(Host) The New Hampshire attorney general Friday released transcripts of interviews with 17-year-old James Parker. Parker was sentenced last month for his role in the murders of Dartmouth Professors Half and Suzanna Zantop. Parker spoke with authorities as part of a plea bargain in which he agreed to testify against his accomplice, 19-year-old Robert Tulloch.
Tulloch pleaded guilty in the murders. As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, the interviews reveal a tight friendship between two teenagers who saw themselves as different from everyone else and who shared a fantasy that turned deadly.
(Zind) On a warm June day in 2000 the two Chelsea teenagers were on their way home from the Ben and Jerry’s “One World, One Heart Festival” in Fayston. As they passed two elderly people walking by the side of the road, Parker says Tulloch suggested they stop and bash them over the head with a rock. According to Parker, that was the first time the two boys talked about harming someone in their effort to raise money for a trip to Australia. Seven months later Tulloch and Parker murdered Half and Suzanne Zantop
The newly released transcripts involve four interviews conducted with Parker by New Hampshire Associate Attorney General Kelly Ayotte. Much of the information about the murders was summarized when Tulloch and Parker were sentenced.
What’s new are Parker’s comments about his friendship with Tulloch, and their relationship with others. Parker describes how the two best friends saw each other every day and engaged in typical teenage boy activities: building forts and playing in the woods. He also says the two considered themselves better than everyone else. They became bored with life in Chelsea. Parker tells Ayotte, “We were always thinking all the time, thinking about what life is all about, what normal people are doing in life, what people like us could be doing in life.”
In the interviews, Parker details how he and Tulloch grew impatient when a series of minor thefts failed to generate money. Parker says it was Tulloch who devised the plan to force people to turn over their credit cards and then murder them. After a few failed attempts they randomly chose the Zantops’ Hanover home. According to Parker, Tulloch pulled out a knife and began stabbing Half Zantop.
Ayotte: “What was your reaction?”
Parker: “I don’t know. Nothing emotional. I think it turned into instincts, so I guess you could call it business, but that’s kind of a bad word. Just like, you know, it’s time to do this.”
Parker described how he murdered Suzanne Zantop when she rushed into the room in response to her husband’s screams.
Parker says immediately after the murders he felt angry because the plan to get money hadn’t worked. By that night Parker says, “I had basically decided that this is not the way I want to make money, killing people.” He says it wasn’t long before Tulloch suggested they commit more crimes to make money. But Parker says he had decided to finish school, enroll in an outdoor leadership program and break ties with Tulloch.
Near the end of the interviews, Parker sketches out a half-formed fantasy life he and Tulloch imagined where the two would steal and kill to support themselves.
Ayotte: “What other types of things did the two of you like to talk about?”
Parker: “We talked a lot about life in general. We thought we don’t have enough time to do all the stuff that we want to do. One of our main goals was to find someway to live forever.”
Robert Tulloch was sentenced to life in prison without parole. As part of his plea agreement, James Parker was sentenced to 20 years in Prison.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Concord, New Hampshire.