Lone Pine Crime

by Caroline Berens | 10/15/15 7:08pm

Nora Masler/ The Dartmouth

Nestled among foliage-rich mountains, with its quaint Georgian architecture and innumerable friendly-faced students, Hanover seems little more than a quintessential, idyllic New England town. Nothing indicates that a history of violent crime lurks beneath its picturesque surface — and to imagine so seems virtually impossible.

And yet, to the incredulity of many a naïve student, that is the harsh reality. The same pathways you walk on the Green were once surpassed by ax-wielding murderers, the same Baker Tower you photograph on a sunny day was once gazed upon by cold-blooded killers. Although instances of violent crime are not frequent in the College’s history, their existence — albeit minimal — merits some attention, if only to quell the false sense of protection Hanover residents enjoy.

1891: A Crime of Passion

Ostensibly, George Abbott was an intelligent and handsome child from a prosperous New England family. Abbott, however, was not the man he first seemed to be. He exhibited criminal tendencies from a young age, was implicated in several burglaries and gunfights and, at the mere age of 30, he had spent nearly a third of his life in jail. After escaping from imprisonment as a young man — fashioning a ladder from pieces of cord and iron pipe over the course of seven years — he made an attempt at redemption, changing his name to Frank Almy and seeking honest employment. Opportunity struck and he found work in July 1980 as a farmhand in bucolic Hanover, New Hampshire, assisting Andrew Warden and his family on their property. Warden, likely dubious of Almy’s murky past but willing to give him a chance, had no idea what this seemingly trivial hire would later engender.

Shortly after beginning his employment, Almy set his sights on 28-year-old Christie Warden, his employer’s beautiful and charming daughter. Initially, Christie accepted his advances — the two went on sleigh rides, attended church and exchanged Christmas gifts, much like any other couple. Christie, however, became increasingly frustrated with Almy’s refusal to discuss his past, and that coupled with his unpredictable temper caused her to sever ties with him. Andrew Warden did not renew Almy’s contract, and subsequently the young man moved to Massachusetts, where he showed a photograph of Christie to his landlady and suggested that if he could not have her, no man could.

In June 1891, Almy took a train to Hanover, with gifts, a book and two revolvers in tow. He dug out a space to sleep in one of the family’s three hay-filled barns, seeking refuge there and stealing food from nearby barns to sustain himself while he spied on the family. Unable to find Christie alone, he came upon her one night walking with her sisters down Lyme Road, near the current Hanover Country Club. He violently grabbed her and shot at her sisters as they tried to fend him off, pulling her into the Vale of Tempe as her sisters ran to get help. When they returned, Christie had been shot dead and Almy was gone.

After an extensive police search, the murderer was found living in his hole in Warden’s barn. He was tried and hanged the following year. Christie’s grave remains in the Dartmouth College Cemetery.

1895: Corpse Heist

In 1895, a Norwich resident named Joseph Murdock completed suicide. Although a tragedy, Murdock’s death would have been largely inconsequential for the Dartmouth community had his family members not noticed footsteps leading to and from his grave in the days following his burial. As in turns out, members of the then Dartmouth Medical School had encouraged two of its students from the Class of 1897, John Pearl Gifford and John McDonnell, to steal the body for academic dissection — all in the name of science.

Instead of condemning the students for their obviously criminal activity, the Medical School stood behind Gifford and McDonnell, even endorsing their actions by collectively paying their fines and welcoming them back to medical school wholeheartedly. Gifford would later establish his own hospital at the age of 32, now known as Gifford Medical School in Randolph, Vermont. Patients are likely unaware of their lionized doctor’s criminal past.

1920: Bootlegger Shooting

In 1920, the New York Times reported that Henry Maroney, then a senior at the College, had been shot and killed in the Theta Delta Chi fraternity house by Robert Meads, then a junior.

The details of the shooting are murky, but what’s clear is that both of the men involved in the bootlegging business . After a disagreement over how much Maroney was going to pay for Meads’ whiskey, the former allegedly grabbed a bottle and jumped out a window. After three unsuccessful attempts, Meads finally cornered Maroney in his TDX room and shot him two times, killing him, the Times reported.

This wasn’t Meads’ first time behind the pistol, as he had also been the perpetrator of a fatal shooting of a fellow freshman during his first year. That shooting was ruled accidental, and nothing more came from it. For the death of Maroney, however, Meads was later convicted of manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years of hard labor in prison.

