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Burden of Proof

Examining Two Teenagers Captured and Arrested for Dartmouth College Murders

Aired February 19, 2001 - 12:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ROGER COSSACK, HOST: Today on "BURDEN OF PROOF": Two teenagers are arrested for allegedly murdering two Dartmouth College professors. They'll be tried as adults.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I know is he a junior. And, well, right now he hasn't been to school very much. I wouldn't think he would be the kind to do something like that.

KELLY AYOTTE, NEW HAMPSHIRE, SR. ASST. ATTY. GENERAL: The complaints charged Robert Tulloch and James Parker with acting in concert with each other to cause the deaths of Half and Susanne Zantop by stabbing them multiple times in the head and chest. The maximum penalty under New Hampshire law for each of these crimes and for each count of first degree murder is life without parole.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't think that they would find the killers or find -- or issue warrants at all. I thought it would just keep going on, but it's good to know that it seems like something's happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF with Roger Cossack and Greta Van Susteren.

COSSACK: Hello and welcome to "BURDEN OF PROOF."

At approximately 4:00 this morning, two suspected murderers were captured in Henry County, Indiana; 17-year-old Robert Tulloch and 16- year-old James Parker of Chelsea, Vermont were charged on Saturday and were the focus of a nationwide manhunt. They're suspected of stabbing to death two Dartmouth College professors on January 27th.

Now, Half and Susanne Zantop were found dead in their home just a few miles off campus. The two teenage suspects have been charged as adults, with two counts each of first degree murder. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHERIFF KIM CRONK, HENRY COUNTY, INDIANA: At approximately 4:00 this morning, Sergeant Ward overheard CB traffic of a trucker indicating that he had picked up two individuals in the New Hampshire, New Jersey area and was transporting them -- they want to be transported to an area in California. And the truck driver was asking if there was another truck driver that would transport them from the Henry County area to California. Sergeant Ward then got on the CB and identified himself as a truck driver and that he would be willing to transport the subjects that he was talking about to California.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSSACK: And joining us today from Manchester, New Hampshire is law professor and former defense attorney, Buzz Scherr. From New Castle, Indiana, Kim Cronk, sheriff of Henry County. And here in Washington, Jay Coor (ph), Montgomery County State's Attorney Doug Gansler and Carris Daley (ph). And in the back, Randim Cane (ph) and Chris Kenney (ph). And also joining us today from Boston, Massachusetts is our Boston bureau chief, Bill Delaney.

Let's go right to Sheriff Kim Cronk, though, from -- the sheriff in Henry County from Newcastle, Indiana.

Sheriff, first of all, congratulations to you and your men for such a great job. Tell us exactly -- this occurred we know in the early time of this morning. What tipped your men off? What caused you to act the way you did that you were able to apprehend these two?

CRONK: Deputy William Ward just overheard CB traffic. And he had heard on CNN about the people that was being looked for. And he was able to talk to the truck driver into delivering the individuals to the truck stop. And deputies at the truck stop apprehended the three individuals.

COSSACK: So Sheriff, you had -- you were sort of on the lookout because of something that you'd heard from CNN regarding these two individuals. Did you have descriptions? Did you have flyers to know exactly who it was you were looking for?

CRONK: Yes, we did. And through the National Crime Information Center, we had information regarding that. All our deputies were looking for that. Since we have Interstate 70 running through our county, we always -- when those national dispatches come out regarding incidents like this, we always watch for that because Interstate 70 is a common traveled road for criminal activity.

COSSACK: Now Sheriff, your men or you picked up some information from listening to your CB radios and hear a trucker talk. Is that normal activity when you have something like this going on?

CRONK: It's common that we do talk to truckers on the interstate. They do provide us with information that does lead to the arrest of other suspects. And it did substantiate and turn out to be a valid information today.

COSSACK: Did you ever find out where that trucker had picked up these two young men up that -- initially?

CRONK: They indicated it was at the New Jersey-Pennsylvania state line.

COSSACK: And he had brought them with them. How many hours do you think those two had been in the truck with that trucker?

CRONK: We don't know for sure.

COSSACK: All right, when you got there, your men had already taken these two into custody. Did they give -- did they resist in anyway?

