Two Teens Sentenced To Long Prison Terms In Zantop Murder

Front Page / Apr. 11, 2002 12:00am EDT

Two Teens Sentenced To Long Prison Terms In Zantop Murder

The tragic Zantop murder case came to a legal end last Thursday in a North Haverhill, N.H., courtroom, where two formerly well-liked teenagers from Chelsea admitted their guilt and were led away to serve long jail sentences.

Robert Tulloch, 18, was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in jail without hope of parole after he pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree murder in the deaths of Half and Susanne Zantop of Etna, N.H. on Jan. 27, 2001. His plea was against the wishes of his lawyers, who planned an insanity defense.

James Parker, 16, who had earlier pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, was sentenced to a minimum term of 25 years in jail. There are some circumstances under which he might be released short of 25 years, but they are very unlikely, prosecutors said.

The sentencings came in two dramatic hearings in the tiny Grafton Co. Superior Court courtroom that seats only 70 people. In both hearings, two daughters of the Zantops, Veronika and Mariana, faced the defendants, telling of the unimaginable pain that had been caused to family and friends.

The demeanor of the two defendants, witnesses said, could not have been more different. Tulloch was described as "expressionless" in the morning hearing, answering the Judge Peter W. Smith's questions in a firm voice but showing no emotion and not offering to respond to the daughters' statements.

In the afternoon hearing, Parker wept frequently and struggled for a full minute before he could address the Zantop sisters. He had written an apology but through his tears could only stammer out that he was sorry.

His parents, John and Joan Parker also offered a tearful apology to the media after the sentencing was over.

Few details were added by prosecutors to what was already known about the grisly crime. The youths had engaged in petty crimes over a period of months to try to raise $10,000 to go to Australia, where they thought life would be less "boring."

Eventually, they decided they should steal credit cards and PIN numbers, executing their victims to avoid detection. Over a period of time, they had stopped at four homes before the Zantops—one each in Vershire and Rochester, and two others in the Hanover area. They gained access to the Zantop home by saying they were students at the Mountain School in Vershire, taking an environmental survey.

Tulloch attacked Half Zantop with his knife, after seeing some money in his billfold, and when Susanne Zantop ran to assist her husband, she was grabbed by Parker who, reportedly at Tulloch's directions, killed her also.

Prosecutors say Parker eventually gave them a full confession and rode with them to various sites that they had visited previously.

The teenagers will be housed in the state prison in Concord. They will be separated for the first few months.

New Hampshire Atty. Gen. Philip McLaughlin, who earlier had angered the news media by keeping much information secret, said after the sentencing was over that he welcomes further journalistic investigations of what led two apparently active and well-adjusted teenagers to commit such a terrible crime.

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