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

Woman dies when run over by bus at…

A woman at the Burning Man arts and culture festival in the Nevada desert died on Thursday when she was run over by a bus carrying participants.

National

Texas parents sue day care center for duct…

By Marice RichterDALLAS (Reuters) - A Texas couple has filed a lawsuit against the owners of a Fort Worth-area day care center seeking $1 million…

National

Santa Fe city council votes to decriminalize marijuana

By Joseph KolbALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) - Santa Fe on Wednesday became the latest U.S. city to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, with lawmakers in the…

International

Egypt queries Mursi over documents "leaked" to Al…

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt is investigating jailed ex-president Mohamed Mursi in connection with documents that judicial investigators say were leaked to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

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…