Judgment Ridge: The True Story Behind the Dartmouth Murders

Judgment Ridge: The True Story Behind the Dartmouth Murders


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A riveting investigation of the brutal murders of two Dartmouth professors –– a book that, like In Cold Blood, reveals the chilling reality behind a murder that captivated the nation.

On a cold night in January 2001, the idyllic community of Dartmouth College was shattered by the discovery that two of its most beloved professors had been hacked to death in their own home. Investigators searched helplessly for clues linking the victims, Half and Susanne Zantop, to their murderer or murderers. A few weeks later, across the river, in the town of Chelsea, Vermont, police cars were spotted in front of the house of high school senior Robert Tulloch. The police had come to question Tulloch and his best friend, Jim Parker. Soon , the town discovered the incomprehensible reality that Tulloch and Parker, two of Chelsea's brightest and most popular sons, were now fugitives, wanted for the murders of Half and Susanne Zantop.

Authors Mitchell Zuckoff and Dick Lehr provide a vivid explication of a murder that captivated the nation, as well as dramatic revelations about the forces that turned two popular teenagers into killers. Judgement Ridge conveys a deep appreciation for the lives (and the devastating loss) of Half and Susanne Zantop, while also providing a clear portrait of the killers, their families, and their community –and, perhaps, a warning to any parent about what evil may lurk in the hearts of boys.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060008451
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/31/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 486,968
Product dimensions: 7.98(w) x 5.28(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

As a reporter for nearly two decades for the Boston Globe, Dick Lehr won numerous journalism awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A professor of journalism at Boston University, he is coauthor of the Edgar Award-winning Black Mass, the Edgar Award finalist Judgment Ridge, and The Underboss. He lives near Boston with his wife and four children.

Mitchell Zuckoff is the Sumner M. Redstone Professor of Narrative Studies at Boston University. He covered 9/11 for the Boston Globe, and wrote the lead news story on the day of the attacks. Zuckoff is the author of seven previous nonfiction books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller “13 Hours,” which became the basis of the Paramount Pictures movie of the same name. As a member of the Boston Globe Spotlight Team, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting and the winner of numerous national awards. He lives outside Boston with his family.

Read an Excerpt

Judgment Ridge
The True Story Behind the Dartmouth Murders

Chapter One

A Stranger at the Door

At just past ten on a cool summer night, Andrew Patti nestled with his eleven-year-old son on a worn blue sofa in the living room of their Vermont vacation home. Burning logs hissed and popped in the red-brick fireplace as Patti read aloud to Andy Jr. from an adventure story about a hunter pursuing a wise and elusive buck.

Bam-bam-bam-bam-bam. A staccato burst of pounding on the front door interrupted him in mid-sentence.

Startled, Patti rose to his feet, silently motioning to Andy to stay put. It was too late for visitors, and the knocks were too sharp, too insistent to come from the hand of a friend. Someone must be in trouble or looking for trouble.

As Patti stood, he reached under the untucked hem of his work shirt for the nine-millimeter Glock pistol he always wore on his right hip. With a quick flip of his thumb, he unsnapped the safety latch and slid the matte black gun from its leather holster. Patti walked slowly to the door, holding the Glock out of sight, tucked close against the right rear pocket of his faded jeans.

With his empty left hand he pushed aside the blind covering the nine small windows on the upper half of the door. On his front porch stood a young man Patti had never seen before. He was about six feet tall, lanky, dressed in a white T-shirt, black cargo pants, and black military boots. The young man -- maybe in his late teens, Patti thought -- leaned in close, his hot breath leaving vapor clouds on the glass. His hands were half-clenched like bear claws, his eyes wide and intense. The weakrays of a bug-yellow porch light cast a sickly glare on his pale skin.

"What's up?" Patti asked roughly.

"I have car trouble. Can you help me out?" the stranger answered just as roughly.

They stood for a moment face to face, inches apart, separated by only a pane of glass, each waiting to see what the other would do.

Andrew Patti was forty-seven, a trim, good-looking man of medium height, with thick, dark hair flecked with gray. He was a lifelong New Yorker with the accent and toothpick-chewing habit to prove it. Though raised in a cookie-cutter suburb of tract houses and strip malls, as a teenager Patti had grown enchanted by the mountains and forests of Vermont. As his only child and namesake approached manhood, Patti wanted Andy to know the embrace of untamed woods, the snap of a fish latching onto a hook, the smell of fresh-cut trees, the ping of a tin can pierced by a well-aimed bullet.

