Zantop daughter: ‘I wish James' family the best and hope that they are able to heal’

A student walks by the Zantop Garden, a memorial for the late Dartmouth professors Half and Susanne Zantop who were murdered in their home in 2001, next to Rollins Chapel at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., on Thursday, April 18, 2024. James Parker, 39, who is serving a sentence of 25 years to life in prison for killing the Zantops with his friend Robert Tulloch when they were teenagers, was granted parole on Thursday. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

A student walks by the Zantop Garden, a memorial for the late Dartmouth professors Half and Susanne Zantop who were murdered in their home in 2001, next to Rollins Chapel at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., on Thursday, April 18, 2024. James Parker, 39, who is serving a sentence of 25 years to life in prison for killing the Zantops with his friend Robert Tulloch when they were teenagers, was granted parole on Thursday. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

By JOHN LIPPMAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-18-2024 8:06 PM

HANOVER — One of Susanne and Half Zantop’s two daughters said Thursday that she tries to “compartmentalize” her personal grief over the loss of her parents from her attitude about the fate of James Parker, who was paroled on Thursday after serving the minimum sentence for his role in her parents’ murders.

“I fundamentally miss my parents and wish they could have been part of my and my sister’s children’s lives, and that they could have continued to impact students, colleagues, friends and others in a positive way,” Veronika Zantop told the Valley News on Thursday, following the state’s decision to release Parker after nearly 24 years in prison.

“What happens with James Parker for me is completely separate from the feelings of cumulative and intangible sadness and grief that his actions caused,” she said.

Decades of perspective have even allowed Zantop to feel “some level of sadness that a 16 year old was somehow driven to do this and that his family had to contend with the fallout.”

Veronika Zantop said that although she and her sister, Mariana, each live on the West Coast now, they still have deep connections to the Upper Valley, where they grew up and attended Hanover High School.

“I think the most important thing to come out of this for me and my sister is the immense gratitude we feel towards the community that supported and sustained us during that time — and ongoing,” she said.

Mariana Zantop declined to comment on Thursday.

Veronika Zantop said given the ties her parents had in the Upper Valley and Dartmouth College community, she was adamant that she doesn’t want what she said to “come across as anything other than what I believe, and based on my own way of seeing the world.”

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“It is not about revenge. For every collective year he’s in jail, it is not going to make me feel better about what happened,” said Zantop, 52, a psychiatrist in Seattle and mother of two young boys.

She was 29 at the time her parents were murdered and serving a medical residency in Seattle. She said that the intervening years have added perspective, and her emotions have evolved.

“Since it happened, I’ve become a mother. I’ve become a psychiatrist. And I realized that the world is complex and teenagers are complex,” she said. “And maybe some of the thoughts I had at the time have changed, in terms of compassion for his family and even him at age 16 doing something terrible.”

She noted that when Parker previously came up for parole in 2019, they did not publicly oppose it.

“We felt strongly that it wasn’t our job to comment on whether or not he should be released” and that it was the prosecuting attorney’s job, she said.

“We acknowledged the collective trauma of his actions. A lot of people did,” she said.

She recalled how she “wrestled with the question internally for months, and a small part of me thought that he should be released and allowed the chance to make a life for himself.”

Now that he has that chance, she had positive sentiment for those who support him.

“I wish James’ family the best and hope that they are able to heal,” Zantop said.

In the meantime, she plans to continue to follow the same spirit that her parents embodied.

“My dad was extremely kind and it got him killed. What he taught me, though — and what I’ve tried to continue to practice — is that kindness is key, that people are complex, and that it’s OK to experience and hold diametrically opposed emotions about situations, without there being a right or wrong way to feel,” she said.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.