CRONK: No, there was no resistance whatsoever. The suspects did cooperate and they were transported immediately to our Sheriff's office.

COSSACK: Did they give you their correct names right away or did they try and tell you they were somebody else or?

CRONK: No, when the deputies first approached them, they did provide us with false names, false date of births. And that's why they definitely starting suspicion that they were possibly the suspects.

COSSACK: Did they have false identification with them at all, Sheriff?

CRONK: No, no they did not.

COSSACK: All right, now when you took them into custody immediately, did they then tell you who they were?

CRONK: Shortly after questioning them regarding where they'd been, etcetera, they did provide the information to us, the correct information. Then we was able to contact the New Hampshire authorities and we have been cooperating with them and the FBI to continue the investigation here.

COSSACK: Sheriff, this is really good work on your part. Do you have any special way you say -- you make it sound so easy? Shortly after talking to them, they admitted who they were. Is there some kind of questions that you asked them regarding this information that immediately led you to suspect these were the guys and not what they were telling you?

CRONK: Right. When the deputy first questioned the one individual, he indicated that his date of birth was in 1940 and the individual was very young. And that leads to suspicion at that point. And at least he was trying to hide something from the deputies. And that's when they started...

COSSACK: His date of birth was 1940, huh? And these guys are like 17 and 16 years old? Looks like they didn't have that planned out very well. After you took them into custody, where did you take them? CRONK: They were transported to the Henry County Sheriff's Office of New Castle, where FBI agents arrived and our investigators and the FBI agents then took them to our Criminal Investigations Division, where they are being interviewed at this time.

COSSACK: All right, thanks very much to the Sheriff. And again, congratulations on great work done.

Let's go to the CNN bureau chief in Boston, Massachusetts, Bill Delaney -- Bill, bring us up to -- give us a little background on this crime.

BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Roger, you know, any violent crime in any community will come as a shock, a sense of disbelief. But in Hanover, New Hampshire where Dartmouth College is and now in little Chelsea, Vermont, people are really flabbergasted that this sort of thing could happen in their communities.

These are very, very uneventful sort of places -- sort of classic postcard New England places. And it's really sent a tremendous sense of disbelief through both communities, also quite a sense of frustration in Hanover, New Hampshire and thereabouts. Police have been very conservative, police and authorities very conservative in giving out information. So this comes as a tremendous relief that these two teenagers have now been arrested and charged with this -- with these killings as adults, charged with first degree murder.

So a tremendous sense of relief. Even just 48 hours or so ago, there was very little sense that this thing was going to break open any time soon. In fact, the attorney general level in New Hampshire had said repeatedly not to expect anything to happen very soon.

COSSACK: Bill, just let me interrupt you for just one second. We just have a second.

DELANEY: Yes.

COSSACK: Do have any sense of why this crime was committed? I know they're being very close to the vest for giving out information, but do we know any idea about why they would commit it? And why it was so vicious to be stabbed to the head and the chest?

DELANEY: Very much along the lines, Roger, of what I was just saying. They had been very conservative with information. And one thing that is an absolute mystery to everyone is what the motive could have been. The authorities in New Hampshire had declined to present any kind of motive. Now a few days after the killing, the two boys disappeared.

They said they had gone out West for a number of days. They then came back to Chelsea, Vermont, one of the boys with a wound on his leg. They had said he had wounded his leg out West and it had become infected and that's why they came back. They stayed in town for a number of days, even apparently, participating in school, Roger, in a discussion of the killing of the Zantops and behaving quite normally. So again -- COSSACK: Very peculiar.

DELANEY: No indication that these boys --

COSSACK: Yeah.

DELANEY: They did not act in any way peculiar everyone says. They were All-American kids.

COSSACK: Yeah.

DELANEY: But now accused with, as you said, a very, very brutal killing.

COSSACK: All right, Bill. Thanks for joining us from -- Bill Delaney, our bureau chief from Boston, Mass.

Let's take a break. When we come back: the murder case against two teenage boys and the reactions on campus at Dartmouth. Don't go away.

(BEGIN LEGAL BRIEF)

Opera star Luciano Pavarotti has been ordered to stand trial on charges of tax evasion. Pavarotti allegedly presented false tax reports for the years 1989-1995. The trial is set to begin May 2.