1949: Varsity Jacket Murder

In 1949, a group of intoxicated varsity football players stormed the Mid-Massachusetts Hall dorm room of freshman player Raymond Cirrotta, planning to ransack his study room, perhaps as part of a hazing ritual. What started as a scenario not unimaginable for our generation of Dartmouth students quickly turned violent. But when Cirrotta emerged from his room wearing a varsity sweater — despite the fact that freshmen were only supposed to wear their class numbers — the group became angered. According to eyewitness reports, Thomas Doxsee ’50 then attacked Cirrotta. Cirrotta was later taken to Mary Hitchcock Hospital, having sustained several head injuries, where he was pronounced dead.

Even more horrifying than the actual murder is that Doxsee simply received a $500 fine and a suspended one-year sentence after pleading no contest to manslaughter. The remaining football players were acquitted by the police and received suspensions from the College. The investigation would later be labeled, unsurprisingly, as flawed.

1991: Graduate Students Ax Murderer

Trhas Berhe and Selamawit Tsehaye, two women in their mid-twenties originally from Ethiopia, came to Dartmouth seeking the kind of elite education not afforded to many in their home country. Brilliant and ambitious, the women were graduate students in the physics department at the College.

During the interim between spring and summer terms, Haileselassie Girmay, another man from Ethiopia who allegedly wanted to marry Tsehaye, came to visit her and Berhe in their then-home on Summer Street. Girmay, also an academic, was in the middle of advanced graduated studies at Sweden’s Uppsala University. During the visit, Tsehaye expressed that her priority was finishing school, not marriage.

Although Girmay did not express outward signs of anger during the conversation, he promptly went to a local hardware store and purchased an axe. After hiding in the women’s apartment, he brutally killed both women by striking them in the head and neck with the axe, allegedly a dozen times each.

When the police arrived after a neighbor reported some disturbance, Girmay answered the door and informed them that he had killed both women with an axe. Although his lawyers later used the insanity defense to keep Girmay out of prison, a jury would judge this to be false, assessing his state of mind as sane. Girmay was sentenced to life in prison in 1993.

The Summer Street apartment where the murder occurred was, reportedly, located within 100 yards of the current Leverone Field House and Hanover High School.

2001: Zantop Murders

In 2001 — a time during which all current students at the College were alive — two Vermont high school students Robert Tulloch, 17, and his best friend James Parker, 16, became bored with their small-town Vermont lives and developed a thirst for adventure. Tulloch, president of the student council and a debate champion, and Parker were described as well-liked students who performed well academically, played sports and largely stayed out of trouble. Beneath this façade of normalcy, however, the friends were brewing a plan to acquire $10,000 and move to Australia.

The first stage of their plan was to steal cars, but they realized this was unfeasible without vehicle registration. Instead, they developed a gruesome and nefarious plan to steal strangers’ ATM cards, force them to reveal their PIN numbers and subsequently kill them.

Half and Susanne Zantop were professors in the College’s earth science and German departments, respectively. Naturalized citizens originally from Germany who had met while studying at Stanford University, they were beloved for their kindness, warmth and giving natures.

In January 2001, the two high schoolers knocked on the Zantop’s door in Etna, New Hampshire, and were consequently invited in, on the premise of doing research for a school survey. After chatting with the boys about his academic interests for 10 minutes, Half reached into his wallet to find the phone number of an environmental expert to help the boys with their research. Tulloch took this as his chance to attack. He lunged at Half and stabbed him in the neck and throat, immediately killing him. When Susanne entered the room, the boys killed her too with several blows that fractured her skull. The boys made off with $340 in cash, fleeing the scene and leaving the two dead professors behind. Interestingly, they headed to Barnes and Noble to find books on coping with guilt associated with committing murder.

After a subsequent month-long nationwide manhunt, the two boys were found in Indiana attempting to hitchhike to California. Although Parker immediately cut a deal to avoid life in prison, Tulloch rejected any defense, pleading guilty to first-degree murder. He was the first person in New Hampshire to reject any such defense, making history. He was reported, however, to be completely apathetic and emotionless throughout the trail, juxtaposed beside Parker, who sobbed uncontrollably through the trial and profusely apologized to the Zantops’ family members.

Tulloch, who has been speculated to be psychopathic, was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. He currently resides in the New Hampshire State Prison for Men. Parker was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, and is currently incarcerated in the same prison at Tulloch, where he will remain until he becomes eligible for parole in 2026. The two men apparently have no contact with each other.