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James Parker, convicted of murdering 2 Dartmouth College professors in 2001, granted parole

Man sentenced for killing 2 married Dartmouth professors in 2001 now granted parole
Man sentenced for killing 2 married Dartmouth professors in 2001 now granted parole 01:12

CONCORD, N.H. - A man who spent more than 20 years in prison for murdering two married Dartmouth College professors back in 2001 has been granted parole.

James Parker was 16 when he was part of a conspiracy with his best friend that resulted in the deaths of Half and Susanne Zantop in Hanover, New Hampshire. Now just shy of 40, he appeared before the state parole board, years after pleading guilty to being an accomplice to second-degree murder and serving nearly the minimum term of his 25-years-to-life sentence. 

Lawyer says he's rehabilitated himself

His lawyer and Department of Corrections staff said he has taken many steps through the years to rehabilitate himself and make life better for fellow inmates. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in prison and created paintings that are displayed in the building. He's been a part of theatrical, musical and sports activities and has helped develop inmate education guides. 

At his parole hearing Thursday, Parker told the parole board the crime he committed was "unimaginably horrible."

"I know there's not an amount of time or things that I can do to change it or alleviate any pain that I've caused," said Parker during the hearing. "I'm just deeply sorry."

Parker sought a sentence reduction in 2018. Under the law, he was eligible to do so because he had served two-thirds of his term, but he withdrew the petition in 2019 after the Zantops' two daughters objected. 

Parker and then-17-year-old Robert Tulloch, bored with their lives in nearby Chelsea, Vermont, wanted to move to Australia and estimated they needed $10,000 for the trip. They eventually decided they would knock on homeowners' doors under the pretext of conducting a survey on environmental issues, then tie up their victims and steal their credit cards and ATM information. They planned to make their captives provide the pin numbers before killing them. 

Parker, who cooperated with prosecutors and agreed to testify against Tulloch, said they picked the Zantop house because it looked expensive and it was surrounded by trees. Half Zantop let them in on Jan. 27, 2001. Parker told police the interview lasted at least 10 minutes before Tulloch stabbed Zantop and then directed him to attack Susanne Zantop. Tulloch also stabbed her. 

The Dartmouth College professors were murdered at their home in 2001. CBS Boston

They fled with Half Zantop's wallet, which contained about $340 and a list of numbers, but then realized they had left sheaths to their knives at the house. They attempted to go back but saw a police officer was in the driveway. Fingerprints on a knife sheath and a bloody boot print linked them to the crime, but after being questioned by police, they fled and hitchhiked west. They were arrested at an Indiana truck stop weeks later. 

Co-conspirator scheduled for resentencing hearing

Tulloch, now 40, had pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. He got the mandatory sentence of life without parole. He is scheduled for a resentencing hearing in June. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in 2012 that it is unconstitutional to sentence juvenile offenders to mandatory life imprisonment without parole, and the state Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that Tulloch and four other men who received such sentences for murders they committed as teenagers should be re-sentenced. 

Susanne Zantop, 55 and Half Zantop, 62, were born in Germany. She was head of Dartmouth's German studies department. He taught Earth sciences. Respected in their fields, the professors were beloved by colleagues and students, many of whom had an open invitation to their home a few miles from the Dartmouth campus. 

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