The Dartmouth Murders
Smart Boy and Class Clown
While police searched for and apprehended Rob and Jim, other investigators, as well as media, questioned their friends, acquaintances and relatives.
Both suspects were from intact, two-parent families. Rob's father, Michael, was a carpenter, with his own workshop, who specialized in crafting "Windsor chairs," chairs with wooden seats into which the backseats and undercarriages are fixed. Rob's mother, Diana, was a visiting nurse who worked out of the Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, a city near Chelsea. Rob was one of four children. He had two older sisters and one younger brother. One of his sisters, Julia, was developmentally disabled.
Jim Parker's father was a homebuilder and his mother worked part-time as a teacher. He had an older sister named Diana.
Chelsea is a town of only 1,200 people and many of its residents knew Rob and Jim, as well as their families.
Writing for the Boston Herald, Franci Richardson and Jose Martinez quoted a classmate of Rob as calling him, "a pretty normal kid. He's got hobbies, he's got friends. He's an extremely intelligent person, very quick-witted. I'd have to say he didn't do it. He's not like that. ... he's a calm person under conflict. He doesn't have a short temper. ... He's not a weapons type of kid, not a knife person." The same source added of Jim Parker, "'He's definitely not like that." Richardson and Martinez quoted a neighbor as stating, "They aren't anybody you'd expect to be murdering anybody, not at all."
Francis, as well as Lehr and Zuckoff, report that Jim Parker had a reputation as a class clown. School yearbook pictures show him displaying a dazzlingly wide grin. He sometimes dyed his hair or wore flamboyant clothes. He appeared to crave attention and had a theatrical flair. In early 2000, he acted as the Big Bad Wolf in Chelsea's Winter Carnival. He was musically talented; he played the piano and bass, and participated in high school bands.
Over and over, investigators heard the suspects described as fine, upstanding young men. But as they dug deeper, cracks appeared in these portraits of sound-as-a-dollar boys.