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Archive for Monday, January 29, 2001

Ivy League town jolted by professors’ deaths

January 29, 2001

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— The safe, close-knit feel of Dartmouth College was shattered Sunday by the apparent murders of two popular, longtime professors, a couple known for opening their home and hearts to others.

Susanne and Half Zantop had welcomed so many guests into their home "they practically seemed to run a hotel," said colleague Bruce Duncan.

Police initially were close-mouthed and didn't say until a late afternoon news conference, nearly a day after the bodies were found, that the deaths were considered a double homicide.

At the news conference, Atty. Gen. Philip McLaughlin said he didn't know whether anyone else was in danger.

"If we have a specific, reliable reason to believe the community is at risk, we would express that because that would be our duty," McLaughlin said.

An invited guest of the couple had arrived at their home Saturday evening and found the door unlocked, said neighbor and friend Audrey McCollum.

"She went in and called out; there was no answer," McCollum said Sunday. "She turned and saw Susanne on the floor with blood around her."

The guest, identified by others as Dartmouth languages instructor Roxanne Verona, rushed to the McCollum home to call police. McCollum said her husband, Robert, a doctor, then went to the Zantop home.

"He saw enough to know for certain they were both dead and had been dead for a number of hours," Audrey McCollum said.

Susanne Zantop, 55, was a professor of German and chairman of Dartmouth's German Studies Department. Her 62-year-old husband taught earth sciences. They had been instructors at Dartmouth for at least 25 years, said Edward Berger, dean of faculty for arts and sciences.

"Everybody feels they were their best friends, because they were friends to everyone," said Susannah Heschel, chairwoman of the school's Jewish Studies Department. "Their home was the center for so many of us."

Heschel said that when she and her husband first came to Dartmouth three years ago, the Zantops were among the first to welcome them.

"As soon as we arrived here, they invited us over constantly, they included us in everything," she said, her voice cracking. "Everyone is so shocked because their home was so open to all of us. It just radiated their warmth and for this to happen in their home ..."

Hanover, a picturesque town of just under 10,000, is lively but generally safe.

When two female students from Ethiopia were murdered with an ax in 1991, police said they were the first murders in town in more than 40 years and the first of Dartmouth students that anyone could remember. An Ethiopian man allegedly spurned by one of the victims was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

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