(END LEGAL BRIEF)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. BILL WARD, HENRY COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: As I spoke to them, they both very closely resembled the photographs on the news program last night.

QUESTION: What program was that that you were watching?

WARD: CNN Headline News.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSSACK: Two teenagers have been arrested in the murders of two Dartmouth College professors. Robert Tulloch and James Parker were captured in Indiana early this morning. They have been charged with two counts of first degree murder and will be tried as adults.

Now joining us now is Robert Sherman. Robert's calling -- is joining us from Chelsea, Vermont. Robert, you have been a friend of the Parker family for a number of years. Tell us about the family. Tell us about Chelsea, Vermont and tell us particularly about James Parker?

ROBERT SHERMAN, JAMES PARKER FAMILY FRIEND: Chelsea, Vermont is a small Vermont town. It's the county seat of Orange County. Vermont has 14 counties. So the county seat means the courthouse is there, sheriff's department is there. The high school is there. Chelsea High School is a really small Vermont high school, probably 180 to 200 kids in the top four grades. It's actually a K-12 school, but the high school's less than 200 kids.

Nobody is invisible in Chelsea, Vermont. Jimmy Parker and Robert Tulloch are very well known. They were active, well-liked participants in their school community and school sports from junior high right on into high school. Robert was on -- is on student council. Jimmy played on the soccer team in years past. The Parkers are very active in school. There's been a junior high and J.V. basketball coach that's Jimmy's dad. They're really salt-of-the-earth people.

COSSACK: Well, would you describe either one of these young men as the kind of kids that got in trouble?

SHERMAN: To the best of my knowledge, they didn't get in trouble. Chelsea, Vermont is not immune from the problems that affect all towns across this country, but Chelsea, Vermont is a place where it's impossible to be invisible. And as far as I know, these guys weren't in trouble. I have children in the high school myself who have been their friends and their teammates. And this really is a shock to everybody. And our presumption is that they are innocent until proven guilty, obviously.

COSSACK: Absolutely. And that's the presumption in the law as well. Have you been in touch with their families?

SHERMAN: I have not been in touch with either family.

COSSACK: All right, now you have known both of these young men, I think you told me earlier, for at least 10 years. Can you explain this alleged activity? And let's say alleged because they are presumed innocent. Can you explain any of this kind of activity?

SHERMAN: Nobody in America can explain the possibility that two otherwise good boys would do something horrible. Our belief here is in fact that they didn't, that -- and our hope -- because nobody knows -- but our hope and belief is that they didn't do this. And we're -- I think the whole community is relieved that they've finally been captured and that we'll be able to find out more about what the charges against them are based on and what their explanations are.

COSSACK: Did the community know that the police were looking for these two young men?

SHERMAN: Yes, they have. The community has been really torn up about this since late last week.

COSSACK: I see. OK, joining us now from Hanover, New Hampshire is the editor of "The Dartmouth," the school newspaper, Omer Ismail.

Omer, tell us what his life is like on Dartmouth right now after these brutal killings? OMER ISMAIL, "THE DARTMOUTH": We actually spoke with students yesterday about, you know their reactions to the arrest warrants. And they were just generally surprised by the age of these two kids. A lot of them said, you know, my younger brother's 16 and just didn't expect something like this to come out of it. But I mean, I think the administrators and some of the faculty members that we spoke were relieved that the investigation had come to a point like this and were hoping that the case would kind of end of soon.

COSSACK: Omer, what were the faculty people, what were they thought of, the Zantops? Were they very popular? Were they were well-known on the campus?

ISMAIL: Well, they had been here for 25 years and were extremely beloved members of the community. Students and faculty members who spoke with us said that, you know, they were extremely engaging professors, very friendly. And people generally here liked them a lot.

COSSACK: And were they known for taking in people into their homes?

ISMAIL: Yeah, although you know we kind of got mixed reactions about that. There wasn't any one overriding sentiment, but generally they were welcoming to students who they knew.

COSSACK: All right. Let me ask Doug Gansler a question.

Doug, you're a prosecutor. This sounds like an extremely difficult case to prosecute in the sense that these are two young men look like they've had a criminal record. We don't know, but they seem like -- to be well thought of young men.

