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Parker withdraws bid for early release in murder of Dartmouth professors

  • James Parker sheds tears Thursday April 4, 2002 during his sentencing hearing in Grafton County Superior Court in Haverhill, N.H. Parker, 17, received a sentence of 25 years to life after pleading guilty to being an accomplice to second-degree murder in the deaths of Dartmouth professors Half and Susanne Zantop in their Hanover, N.H. home on Jan. 27, 2001. (AP Photo/Raj Chawla, Pool)



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 18, 2019

NORTH HAVERHILL — A Chelsea man who was sentenced to 25 years to life for his role in the 2001 stabbing deaths of two Dartmouth College professors has withdrawn his request to get out of prison early following objections from the victims’ family.

James Parker, now 35, will remain in prison until his minimum release date in May 2024 and plans no further appeal of the length of his sentence, his attorney, Cathy Green, said on Tuesday.

“Jim does not wish to cause the family any more pain than he already has, so he hereby withdraws his motion to suspend,” Green wrote in a notice filed in Grafton Superior Court on June 4.

Parker, who was 16 when he committed the crime, pleaded guilty on April 4, 2002, to second-degree murder for the death of Susanne Zantop, and he agreed to testify against Robert Tulloch, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for the killing of Half Zantop.

Tulloch, who was 17 at the time of the murders, is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole. His sentence will be examined at a hearing in December, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory life sentences are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders.

Parker filed a motion in September to suspend the remainder of his sentence, saying he has been a model inmate. Because Parker has served two-thirds of his sentence, state law permits him to seek such relief. But the state objected in November.

Associate Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said on Tuesday that after the filings were submitted, he had communications with the Zantops’ two daughters, who objected to the motion and Parker’s release.

The state then requested he withdraw his motion, and he complied.

“What we tried to convey to the defendant was the long, lasting effects of his actions and the reverberations over time that still impact the Zantop daughters and their families today,” Strelzin said.

Prosecutors also passed on to Parker’s defense counsel letters from friends and colleagues, who also were against his early release.

The state is “appreciative,” on behalf of the Zantop family, of Parker’s decision, Strelzin said.

“Obviously, we wish that we weren’t in this position, that he never participated in the murder of their parents,” Strelzin said. “But we are appreciative that they will not have to endure this hearing.”

The court had set Aug. 2 as the day Parker’s petition for early release would be heard in the North Haverhill courthouse.

Accordingly, that hearing has since been canceled.

“I respect this difficult decision, which demonstrates his character,” Green, Parker’s attorney, said in an email on Tuesday.

Parker is eligible for parole in 2024, but there is no guarantee he will be released.

A person’s record while in prison plays into that decision, said Strelzin, who added that there was no agreement made about Parker’s decision to withdraw his motion playing into his parole date.

In the September filing, Green said Parker has served his time inside the New Hampshire State Prison for Men in an “exceptional manner,” including completing a master’s degree and taking on a leadership role that has led to the betterment of the entire prison community, among many other things.

But Strelzin wrote in his November reply that Parker already had been shown leniency when he received his initial sentence for his role in the “premeditated, brutal deaths” of the Zantops in their Etna home on Jan. 27, 2001.

A message left for one of the Zantop daughters on Tuesday afternoon wasn’t returned.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.