorities said at the time that both professors died from multiple wounds to their heads and chests.
The indictment confirms that Tulloch and Parker bought two unusual, military-style knives over the Internet in early January 2001. Authorities said at the time that Tulloch allegedly sold a prized snowboard to help finance the purchase.
The Internet transaction, as well as the uncommon nature of the weapons, helped lead police to the two young suspects.
On the way back to Chelsea after the murder, the indictment says Tulloch and Parker stopped to wash blood off the knives and a floor mat in their car. Realizing they had left knife sheaths at the Zantop home, the pair drove back--but turned away when they saw a police car in the driveway, the indictment says.
The document says the teenagers burned Half Zantop’s wallet and some bloody clothes.
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