DOUG GANSLER, STATE'S ATTY, MONTGOMERY CO., MARYLAND: Well, that actually in some ways makes it easier because what we're dealing with are two well-thought of young men who are going to have a hard time bringing up some sort of a mental incapacity defense or an insanity defense, which they may be trying to set up now by saying, for example, when they're arrested at 16 years old, saying that they're in fact 60 years old, for example.

But the -- also what will happen now is they're going to start to focus more on the Zantops. And we're going to now take this case away from the 16 and 17 year olds, bring them back to New Hampshire, prosecute them, and put the focus back on the victims, and what in fact these two children are accused of having done, which is very severe, including stabbing -- multiple stabbings in the head and the chest of the two victims.

COSSACK: All right, let's take a break.

Up next: trying a murder case involving two suspects under the age of 18. Stay with us.

(BEGIN Q&A)

Q: Why was Roger Clinton, former President Clinton's half- brother, arrested on Saturday?

A: For investigation of drunken driving. Police say Clinton's blood alcohol level met or exceeded 0.8 percent. An arraignment is scheduled for April 2.

(END Q&A)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSSACK: Three weeks ago, Professors Half and Susanne Zantop were found dead in their home just a few miles off the campus of Dartmouth College. Now the couple had died of multiple stab wounds. This morning, two teenage boys were arrested and charged with the murders.

Joining me now is Buzz Scherr.

Buzz, in terms of what happens next, I know they'll be extradited, but in terms of you being on the scene, is there any story about how this happened or how the police were able to get to them?

ALBERT "BUZZ" SCHERR, FMR. DEFENSE ATTY: Well, there's some information that's kind of seeping out slowly. There's -- my understanding is that they identified at least one of these two kids as having bought a military style knife on the Internet.

And from the forensics, my understanding is the police had a sense that there was a 12-inch knife involved in the stabbings, which is not -- it's a relatively unusual knife. So it sounds like -- without knowing firsthand -- it sounds like the police were scanning the Internet in hopes of finding someone who had bought a knife like this.

My understanding also is there are fingerprints from the scene that appear to match fingerprints of at least one of the two kids, that they gave voluntarily last week, either Wednesday or Thursday. Why they gave their fingerprints voluntarily, if they were involved in this, is an interesting question. And we don't know what else led them, but -- led them to these two kids, but apparently the police talked to them last week at some point also.

COSSACK: All right, let me go to Doug Gansler now.

Doug, let's talk about this. One of the things that no one seems to know yet is why? You know, the motive in this case?

GANSLER: Well, we don't know that that's the case...

COSSACK: OK.

GANSLER: Because the warrants been sealed. So...

COSSACK: OK, good point.

GANSLER: There actually has been -- there's been -- the police have written up a warrant for the arrest of these two men. And a judge has signed off on that. So at least we know a judge believes there is probable cause that these two teenagers committed the murders.

You also know that they bought a knife over the Internet. And you also know they fled. And there's been a nationwide manhunt for them for almost three weeks. So one would suspect that there's a great deal of information. And the other thing is, you have a small community. So people do know everybody's business. And probably other people have been removed as suspects. And these two, the focus has now narrowed on them.

COSSACK: Buzz, will this case end up being tried in Chelsea?

SCHERR: No, it'll end up being tried in Grafton County Superior Court in New Hampshire, which is the county that Hanover is in. And it'll be tried -- probably won't be any closer to six months to a year before it's tried.

COSSACK: And do you think they'll both be tried as adults even though they're both juveniles?

SCHERR: I think so. The 17-year-old will be treated as an adult. The 16-year-old needs to be certified as an adult in a district court proceeding, which will unfold over time, relatively quickly, but it -- my expectation is that that won't be a big problem, given the severity of the offense number one, and number two, how close the 16-year-old is to the age of majority.

COSSACK: All right. That's all the time we have today. Thanks to our guests and thank you for watching.

Today on "TALKBACK LIVE": As the NASCAR community mourns the loss of Dale Earnhardt, a look into yesterday's tragedy at the Daytona 500. Send your e-mail to Kyra Phillips and tune in at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time.

And we'll be back tomorrow with another edition of "BURDEN OF PROOF." We'll see you then.

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