Parker described as funny, talented

by Julia Levy | 2/23/01 6:00am

Although a detailed illustration of his older best friend has begun to emerge, insight into what James "Jimmy" Parker was like before news spread of the teenagers' murder charges has been far more difficult to discern.

Parker, 16, and Robert Tulloch, 17, have both been charged in the stabbing deaths of Half and Susanne Zantop, but it seems those close to Parker are keeping quiet, leaving the picture of him to be described primarily by friends of Tulloch.

According to Tulloch's longtime friend, Kip Battey, Parker and Tulloch moved together as a virtual unit over the past year.

Battey described Parker as "really funny and crazy a lot of the time," and said classmates used to compare him to comic actor Jim Carrey.

"He could make pouring noodles into a pot funny if he wanted to," Battey said.

Together, Parker and Tulloch traveled through a laundry list of hobbies since becoming close friends last year. First, last spring, they experimented with river rafting.

During the summer, they moved onto paintball, and in the fall they found rock climbing. For each activity, the duo bought the requisite gear and plunged in, full-speed-ahead.

Battey called Parker a talented musician -- he played the bass guitar and sometimes the piano.

Likewise, Dennis Hill, co-principal at Spaulding High School in Barre, Vt., where Parker spent the first half of this school year, said, "People liked [Parker] and thought he was talented and friendly and decent," he said, noting Parker played in the school band.

Hill said Parker's attendance was "normal," and he was "never sent to the principal's office."

Another close friend of Tulloch's, 18-year-old Casey Purcell, who also knew Parker, said Parker's parents were pretty strict when it came to attending school.

He said when Parker and Tulloch left during the last days of January, allegedly to go rock climbing out west, without telling their parents where they were going, "Jimmy's parents were pretty upset."

He said Parker's parents expect him to be more responsible than Tulloch's do, and he indicated that Parker generally meets this expectation.

"Jim called his parents just to say that he was okay," Purcell said, explaining the time the pair contacted home on their first runaway experience just after the murders. "That's like Jim. He respects his parents."

Also, Battey said Parker's parents always worried about him when he would do things such as return home late, even if it turned out that he was just at a friend's house.

And when Parker would get home, Battey said, it was not unusual for his parents to punish him, typically by not letting him drive for a few days.

Parker has attended Chelsea Public School, a classic whitewashed schoolhouse with an American flag flying outside, since he was in kindergarten, Battey said.

However, during the fall semester of this year, he participated in the "school choice initiative," Hill said, a Vermont program that puts students who pass certain academic criteria into a pool, and allows some to attend classes in different districts.

Hill said did not know Parker personally, but he believed many people at the school did.

In the wake of the nationwide manhunt over the weekend and Parker's arrest, Hill said Spaulding High School has beefed up its counseling staff so that any community members can seek help if they feel that they need it.

And Hill is in the process of writing a letter to the community reaffirming how "great this school is," he said.

The Chelsea Public School community is taking similar actions this week, according to longtime school board member Ned Battey, Kip Battey's father.

While the Tullochs have been described as "withdrawn" people who "keep to themselves," the Parkers seem to be more immersed in their community.

According to retired Chelsea physician Brewster Martin, James's father, John Parker, is "just a wonderful guy" who is the chairman of the town's recreation committee, of which Martin is a member.

"[John] Parker and a group of us were very involved in getting a ballpark, which we accomplished a couple of years ago," Martin said.

He said the committee had succeeded just this year in doubling the size of the Main Street skating rink.

John Parker runs a successful contracting business, according to Martin, and Joan Parker is a tennis instructor at a local fitness club, according to Kip Battey.

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