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

Sister of accused Boston Marathon bombers arrested for…

The sister of the accused Boston Marathon bombers was arrested in New York City for threatening a woman over the phone, saying she could "put a bomb on you," police…

Local

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Labor Day in NYC: Make the last weekend…

Soon, it’ll be time for wool accessories and knee-high boots. Even the Pumpkin Spice Latte has already arrived — but we still have one last…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

NFL

Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…

Sex

The 10 types of people you meet online

Does it ever seem like online dating profiles tend to get a little repetitive? It turns out you are not the only one to have…