NEW CHARGES SAY ZANTOPS WERE FIFTH RANDOM TARGET OF TULLOCH, PARKER

by John Teti and Ithan Peltan | 2/19/02 6:00am

Robert Tulloch and James Parker murdered Half and Susanne Zantop during the last in a string of robbery attempts stretching back to July 2000, charges a grand jury indictment released today.

Tulloch and Parker approached a house in Vershire, Vt., on or about July 19, 2000 with the intent to kill the residents after obtaining PIN numbers for their ATM cards, according to the indictment. It says that this attempt, and three subsequent attempts, failed when the suspects could not gain entry to the home.

The fifth attempt succeeded when Half Zantop let Tulloch and Parker into the professors' home afters the teenagers claimed they were conducting an environmental survey for a school project, according to the indictment.

Grafton County Superior Court released the indictment documents this morning, charging Tulloch, 18, with conspiracy to commit murder -- a separate charge from the pre-existing first-degree murder indictment. Tulloch's lawyers have said that he will use an insanity defense at trial, slated to begin on April 22.

The new charge is not likely to warrant a separate trial. "The State will seek to consolidate the new indictment with the pending first-degree murder charges," New Hampshire Attorney General Philip T. McLaughlin said in a release.

The release of the indictment documents marks the first time that the prosecution has offered the public detailed evidence that the murders were premeditated. It also offers a far more thorough documentation of the suspects' activities on the day of the killings than had been seen previously.

The indictment does not describe the killings of the Zantops, but it does offer new details of Tulloch and Parker's activities that day.

Half Zantop brought the two teenagers into his study to answer the questions on their phony environmental survey, the indictment says.

It also says that after the murder, Tulloch and Parker retreated into the woods to wash blood off the murder weapons and a floor mat from the car.

The suspects also stole Half Zantop's wallet, the indictment says, and burned it along with some bloody clothes.

The release of this new information is likely the result of Parker's recent plea agreement, in which he pled guilty to accomplice to second-degree murder and agreed to provide the prosecution with "a complete and truthful account of the circumstances" surrounding the murder of the Zantops.

The indictment documents also present details of the four robbery attempts previously unknown to the public. They say that Tulloch initiated the first attempt by misrepresenting that his car had broken down nearby and asking to use the resident's telephone -- while James Parker hid out of sight. The resident did not allow Tulloch to enter the home, the indictment says.

The pair had cut the telephone wires to the house prior to their approach, the indictment says.

A second robbery attempt, according to the indictment, did not occur until about Jan. 19, 2001, when Tulloch and Parker were turned away a house in Rochester, Vt., after claiming that they were conducting an environmental survey.

Tulloch and Parker tried to execute a similar plan twice more in the next eight days, the indictment says. It says that shortly before the suspects went to the Zantops' home at 115 Trescott Rd., they knocked on the front door of a residence "in close proximity" to that address, leaving when nobody answered.

That house was almost certainly the residence of the Zantops' neighbors, Bob and Audrey McCollum. The state attorney general's office contacted Audrey this morning, she said. "They described the house, and I think that it was very obvious to us that this had to be the house," she said.

"We went off for the morning skiing, so we were away from the house till around one o'clock," she said. "We're grateful that we were not at home, but that doesn't ameliorate our grief about that couple who we loved very much."

In all five instances, the intent was to murder the residents after stealing PINs to access ATM cards, the indictment says.

"Obviously, this is a troubling development," said Laurel Stavis, the College Director of Public Affairs. She said that the administration's role now is "to help the community heal."