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Brothers accused of murdering their parents

May 17, 1997

DOVER, N.H. (AP) _ Robert and Jeffrey Dingman fantasized about poisoning their parents, prosecutors say, or maybe pushing them onto thin ice.

By the time they’d worked themselves up to the deed, they had decided Robert would shoot their mother and Jeffrey would shoot their father when the parents returned home from work on a Friday night.

The brothers worked quickly to hide their parents’ bodies and clean their blood-spattered home, Jeffrey testified this week in his brother’s trial on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to murder.

When they had finished, the night was still young.

Jeffrey, 14, ate some Doritos and went to play basketball with a friend. Robert, 17, peeled off his rubber gloves and went to his girlfriend’s house. They spent the rest of the weekend playing and partying.

In a sort of Menendez Brothers East case, prosecutors portrayed the brothers as heartless killers who shot their parents with chillingly good humor.

``Why do you get all the fun?″ Jeffrey said he asked Robert when told that Robert would be the one to shoot their mother.

Prosecutors say the boys, fed up with family rules, took turns shooting Eve and Vance Dingman, both 40, wrapped their bodies in garbage bags and hid them _ their father in the attic, their mother in the basement.

The case bears some resemblances to that of Erik and Lyle Menendez, who were sentenced to life in prison last year for murdering their millionaire parents at their Beverly Hills, Calif., mansion in 1989. The Menendez brothers claimed their parents abused them; prosecutors said the brothers wanted to get their hands on the family fortune.

Unlike the Menendez family, the Dingmans lived in a small house in a middle-class neighborhood in Rochester, an industrial city of 27,000 on the Maine state line. The Dingmans _ he was an electrician, she a customer service representative at a fabric plant _ had wills leaving a little over $200,000 to their children.

Jeffrey pleaded guilty to the Feb. 9, 1996, killings. He agreed to testify against his brother and could get an 18-year sentence.

Robert’s lawyers insist Jeffrey fired all the shots and Robert only helped cover up the crimes. If convicted, Robert will get life in prison without parole.

Before Jeffrey’s plea, his lawyers said their defense might focus on ``battered child syndrome,″ because he testified that his father sometimes punched him in the chest over bad grades and once hit Robert in the face.

Taking the stand against his brother, Jeffrey testified that he felt a twinge of regret when he fired the first shot at his father and the elder Dingman said: ``I can’t believe my own son did this.″

``It kind of hurt, what he said,″ Jeffrey admitted. ``I wasn’t expecting that.″

Then Robert took the gun, stood over their father, and said, ``How about another one?″ before firing, Jeffrey said. Jeffrey said he fired again when they noticed their father’s arm move as they tried to fit him into a garbage bag.

Their mother arrived home a few minutes later. She yelled about the stereo the boys had turned up to drown out the gunshots. Jeffrey fired two or three quick shots at her, he testified.

Jeffrey said Robert then fired a few shots and finished her off by shooting her in the head.

The brothers were angry at their parents over curfews and other restrictions, like the time Robert wasn’t allowed to buy a cellular phone with money he had earned working in two restaurants, Jeffrey said.

The morning of the killings, Robert showed Jeffrey their father’s .22-caliber handgun and said they had to kill their parents or they would get in trouble for opening the gun cabinet, one of many strict rules they had to follow, Jeffrey testified. He also believed that his brother had taken some money out of the cabinet and that their parents knew about it.

After the shootings, the boys told friends that their parents had gone on a spur-of-the-moment vacation. One of Eve Dingman’s co-workers didn’t believe it after Mrs. Dingman failed to show up for overtime work on the weekend or her regular shift Monday.

The co-worker called police, and Robert allowed them to search the house. They quickly found the bodies, even though Vance Dingman’s corpse had been sprayed with Lysol to keep it from smelling.

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