The trial of a Massachusetts teenager accused of raping and murdering a popular math teacher at his suburban high school in October 2013 is set to wrap up with closing arguments on Monday.
During the month-long trial, prosecutors have shown evidence including surveillance video they said showed Philip Chism, 16, following teacher Colleen Ritzer into the bathroom where she was killed and later wheeling her body away in a recycling bin.
Prosecutors contend that Chism raped Ritzer, 24, and cut her throat with a box cutter before bundling her body off campus. He is also accused of taking Ritzer’s credit card, which prosecutors say he used to buy fast food and a ticket to a movie at a mall.
Defense attorneys have contended that Chism, who was 14 at the time of the attack but is being tried as an adult, had long suffered from an undiagnosed psychosis that was worsened by his family's move to Massachusetts from Tennessee and that he was not in control of his actions.
The trial at Essex County Superior Court in Salem, Massachusetts, was occasionally delayed by Chism, including on the second day of proceedings when he refused to return to the courtroom after a break telling his attorney that he was "about to explode" and did "not want to hurt anyone."
The judge, David Lowy, repeatedly reminded Chism that he had a right to be present for the proceedings but not to disrupt them.
Ritzer was a well-liked teacher at the high school in Danvers, Massachusetts, a town of 26,000 people about 20 miles north of Boston, at the time of her death. Her body was found in a wooded area behind the school.
Chism would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted of the most serious charge, first-degree murder.