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False leads in Dartmouth murder case took investigators elsewhere
By Harry R. Weber, Associated Press, 06/28/02
CONCORD, N.H. -- There was an Arizona professor who attended a function at Dartmouth College the weekend two professors were murdered, a student who was asked about the killings because his face was scratched and a former campus dishwasher who raised attention with his online rantings about the school.
The three were among dozens of false leads that investigators checked out in their search for clues in the Jan. 27, 2001, murders of Half and Susanne Zantop.
Thousands of pages of police records released Friday show an exhaustive investigation that produced few suspects for three weeks before authorities got their big break closer to home: a fingerprint match.
Among the people New Hampshire authorities questioned about the murders were Arizona State University geology professor Stanley Williams, Dartmouth student Pedro De Los Santos and former campus hotel dishwasher Ludwig Poehlmann.
Police traveled to Arizona to speak with Williams. They also seized a rental car he dropped off at Manchester Airport after his trip to Dartmouth.
In an interview with police, he said he saw the Zantops the weekend they were killed.
"It was this incredible puzzle I think most of us thought it had to be a stranger because nobody could kill them," Williams told police of when he learned of the murders.
Police also spent time speaking with De Los Santos, who had a visible scratch on his face that he said he got while sledding. Police focused on him after learning he had been seen talking to Half Zantop the day before the murders.
Police questioned him at length and seized several items from his dorm room, including gloves and clothing.
Another false lead turned investigators' attention to Poehlmann, who used a pseudonym, Archimedes Plutonium. Police were piqued by Poehlmann's "suspicious" postings online about his contempt for Dartmouth and his anger over how he was treated during his time working at the campus hotel.
"It was (Hanover Police Chief Nick) Giaccone's impression that Plutonium, although a very odd individual, was not associated with the murders ... and that no further investigation was required into Plutonium," a police report states.
A task force set up after the murders also received hundreds of phone calls, letters and e-mails from people with wild theories about the killings, including a person who suggested the Zantops may have been killed by someone who had entered the area from the nearby Appalachian Trail.
Each lead was checked out and later dismissed.
Three weeks after the murders, police got their big break. They traced the sale of two knives fitting distinctive sheaths that were left at the crime scene to James Parker of Chelsea, Vt.
Police spoke with Parker and his best friend, Robert Tulloch, who both agreed to be fingerprinted. Police quickly matched the fingerprints to prints left at the scene, and then issued arrest warrants for the two teenagers.
They were arrested a few days later at an Indiana truck stop, where they fled after being fingerprinted.