Patti and his wife, Diane, also forty-seven and a native New Yorker, lived and worked on Long Island, running an agency that provided services for infants and toddlers with special needs. It was successful enough to allow them to purchase their getaway home in the town of Vershire, on the eastern side of Vermont, halfway between Massachusetts and Canada. Vershire's name was an amalgam of Vermont and New Hampshire, owing to the abundance of hills offering views from the former to the latter, some fifteen miles away across the Connecticut River.

One of the hills was called Judgment Ridge, named for a defunct ski area once located there. Judgment Ridge was less than a mile from the Pattis' house, just off the main road that connected the neighboring town of Chelsea to Interstate 91. Once on the interstate, it was a short drive south to Hanover, New Hampshire, home of Dartmouth College, and from there to the world beyond.

Vershire was best known to outsiders as home to The Mountain School, a private school that doubled as a working farm, allowing high school students to combine traditional studies with lessons on sustainable rural living. Vershire also was a magnet for second-home owners like the Pattis, many of them New Yorkers searching for solitude, serenity, and bargain property. Locals called them "flatlanders" during civil, if occasionally dismissive, conversations. Some natives called the outsiders much worse in private.

The Pattis first saw the cedar-shingled house next to a postcard-perfect pond in September 1999, and then spent eight months struggling to get clear title and overcome a maddening series of obstacles to their purchase. It finally became theirs two months before the stranger came to the door. Locals knew the place as The Sugar House, and indeed, the home on Goose Green Road was a symbol of the changing community. It was built in 1993, replacing a landmark wooden shack where generations of Vershire residents had marked each spring by boiling maple sap into sugary syrup.

During their first weeks in the house, Andrew and Diane tried to make it homey without Long Island-izing it. Their signature decorative touch was a mounted head of a six-point buck Diane's father had shot years earlier, hung high on a living-room wall next to the fireplace. The deer's limpid eyes stared down at anyone who entered the front door, above which a plaque read: home is where the heart is.

Soon after they moved in, the Pattis got a taste of life in a house built close to a country road: twice, just weeks apart, two strangers came to the door late at night seeking help with broken-down cars. The first was a young man who tentatively tapped on the door, then stepped briskly, submissively backward when Andrew Patti answered. The stranger's solicitous air convinced Patti there was no danger, and in a display of new-neighbor helpfulness he hitched the stalled car to Diane's SUV and towed it to the man's home. The second uninvited guest was a young woman who politely asked to use the phone to call Ward's Garage, a half-mile up the road ...

Judgment Ridge
The True Story Behind the Dartmouth Murders
. Copyright © by Dick Lehr. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

Part I
1.A Stranger at the Door3
3.An American Dream22
4.Why Didn't You Jump Him?37
5.Trescott Road45
6."Susanne? Susanne?"59
7.Snow and Blood83
Part II
8.The Crew93
9.The Sheaths118
10.Smarter Than Everybody129
11.Dead Ends and College Dumpsters152
12.You're Just a German159
13.Vasque Boots180
14.Two SOG SEAL 2000 Knives198
15.On the Run227
16.A Chelsea Embrace246
17.Two Graduations272
Part III
18.Jailhouse Snitch285
19.Something Wicked This Way Comes305
20."Slit Her Throat!"341
21.Hope and Hopelessness357
Notes on Sources391
Selected Bibliography411

Reading Group Guide

Book Description
On a cold, sunny afternoon in January 2001, the idyllic community of Dartmouth College was shattered by the discovery that two of its most beloved professors, Half and Susanne Zantop, had been brutally murdered. No less shocking was the discovery, nearly a month later, after a cross-country manhunt, that their killers were two high school students from nearby Chelsea, Vermont. What could possibly have motivated two honor-roll students to commit such a heinous crime? And what clues might have predicted the tragedy about to unfold? Filing some of the earliest stories on the murder for the Boston Globe, was Mitchell Zuckoff. Now he and Dick Lehr join forces to offer a gripping account of the event, a revealing portrait of the killers and their victims, and a probing investigation into the clash of cultures that separated the seemingly model teenagers from the esteemed professors.

Topics for Discussion

  1. Do you think Jim and Robert's lives would have been very different 40 years ago?
  2. Both Jim and Robert had family, friends, and teachers that really cared about them. Where they wrong to stand up for Jim and Robert during the trial?
  3. In what way do you think Jim and Robert's punishments reflect their personality differences?
  4. After reading this book would you hesitate to open the door if two boys came by conducting a survey for a school project?

