Theft eyed in Zantop homicides

by The Dartmouth Staff | 7/19/01 5:00am

Six months after the murders of Dartmouth professors Half and Susanne Zantop, the Associated Press is reporting that prosecutors are leaning toward burglary gone awry as a motive.

The AP quoted an anonymous law enforcement official as saying, "It's the most rational explanation I've heard. We're more comfortable with that theory than any other because there's not anything that's more persuasive."

Half and Susanne Zantop were found stabbed to death Jan. 27 in their Etna home. Two Chelsea, Vt., teenagers--Robert Tulloch, 18, and James Parker, 17 -- are charged with the murders.

The teens had a history of small-scale run-ins with local police, Chelsea residents have said. They also had no connection to the victims prior to the incident, the AP's source said.

"If one exists, we don't know about it," the source said.

Attorney General Philip McLaughlin and lawyers for the two suspects could not be reached for comment late last night.

Prosecutors do not have to prove motive to convict the teens, and when Tulloch's trial begins this January it is possible that no concrete motive will be offered, the law enforcement official told the AP.

The source said investigators have "overwhelming DNA evidence" that the two suspects killed the Zantops and that should be enough to gain convictions.

According to court documents, police found two knives stained with the victims' blood in Tulloch's bedroom. Fingerprints and footprints inside and outside the Zantops' home also tie Tulloch and Parker to the crime, court documents say.

A judge has ordered Tulloch to submit blood, hair and handwriting samples to the state to compare with evidence found at the scene, but defense lawyers are fighting the order. The judge has allowed the lawyers to appeal his ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Parker's lawyers are working to have him tried as a juvenile. Unlike Tulloch, he was 16 when he allegedly commited the murders, just below New Hampshire's criteria for adulthood.

The Associate Press contributed to this article.