Philip Chism: Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer murdered, 14-year-old charged

Philip Chism, 14, is arraigned in Salem District Court, where he was arraigned on first degree murder charges. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro
Philip Chism, 14, is arraigned in Salem District Court, where he was arraigned on first degree murder charges. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Update: The Danvers community and beyond is in mourning after a young high school teacher was brutally murdered and her body dumped in the woods near the school allegedly at the hands of a student.

Philip Chism, 14, of Danvers, was ordered held without bail after pleading not guilty Wednesday afternoon during his arraignment in Salem District Court. 

He allegedly killed Danvers High School math teacher Colleen Ritzer, 24, of Andover, sometime Tuesday night, and dumped her body in a wooded area near the school.

Danvers High School was closed on Wednesday because of the murder. People showed up to the school anyway to leave items at a makeshift memorial there, including flowers, a stuffed bear and a note that read “Rest in peace Ms. Ritzer. You will be missed. From everyone at DHS.”

Chism is due back in court on Nov. 22 for a probable cause hearing. No details were read at the hearing, however a police report claims Chism knew Ritzer, and that officials learned in an interview with the 14-year-old and through video surveillance at the school that he assaulted and subsequently killed the teacher before disposing of her body.

Chism’s family members appeared in court for the hearing. A woman in court sobbed out loud and they and his lawyer left without commenting to reporters.

Authorities said they have no reason to believe there were any other suspects.

Jonathan Blodgett, District Attorney of Essex County announced in a press conference this morning that authorities found a bloody, brutal scene in the school’s second-floor bathroom Tuesday night. Ritzer, who taught freshman math, was reported missing around 11:20 p.m. Tuesday when she did not return home and did not answer her cellphone.

Law enforcement sources reportedly told ABC News that Ritzer was stabbed, however officials have yet to confirm. The news outlet also reported that surveillance video inside the high school shows the student dragging Ritzer’s body from the bathroom toward the woods in what appeared to be a recycling bin. The school is a new building and is equipped with 130 cameras, officials told the news outlet.

“She was a very, very respected, loved teacher. … It’s a terrible tragedy for the entire Danvers community,” Blodgett said of Ritzer, an Assumption College and Andover High School graduate.

Ritzer described herself as a ”math teacher often too excited about the topics I’m teaching” on her Twitter page, which was filled with math-focused tweets and encouraging words to students.

On Facebook, she recently uploaded a photo of a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.”

A person who picked up the phone at a number listed for Colleen Ritzer said the family was not speaking at this time, however they later released a statement mourning Ritzer: “Everyone that knew and loved Colleen knew of her passion for teaching and how she mentored each and every one of her students. We would like to ask everyone to respect our privacy at this most difficult time. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.”

Salem State University, where Ritzer was a graduate student in the school counseling program, said on Twitter, “Our thoughts go out to family & friends of Colleen Ritzer. She was bright student & dedicated teacher who helped students realize potential.”

Public schools in Danvers were closed Wednesday due to the murder investigation. Calls and emails to the school district’s superintendent was not immediately returned.

About 26,000 people live in Danvers, which is located about 20 miles north of Boston. The school district includes a high school, a middle school and five elementary schools. It is unclear if schools will remain closed Thursday.

Ritzer’s death comes just days after a middle school teacher in Sparks, Nevada was shot and killed by a 12-year-old boy who threatened students with a firearm.

Chism was reported missing on Tuesday evening, and was last seen at the Hollywood Hits Cinemas around 6:30 p.m. Police said he had recently relocated to Danvers from Tennessee. Danvers Police later confirmed that he was found safely, walking on Rte. 1 around 12:30 a.m Tuesday.

At Wednesday’s hearing, a defense attorney for Chism argued that her client’s face not be shown due to his age, however a judge rebuffed the request. Defense also argued that Chism should have a mental evaluation, to which the judge agreed.

“It is critical to his defense that forensic evaluation be able to take place without delay,” Chism’s lawyer said in a court filing.

Since Tuesday night, comments on the Danvers Police Department’s Facebook post asking for help locating Chism quickly escalated from well-wishes to rage and criticism over Chism’s alleged involvement.

A screenshot of police's public notice of Chism's disappearance. Photo via Twitter.
A screenshot of police’s public notice of Chism’s disappearance. Photo via Twitter.

A woman on the forum who claimed to be Chism’s neighbor described him as “a polite and friendly boy.”

“I pray for his safe return,” she said.


View Larger Map

Early Wednesday morning, police blocked off a portion of the Danvers High School building and were spotted combing the area, including the woods behind the school. Police declared the situation an “ongoing homicide investigation.”

Authorities say there is no threat to public safety.

A small memorial sprouted up on the school’s lawn Wednesday. Mourners took to social media today after learning of Ritzer’s murder.

Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Humans should thank ancient Scottish fish fossils for…

By Kate KellandLONDON (Reuters) - Scientists studying fossils have discovered that the intimate act of sexual intercourse used by humans was pioneered by ancient armored…

National

Comet makes rare close pass by Mars as…

By Irene KlotzNEW YORK (Reuters) - A comet from the outer reaches of the solar system on Sunday made a rare, close pass by Mars…

Local

NYPD: Man found hanging in Brooklyn subway station

A man was found hanging inside a Brooklyn subway station on Saturday morning, police said. The man, who still had not been identified on Sunday,…

Local

Only church destroyed in 9/11 set to rebuild

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the only house of worship destroyed during the terrorist attacks on 9/11, held a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday to start the…

Television

9 things we learned about 'Hannibal' Season 3…

There’s plenty of fall television to be excited about, but the crowd inside the Paley Center for Media on Saturday night only wanted one thing:…

Going Out

Watch home cooks try to impress Tom Colicchio…

Is what you’re making for dinner tonight good enough to serve “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio? That’s the standard that some of the city’s best…

Television

‘Homeland’ recap: Season 4, Episode 4 ‘Iron in…

Carrie Mathison, what are you doing?! Don’t seduce virgins! More on that later: Lots of crazy stuff went down on the "Iron in the Fire" ep of "Homeland"!

Movies

Box office: Brad Pitt kills Nazis, also Nicholas…

This weekend, Brad Pitt's second WWII movie, "Fury," rolled into the lead, while the latest Nicholas Sparks movie, "The Best of Me," got little love.

College

College football AP Top 25 rankings: Mississippi State…

College football AP Top 25 rankings: Mississippi State holds off FSU

NHL

NHL Power Rankings: Sharks, Canadiens, Blackhawks out in…

NHL Power Rankings: Sharks, Canadiens, Blackhawks out in front

NFL

DeMarco Murray carries Cowboys to win over Giants

The Giants knew they would need to stop DeMarco Murray if they were going to leave Dallas with a win. It didn't matter.

NFL

Jets trade for wide receiver Percy Harvin: Report

According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, the Jets have sent a conditional draft pick to the Seahawks for wide receiver Percy Harvin.

Wellbeing

Gabby Bernstein: The 3 questions I always get

For the last decade, I’ve been writing self-help books and preaching the Gospel of Gabby to audiences throughout the world. And no matter what country…

Wellbeing

Health News: 5K for lung cancer, free yoga,…

Get some fresh air to benefit lung cancer research On Friday, the first-ever Brooklyn Free to Breathe Run/Walk will take place Oct. 26 at Cadman Plaza…

Education

Can these two college students come up with…

Two Atlanta college students say they have an idea for a simple test that would quickly diagnosis the Ebola virus - and it all started…

Education

Chances are, the average college student isn't taking…

As a bachelor’s degree becomes more expensive than ever, one new report is criticizing colleges for the content of those pricey educations. The American Council…