Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Dartmouth Murders

An Odd Character

Even as Dartmouth mourned, it was racked by fear and suspicion because of the possibility that the murderer or murderers were in its midst.

Roxana Verona
Roxana Verona

The police initially focused on Roxana Verona because she was the first person known to have seen the bodies, but soon cleared her of any involvement.

An early suspect was an odd character who had worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant owned by Dartmouth College. describes him as "primarily noted for his varied and eccentric contributions to Usenet. [He] repeatedly claimed to be the greatest living scientist . . . although he is almost universally regarded as crank." The article continues that he theorizes that "the Universe is a giant plutonium atom and the part of the Universe we are able to observe from Earth, including Earth itself, is somewhere in its outer electron shells."

In 1999, he posted many complaints about the management of Dartmouth, and claimed that college administrators were involved in a variety of wicked conspiracies. This led to his firing.

Francis reported that the dismissed dishwasher soon posted a statement saying, "Dartmouth is cursed. The curse of Dartmouth College is not something I concocted but rather something I see and observe and report on. … Dartmouth laughed at [me] for 10 years, now the world will begin to start to laugh and hear bad news about Dartmouth College science and math."

Even more eerie were postings he made in the aftermath of the slayings. "I wonder if there were two murder weapons found at the Zantop residence?" he wrote. "If so, that would strongly suggest the Zantops killed themselves." He wrote several posts suggesting that the Zantops died in a double suicide. notes that he had previously written that he was born in Germany. A common homeland could increase the likelihood of an acquaintanceship between the professors and the scientific pretender.

According to Francis, detectives tracked him to his then-current residence in South Dakota. He said he had been home posting messages throughout the day when the Zantops were murdered. Tapes his Internet service provided backed up his alibi and authorities turned their attention elsewhere.