Some details emerge in case

by Mark Bubriski | 3/6/01 6:00am

State prosecutors requested a special investigative grand jury yesterday to help their investigation obtain more information in the Zantop murder case, while a judge released documents revealing that one of the suspects was carrying a camping ax with him when he was arrested.

If the investigative grand jury were to be approved, it would convene in Grafton County Superior Court in North Haverhill on March 16.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, Judge Albert J. Cirone, Jr., released more portions of court records, offering slightly more insight into the case.

According to the records, after arresting the two teenage suspects, authorities obtained search warrants for their backpacks to find a camping ax that James Parker told Indiana Police he was carrying and other "objects capable of inflicting injuries or death" that the boys may have had with them.

When Parker, 16, and Robert Tulloch, 17, were apprehended in Indiana, they each wore a backpack: Tulloch had a blue and black Lowe Alpine Systems pack with his name in marker on the back, and Parker carried a purple, yellow and black Jansport bag.

Parker told Indiana police that he had a camping ax in his backpack, according to the affidavit in support of the search warrant for the packs, but it is not clear whether the ax was recovered.

However, it appears that may be what led authorities to contact members of the Dartmouth Outing Club concerning recent climbing equipment sales last week.

But a source close to the investigation told The Dartmouth that an injury caused by an ax would not be considered stabbing, and, considering autopsies found that the Zantops died of stab wounds, the ax was likely not directly involved in the actual killings. However, it is unclear whether the ax was used at the crime scene at all.

Also, an affidavit released just yesterday showed police spoke with two truck drivers, Rowdy Kyle Tucker and Nancy Lee Tucker, who transported the boys from the Sturbridge, Mass., truckstop where they left Parker's family's silver Audi to a Columbia, N.J., truckstop.

Parker and Tulloch told the truck drivers their names were "Sam" and "Tyler," and said they wanted to go to southern California to get jobs on a boat.

The Tuckers gave the boys $20 and a phone number for Nancy Lee Tucker's sister, Madeline Lee Bray in Modesto, Calif., the affidavit said.

New Hampshire police obtained warrants for the search of the boys' clothing and backpacks, specifying a camping ax, other dangerous weapons, footwear, footwear impressions, bodily fluids, blood, trace evidence such as hair, fibers and fingerprints, any correspondence or notes listing names and phone numbers, including but not limited to Bray's phone number.

It is not known whether Parker and Tulloch tried to contact Bray.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Kelly Ayotte declined to comment on whether an ax was recovered or if one was used at the murder scene, saying, "The affidavits speak for themselves."

Ayotte also declined comment on the lack of motive or if any progress has been made in the days since the email was sent to the Outing Club, but said she was "tremendously impressed" with people investigators have interviewed recently.

Dispelling rumors

A close relative of Christiana Usenza, Robert Tulloch's on-and-off girlfriend, told The Dartmouth that rumors circulating about the link between Usenza's family, the Zantops and the suspects are catagorically untrue.

The relative, who wished to remain anonymous, said some major newspapers inaccurately reported that Usenza's mother had cleaned the Zantops' home or that she worked part-time as a house cleaner. The source said neither Usenza nor her mother had ever been housekeepers, and denied that either had ever been to the Zantop's home.

"It was just someone inaccurately fishing for a lead and using it. It's hearsay and hurtful garbage," Usenza's relative said, expressing a desire to be completely disassociated from the case.

The mother is a gallery manager, according to the relative.

The relative said both Usenza and her mother have known the Tulloch and Parker families for the better part of a decade and were shocked to hear that they might be connected to the double homicide. The two maintain that the suspects are innocent unless proven guilty.