Man convicted in killing of two Dartmouth professors is set to be released on parole

James Parker, a man who has spent more than half his life in prison for his role in the killing of Dartmouth College professors Half and Susanne Zantop in 2001, has been granted parole.

Parker was just 16 when he and his 17-year-old friend Robert Tulloch fatally stabbed the two married professors, after planning for months to rob and kill people before fleeing to Australia.

Parker, who is now 39, pleaded guilty to being an accomplice to second degree murder in 2004, court documents show. He was sentenced to 25 years, with credit for the 410 days he had already served. The earliest he could be released is May 22, 2024.

As part of his parole agreement, Parker is forbidden from any contact with the Zantop family and is required to “engage in mental health treatment as clinically indicated,” WMUR reported.

At his parole hearing, Parker described the killing of the two professors as “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,” he said.

Since being incarcerated, “I’ve learned quite a bit about myself and about what it actually means to be part of the world, part of the community,” he said.

At the time of the crime, Parker and Tulloch were “bored” with their home in Chelsea, Vermont and “decided they wanted to go away and eventually settled on Australia,” court documents showed. Although they originally discussed legal ways of getting the money to fund their trip, they eventually decided to rob random homeowners and then kill them so there wouldn’t be any witnesses.

The two went to several strangers’ homes, saying they were conducting a survey, in failed attempts to choose targets for their crime. On January 27, 2001, after first knocking on the door of a home in Hannover, New Hampshire, where no one was home, they approached the Zantop home next door because it looked “expensive,” court documents showed. Half Zantop was a professor in the Earth Science Department at Dartmouth College, while Susanne Zantop was chair of the German Studies Department.

The Zantops invited Parker and Tulloch in, where they conducted their fake survey. Tulloch attacked Half Zantop, stabbing him in the chest. Parker then slit Susanne Zantop’s throat. The two teenagers then took Half Zantop’s wallet and fled.

Police used fingerprints on knife sheathes the two left at the Zantops’ home as well as blood, on knives found at Tulloch’s home and on Tulloch’s boots, to link them to the crime.

Parker’s attorney, Cathy Green, told CNN in a statement her client has “fully accepted responsibility for his actions, and remains deeply remorseful.”

The motion to suspend Parker’s sentence notes his dedication to rehabilitation during his incarceration. While serving his sentence, he completed high school and college and obtained a master’s degree, according to court documents. He alsovolunteered in many capacities in the prison where he has made an extraordinary commitment to doing good and helping others.”

Additionally, he organized a job fair for other inmates, underwent mental health counseling, painted murals throughout the prison and worked to bring theater programming to the prison.

Court documents show Parker filed a previous motion to suspend his sentence in 2019 but withdrew it after finding out the Zantops’ daughters objected.

At the parole hearing, a victim advocate represented the Zantop family requested an order be put in place forbidding Parker from having contact with the family, which was granted, according to WMUR.

CNN has reached out to the Zantop family for comment.

Tulloch, now 41, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and received a sentence of life in prison without parole. A re-sentencing hearing is being planned for July, WMUR reported, due to a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which said a mandatory life sentence for someone under the age of 18 is cruel and unusual punishment.

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