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Dartmouth professors’ killer won’t attend court

Robert Tulloch, left, is seen with his lawyer Barbara Keshen, Thursday, April 4, 2002 during his sentencing hearing in Grafton County Superior Court in Haverhill, N.H. Tulloch, 18, was sentenced to life without parole for the stabbing deaths of two Dartmouth College professors in 2001. (AP Photo/Wendy Maeda, Pool)

Robert Tulloch, left, is seen with his lawyer Barbara Keshen, Thursday, April 4, 2002 during his sentencing hearing in Grafton County Superior Court in Haverhill, N.H. Tulloch, 18, was sentenced to life without parole for the stabbing deaths of two Dartmouth College professors in 2001. (AP Photo/Wendy Maeda, Pool)

A man convicted in the stabbing deaths of two Dartmouth College professors when he was 17 will not be in court next week when his lawyer argues for a resentencing hearing based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from last year.

Robert Tulloch was one of two men who pleaded guilty to killing professors Half and Suzanne Zantop in their Hanover home in 2001. He was given a life sentence without parole in 2002, mandatory for first-degree murder.

But the Supreme Court ruled last year that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles are unconstitutional. The court said judges should have discretion to consider whether a juvenile’s lack of maturity and peer pressure might warrant a lesser sentence.

A consolidated hearing on bids by Tulloch and three other convicted killers for resentencing hearings is scheduled for Tuesday in Merrimack County Superior Court. Tulloch waived his right to attend the hearing, court Chief Clerk Bill McGraw said yesterday.

Tulloch, now 30, is one of five New Hampshire men sentenced to mandatory life sentences for killings committed when they were under 18.

Steven Spader, convicted of hacking a Mont Vernon woman to death with a machete and maiming her daughter during a 2009 home invasion when he was 17, was the first to secure a resentencing hearing on the Supreme Court ruling. He instructed lawyers not to present evidence on his behalf, however, and was resentenced last month to the same term he received in 2010, life without parole plus 76 years for convictions on related crimes.

Prosecutors agreed to a resentencing hearing in Spader’s case because he still has an appeal pending, so his case is not deemed to be final. But they object to resentencing hearings for Tulloch and the other three because they have no direct appeals pending.

Tulloch and James Parker – both from Chelsea, Vt. – pleaded guilty to stabbing the Zantops to death Jan. 27, 2001, after gaining entry to their Etna village home by posing as students conducting a survey. Suzanne Zantop made lunch while the pair talked with Half Zantop. When Half Zantop turned to retrieve a phone number, Tulloch stabbed him with a military assault knife. When Suzanne tried to help her husband, Parker told prosecutors, he slit her throat at Tulloch’s orders.

Authorities have said the pair envisioned a life as professional criminals and murdered the Zantops to steal their money so they could move to Australia.

Parker, who was 16 at the time of the killings and agreed to testify against Tulloch, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

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