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The arrest of four teenagers in the weekend slaying in Mont Vernon, N.H., brought an eerie reminder of the 2001 murders of Half and Susanne Zantop, two Dartmouth College professors killed in their home by two high school students. MetroDesk asked Mitchell Zuckoff and Dick Lehr, authors of "Judgment Ridge: The True Story Behind the Dartmouth Murders," to assess some of the parallels in the two cases.
Q. Just as they did in the 2001 Zantop slayings, prosecutors said Tuesday that the alleged attackers in the recent murder chose their victims at random and may have killed for the sheer thrill of it. Did your research reveal any clues on the psychology behind such urges among young people?
In short, he lacked a conscience and moral compass. Tullochís situation is not one that can be extrapolated to young people generally. Part of growing up is certainly testing limits and rebellion -- done as part of the process of acquiring a sense of social, legal boundary lines, and knowing right from wrong. Tullochís arc was way, way over the line and unconscionable.
Q. The father of a suspect in the Mont Vernon killing described his son as a "follower" of others in the group. What did you learn about group dynamics in the Dartmouth case?
Q. The fatherís comments do echo the dynamic at work in the Zantop case. Robert Tulloch was clearly the leader in his friendship with the younger Jimmy Parker, who was 16 at the time. Tulloch, who was 17, was the one pushing for increasingly lawless and violent adventures, and held quite a bit of sway over Parker. This isnít to excuse Parkerís role in the murders, but we found a leader/follower dynamic at work in the Dartmouth murders.
Q. Both the Zantops and Kim Cates, who was murdered in her home on Sunday, were targeted in bucolic areas. What, if anything, do such crimes tell us about New Hampshire today?
A. We must be careful about trying to find broad meaning about rural life in New Hampshire based on these two cases. Tulloch and Parker grew up in Chelsea, Vt., a beautiful, family- and community-oriented valley town of about 1,000 people.
Even though there were signs of Tullochís alienation, neither he nor Parker had a criminal record or reputation that some of the suspects in the Cates case apparently have. Itís the randomness that is so chilling.
Q. In both cases, the victims were killed with knives (in the weekend slaying, a machete). How easy is it for young people to get such dangerous weapons?
Tulloch and Parker bought their military-style killing knives (SOG SEAL 2000s) on the Internet. Itís clear from the Zantop and now the Cates case -- the alleged attackers were armed with a machete -- that buying weapons meant for killing is not hard at all.
Q. On his Facebook page, one of the suspects in the Cates murder, Christopher Gribble, expressed an affinity for the television program "Dexter," the violent Showtime series about a police forensics expert who moonlights as a serial killer. Any popular culture echoes in the Dartmouth case?
A. Both Tulloch and Parker enjoyed playing video games, some violent, and early on there was plenty of speculation that those first-person kill games had a big impact on them. In our research, we concluded the games and popular culture influences had little to do with their plot to kill someone to know what it feels like.
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