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A man convicted as a teenager of murdering two Dartmouth professors has been released on parole

Charles Krupa/AP

James Parker listens to the decision during a parole board hearing in Concord, New Hampshire.



CNN

James Parker, a man who spent more than half his life in prison for his role in the 2001 murders of Dartmouth College professors Half and Susanne Zantop, has been released on parole.

Parker was just 16 when he and his 17-year-old friend Robert Tulloch fatally stabbed the two married professors, after months of planning to rob and kill people before fleeing to Australia.

Parker, now 39, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to second-degree murder in 2004, court records show. He was sentenced to 25 years, with credit for the 410 days he had already served. The earliest possible release is May 22, 2024.

As part of his parole, Parker is barred from having any contact with the Zantop family and is required to “engage in mental health care as clinically indicated,” WMUR reported.

During his parole hearing, Parker described the murders of the two professors as “horrible beyond belief.” “I know there’s not a lot of time or things I can do to change it or alleviate the pain I’ve caused,” he said.

Since being in prison, “I’ve learned a lot about myself and what it actually means to be part of the world, part of the community,” he said.

At the time of the crime, Parker and Tulloch were “bored” with their home in Chelsea, Vermont and “decided they wanted to move away and eventually settle in Australia,” court documents showed. Although they initially discussed legal ways to get the money to finance their trip, they ultimately decided to rob random homeowners and then kill them so there would be no witnesses.

The two went to the homes of several strangers and said they were conducting an investigation in failed attempts to choose targets for their crime. On January 27, 2001, after first knocking on the door of a house in Hanover, New Hampshire, where no one was home, they approached Zantop’s house next door because it looked “expensive,” court documents showed. Half Zantop was a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College, while Susanne Zantop was chair of the Department of German Studies.

The Zantops invited Parker and Tulloch, where they conducted their fake survey. Tulloch attacked Half Zantop and stabbed him in the chest. Parker then slit Susanne Zantop’s throat. The two teens then took Half Zantop’s wallet and fled.

Police used fingerprints on knife shells the two left at the Zantops’ home, as well as blood, on knives found at Tulloch’s home and on Tulloch’s boots, to link them to the crime.

Parker’s attorney, Cathy Green, told CNN in a statement that her client “has fully accepted responsibility for his actions and remains deeply remorseful.”

The motion to suspend Parker’s sentence notes his commitment to rehabilitation while incarcerated. While serving his sentence, he completed high school and college and earned a master’s degree, court records show. Him toohas served in many capacities in prison, where he has gone above and beyond to do good and help others.”

In addition, he organized a job fair for other inmates, underwent mental health treatment, painted murals in the prison and worked to bring theater programming to the prison.

Court documents show that Parker had already filed a request to suspend his sentence in 2019, but withdrew it after learning that the Zantops’ daughters had objected.

During the parole hearing, a victim advocate representing the Zantop family requested an order banning Parker from having contact with the family, which was granted, according to WMUR.

CNN has contacted the Zantop family for comment.

Tulloch, now 41, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was given a life sentence without parole. A resentencing hearing is scheduled for July, WMUR reported, following a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found a mandatory life sentence for someone under 18 is cruel and unusual punishment.