Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Dartmouth Murders

'Slit Her Throat!'

Half Zantop answered the door.

Rob told him that they were students taking an environmental survey for a class project.

"Hold on a second," Half said. "My wife is making lunch. I don't think I can do this."

Leaving the boys outside, Half spoke briefly with Susanne, then came back and welcomed them inside. Half and Susanne devoted their lives to educating young people and these were students.

Once inside, Jim remembered that he had not brought along the tape recorder they planned to use as a prop. He took out a notebook and saw that he had also forgotten a pen. Half handed him a pen.

The pair had not rehearsed a survey. Rob asked questions in a faltering manner as Jim made jottings.

They could not see Susanne in the kitchen just to the side but could hear her chopping vegetables.

Jim later claimed he had second thoughts about going through with the plan.  "I was thinking," he recalled, "you know, this guy is all right, you know, we don't need to kill this guy."

It is likely Rob was experiencing opposite feelings. This was a well-furnished home. Photographs on the walls showed that its residents had enjoyed the world traveling for which he yearned. Half spoke in an accent that had to remind him of the debate debacle and indeed, it came out in the conversation that Half was from Germany and that he was a geology professor.

Half advised, "You really need to be more prepared."

With those innocent words, Half unwittingly stumbled over a tripwire in Rob's psyche. Rob had been criticized for lack of preparation at the impeachment attempt and at his debate defeats.

The professor offered to give them the number of someone they could talk to.

Rob forgot the plan to first disable the victims and get PIN and ATM numbers. When Half turned around, Rob unzipped Jim's backpack, pulled out a knife, and took it out of its sheath.

Half swiveled back in his chair to see Rob lunging at him with a knife. Half screamed as the knife went through his chest. Attacker and victim fell to the floor, Rob repeatedly stabbing. At one point, Rob accidentally cut his own leg.

Hearing the commotion, Susanne ran into the room. Speaking shrilly in German, she grabbed Rob's leg.

Jim caught her and said, "Shut up!"

"Slit her throat!" Rob shouted.

Jim hesitated, then stuck the knife in the woman's neck and dragged it across her throat.  He let her fall to the floor. Gurgling sounds escaped from her as she tried to breathe. 

Rob slashed Half's throat, but it caused little bleeding because he may already have been dead.

Rob left Half and went over to Susanne. Later he told Jim he wanted to find out if his knife could go through her skull. It did and he stabbed repeatedly through bone and brain.


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