Half Zantop was an economic geologist. His wife, Suzanne, was respected for her studies of German literature. They were professors at Dartmouth College, and by all accounts were well-known and well-liked there. On January 27, 2001, they were stabbed to death in their own home by two high school students from Vermont - Robert Tulloch and James Parker.

Half and Suzanne

Half Zantop was born in 1938 in Eckernforde, Germany. He earned a degree in geology from Freiburg University, and then proceeded to the United States to get a master's degree. He ended up pursuing a doctorate at Stanford University, where he met a fellow German student named Suzanne Korsukewitz.

Suzanne was born in 1945 in Kissingen, Germany. After graduating from high school, she attended the Free University in Berlin, where she majored in Political Science. She ended up at Stanford to get a political science master's degree.

After Half completed his doctorate, he found work in Latin America. Susanne happily accompanied him. They were married in Argentina in 1970. They continued to live and work nomadically, in a variety of South American countries and even in Africa for a while. During their travels, Suzanne gave birth to two daughters - Veronika and Mariana.

After a few years of work in the private sector, Half began considering an academic career. In 1975, the family moved to Germany so he could take a position as a research fellow at the University of Heidelberg. It didn't last long. In 1976, Half was hired by Dartmouth College, and the family headed to the U.S.

Back in the United States, with her daughters in school, Suzanne decided she was ready for a career. She earned a master's degree in comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts, and was subsequently accepted into a doctoral program at Harvard. In 1984, she got her PhD in German and Spanish. She was soon hired by Dartmouth to teach German and comparative literature.

The Murders and the Investigation

At the time of their death, Half and Suzanne were living in the village of Etna, just outside of Hanover, New Hampshire. It's a wooded, rural, and (if I'm not mistaken) fairly affluent area.

On January 27, 2001, they had invited a colleague over for dinner. When their fellow professor arrived around 6:30 pm, she found the house unusually quiet. Upon further investigation, she also found the house unusually bloody. Half and Suzanne were lying on the floor in dark puddles. Their dinner guest fled to the nearest house, where she and the neighbors called 911.

When the police arrived, the found no sign of forced entry. Many valuable objects had been left in the home. The house was a mess, but it quickly yielded evidence - bloody footprints and fingerprints, and 12-inch plastic sheaths that looked as if they might belong to the murder weapons.

A report circulated that Half had been arguing with a student the day before his death. That student voluntarily went to the police, submitted to questioning, and was cleared of any involvement in the murders. A rumour circulated that Half had been having an extramarital affair. The Boston Globe had to print an apology when it was found that there was no truth to the rumor (which had appeared on the Globe's front page).

Somehow, the police traced the knife sheaths to James Parker. They questioned Parker, who insisted that he and a friend had bought the knives to help them cut branches to make a fort in the woods and then sold the knives when they turned out to be too heavy for the job. Parker agreed to be fingerprinted. Police questioned Parker's friend, Robert Tulloch, too. He had a suspicious looking cut on his knee, which he claimed to have gotten in the woods. Slipped and cut himself, he said. Tulloch also agreed to be fingerprinted.

At about 3 o'clock the next morning, Parker got behind the wheel of his silver Audi and headed for Tulloch's house. Before leaving, he wrote a brief note to his parents. At 11:00 am, Parker's father called the police. By then, the Audi had been ditched at a truck stop in Massachusetts, and the boys were hitching a ride across the country with a trucker.

Meanwhile, the police had match fingerprints from both boys to those on the knife sheaths used in the Zantop slayings and a chair in the home. The footprints matched too. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Robert Tulloch on two charges of first-degree murder. It took a little longer to get a warrant for Parker, who was only 16. Since the boys had crossed a state line to commit the murders, the FBI got involved in the case.

The Arrest and the Trials

By the time Parker and Tulloch reached Indiana, the murders were national news. Police at a Flying J truck stop recognized the boys' faces, having seen them on television. They questioned Parker and Tulloch, who became flustered and were unable to think of false names, birthdates, social security numbers, or hometowns. Oops. They were arrested and sent back to New Hampshire for trials.

Tulloch pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Parker pled guilty to being an accomplice to second-degree murder. He admitted his part in the killings, and planned to testify against Tulloch. On hearing of Parker's plans, Tulloch abruptly changed his plea to guilty of first degree murder. During the trials, the story behind the murders finally began to come out.

For six months prior to the Zantop murders, Parker and Tulloch had gone to homes and tried to talk their way inside. They planned to rob residents of their ATM cards, beat the passwords out of them, and then kill them. They planned to travel to Europe and Australia with the money they gained from the stolen ATM cards.

In order to gain entrance to the Zantops' house, the had pretended to be taking an environmental survey. They were clean-cut and polite, and Half Zantop let them in. Once they were inside, the survey ruse continued for a while with Tulloch asking questions and Parker writing down the answers. Then they pounced on the professor and stabbed him. Hearing the commotion, Suzanne ran into the room from the kitchen and attempted to help her husband. They stabbed her too, and then they slit the throats of both Zantops, even though Half was already dead. They took Half's wallet, which had about $340 in it. In their haste, they forgot to threaten their victims into revealing their PINs.

During their separate trials, Parker wept and apologized. Tulloch said little and showed no emotion. Both of them are now in prison, Parker for at least 25 years and Tulloch for life without chance of parole.

The Aftermath

People expressed surprise (don't they always?) that these two high school kids would do such an awful thing. "But they were smart!" "He wouldn't even go hunting with us! He said he didn't want to kill a deer!" Yeah, right. Things aren't always what they seem. You'd think people would learn that. But no: you're never ready for something like this to happen.

Their deaths have left a hole in the community, the depth of which it is difficult to measure. Like most holes, it gets shallower with time. It would be great to be able to say that something, anything, has changed - that gun control is less popular than ever, or that we're taking teenage mental health seriously. But I don't really think that's true. I think we've all just put our heads back in the sand because we don't like to think about it.