About the Authors:
Dick Lehr and Mitchell Zuckoff are best-selling authors and Pulitzer Prize finalists for investigative reporting for The Boston Globe. Mitchell Zuckoff's journalism prizes include the 2000 Distinguished Writing Award from theAmerican Society of Newspaper Editors. His last book, Choosing Niai was a Boston Globe bestseller and won the Christopher Award. Dick Lehr has won numerous national and local awards writing about education, sports, criminal justice, and public corruption. His last book, Black Mass, was a New York Times and a Boston Globe bestseller and won the Mystery Writers of America 2000 Edgar Award for nonfiction.

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Judgment Ridge: The True Story behind the Dartmouth Murders 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a Dartmouth Class of 2001 and had Half as a professor on two occasions. Both he and his wife we caring, decent people who would go out of their way to help anyone in need. Though I am sickened by what happened and the morbid facination people have when things of this nature happen 'at an elite institution,' I must say that this book is accurate. I also feel that the writers have done an excellent job of delving into the causes of such horror.
piefuchs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A quite readable story of the pointless murder of two Dartmouth college professors - a crime that received considerable press in the Boston area. The book suffers slightly because the author very clearly choses "sides" and proclaims one criminal (and his parents) less culpable than another.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Did not enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slow paced and boring until the last two chapters. Interestig story but again put me to sleep til the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best crime stories I read. Thoroughly and thoughtfully researched & written. Unbiased yet sympathetic retelling of a human tragedy that leaves no one untouched .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read a lot of true crime, and I am often frustrated because the writing isn't up to par. No worries with Judgment Ridge. This book is so well done, one of the best true crime books I have read in years. What makes this book so great is that we really get to know the victims, and in telling their story, we get some justice in that more people come to know these wonderful people. What is so sad about this story is that the crimes were so random and needless. SO well-written, it is a fast and compelling read- I highly recommend it!
Katie Ostiguy More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Zantop's, Half and Susanne, were a much loved couple from Dartmouth Collge, a small community in New Hampshire, who were brutally murdered. This book tells their story and that of the two young men who committed this crime. I have ambivalent feelings about this book- it is very well written and the authors have given much detail about the lives of all involved, but this murder took place in my community, and the wounds are still raw. Dick Lehr and Mitchell Zuckoff, are Boston Globe columnists and followed this case day by day. They interviewed many of the people involved in the lives of the Zantops, Robert Tulloch and Jum Parker. They have been able to give an account of the shock and grief both communities felt in the aftermath. Half and Susanne Zantop came to Dartmouth College from Germany. They wanted to open the world to their two young daughters. In the midst of living their lives, they touched many in the Dartmouth and Hanover community. Half was considered one of the best educators in his Geology department and at Dartmouth. Susanne was a much loved professor of the German department. Both were in their mid fifties and looking at early retirement. They were a very active couple and had lived their lives to the fullest. They had two daughters who were just starting their adult lives. Robert Tulloch was an eighteen year old from a small community Chelsea, Vermont. His life is shared in bits and pieces, and we are able to see that something is terribly wrong in this young man but a murderer? James Parker is his younger friend. They have a bond and have the feeling of 'us against the world'. They were adventurers and wanted to go to Austrailia and live the life they deserved. In their fantasies they would glean the monies needed by killing their victims and accumulating the money needed to flee. The book tells the story of their attempts to rob and plunder, and the mistakes they made. No one in their community really knew these young men or could have foretold the paths they were establishing. One cool grey day in January of 2001, Robert and James headed towards Hanover, NH, a town of well-to-do people. A town that neither boy liked or visited often. On a previous day they had searched the town for likely victims. The first home they visited was empty, they moved to the next home and Half Zantop answered. The young men posed as Vershire School studnets interested in the environement and asked Half to participate in a survey. As a professor of Geology, Half was involved in keeping the enviornment clean and invited the young men into his home. At some point during the survey, Half remarked that the young men were not well prepared. This infuriated Robert and he lunged at Half and slit his throat- Susanne hearing the commotion ran into the room and Robert yelled to James to kill her. James hesitated a moment and then slit Susanne's throat. The boys had bought knives over the internet to use for this crime. When they were sure the Zantops were dead, they took Half's wallet and left. A friend of the Zantops came to their home in early evening to have dinenr with them- found the front door unlocked and walked in. She came to the study and found the grisly scene- she left hurriedly and drove to the neighbors where she screamed for help. The neighbors called 911 and went with her to the Zantops home. The ensuing half of the book describes the investigation and the people involved ,and how the many clues left at the scene helped the local police and State Police to find these young men. They were questioned at their homes. In the dead of night the boys left and fled to Indiana where they were picked up. The flight and the local authorities and their stories are told in detail. the boys were brought back to New Hampshire and charged with murder. After delibertion, James Parker became a State's witness ande gave up his best friend, Robert to save his life. He was charged with being an accomplice to murder and g