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The Vershire Murder

by Robert A. Waters

April 14, 2002

In the dead-heat of a summer's night, two teenagers labored to dig a grave near an abandoned home in Vershire, Vermont. Robert Tulloch and James Parker had already targeted their victim, a homeowner who lived a few blocks away. They'd never even met the man. But his house sat in a prosperous-looking neighborhood on Goose Green Road, and the cars outside were new and expensive. They planned to rob and kill him, then bury him in the grave they'd prepared.

The two teens weren't satisfied with their upper middle class existence. They needed money to go to Australia where they planned to become "bad-asses," upper middle class slang for master criminals. Since working for travel money was beneath them, they planned to steal the money. According to later court testimony, "Tulloch raised the idea of killing the people they attempted to steal from so that there would be no witnesses to their crimes."

On the evening of July 19, the day after they dug the grave, the teens dressed in black and armed themselves with Army knives, duct tape, and zip ties. They drove to the home of their intended victim and cut the telephone lines. Parker then hid in some bushes near the house while Tulloch walked to the door and rang the doorbell.

They'd rehearsed for days. Now was the time to put their plan into action. Tulloch planned to tell the homeowner that his car had broken down. He would ask to use the telephone and, once inside, would pull his knife and subdue the victim. When all was clear, Parker would enter the house and the two would force the man to give up his credit cards and PIN numbers. Then they would kill him. If there was a wife and children at home, so be it--they'd have to die, too. "No witnesses," Tulloch had said.

But when the intended victim answered the door, the master criminals were surprised. He was obviously suspicious and held a handgun in plain view.

Tulloch stammered out some lame excuse for interrupting the man, then quickly left. Parker exited the bushes, tucked his tail between his legs, and also fled.

Because the homeowner was armed, the Vershire murder didn't happen.

But a few days later, the Dartmouth murders did.

At noon, on July 27, 2001, Tulloch and Parker talked their way into the home of Half (in German, Half means "help") and Suzanne Zantrop. They brutally knifed the two Dartmouth professors to death, stealing $ 365.00 and credit cards. But as the master criminals fled the scene, they forgot their knife sheaths. Police quickly identified them by their fingerprints.

Tulloch and Parker were captured a month later. On April 4, 2002, Tulloch pled guilty to two counts of first degree murder and was sentenced to life without parole. Parker plea-bargained his charge down to second-degree murder and was given twenty-five years.

Why did the unidentified Vershire homeowner survive? Because he had a gun.

How many other intended victims are never attacked because they displayed a firearm? When criminologists James D. Wright and Peter H. Rossi interviewed convicted felons in ten state correctional systems, they found that nearly sixty per-cent stated that they would not attack citizens that they suspected were armed. Guns save lives.

If not, this story would be about the Vershire murder instead of the Dartmouth murders.

Robert A. Waters is author of "The Best Defense: True Stories of Intended Victims Who Defended Themselves with a Firearm." His new book, "Guns Save Lives," is scheduled to be published in May. His home on the web is: Read other articles by Mr. Waters at