Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Dartmouth Murders

Suspects

Detectives interviewed Half's teaching assistant, Tom Douglas, in the days after the murders. Douglas pointed out someone he thought might have both motive and opportunity to kill the Zantops.

That person was a professor who had earned graduate degrees at Dartmouth. Douglas told detectives that this man had expressed a desire to work at Dartmouth and believed that the only position this man was qualified to hold was the one that Half had held.

Douglas noted that, on the day the Zantops were murdered, the professor was in Hanover attending a party.

Detectives tracked down the rental car the man had driven during his Hanover stay. They found a large cardboard box in the trunk with a suspicious reddish-brown stain on it.

Investigators searched the home where he had stayed with friends and interviewed his acquaintances. They went to Arizona and took his fingerprints and blood samples and extensively interviewed him and his wife.

Susanne & Half Zantop
Susanne & Half Zantop

The man's name was leaked to the media. The Boston Globe ran a front-page story which began, "Investigators believe the killings of Dartmouth College professors Half and Susanne Zantop were crimes of passion, most likely resulting from an adulterous love affair involving Half Zantop."

The next day The Boston Globe ran a front-page retraction acknowledging, "the extramarital affair theory is not correct." It apologized for the earlier article, stating, "It was certainly never our intent to increase the suffering of the Zantop family, their friends or the Dartmouth College community." In the letters to the editor section on the same day, the Globe published a letter from a Zantop friend asserting, "My wife and I have shared a close friendship and close quarters in small sailboats with Susanne and Half Zantop for more than 15 years. Never in the intimate confines of our time and space together did any inkling surface of a relationship that might motivate crimes of passion" and calling "the speculation about an adulterous love affair ... irresponsible sensationalism on the part of the Globe."

Authorities dropped the man as a suspect because interviews suggested that he and Half had never been anything but friendly and the stain on the box turned out to be the remnants of a moose stew.

 

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