Sources: Teen Suspect Used Box Cutter To Murder Danvers High Teacher
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DANVERS (CBS) — Police are continuing to investigate the murder of math teacher Colleen Ritzer at Danvers High School Tuesday.
Sources told WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson Thursday that a box cutter was used to kill Ritzer and her body was carried out of the school in a recycling bin.
Student Rania Rhaddaoui tells WBZ-TV that Ritzer had spoken to student Philip Chism during a last period math class Tuesday.
“She saw him drawing and she said ‘I didn’t know you drew,’” Rhaddaoui said.
According to Rhaddaoui, Ritzer then asked Chism to stay after class to prepare for an upcoming test.
Fourteen-year-old Chism, a student at the high school, is charged with her murder. He is being held without bail.
Police say surveillance cameras and interviews with Chism indicate Ritzer was murdered and then left in the woods near the school.
Ritzer’s family released the following statement Thursday:
“The Ritzer Family is most grateful for the outpouring of support during this very difficult time. The family kindly requests that the media respects their privacy as the necessary arrangements are made to celebrate Colleen’s vibrant life. While the family is not prepared to grant interviews at this time, they are most appreciative of the media’s efforts to share Colleen’s remarkable story.”
The statement went on to say funeral arrangements would be made public in the coming days.
Assumption College Professor Joseph Alfano, former head of Assumption College’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science also released a statement:
“The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science deeply regrets the untimely passing of Colleen Ritzer ‘11. She was a talented student in math and education, a cheerful presence in and out of class, and a promising young alumna of Assumption College. We will miss her.”
Dozens of students made their way to the high school Thursday morning even though classes were canceled for the second day in a row. Many students tell WBZ-TV they’re just hoping to feel safe in school again.
“Everybody gets along. It’s not like there’s bullying here or there. Everybody is wicked nice,” one student said.
Tragically, the recently remodeled school is now also adorned with a memorial to the math teacher who made a big impact.
“She was really open, helpful, tried to help you understand things so I actually did pretty well in her class,” a student said.
Classmate Kara Behen says Chism had become increasingly withdrawn in recent weeks, drawing constantly in a notebook during class.
“He used to do group work, then he started talking less, faded out a little bit and worked alone,” he said. “He didn’t talk to anyone.”
A manager at Hollywood Hits theater in Danvers says he turned over surveillance video to investigators that shows Chism alone and buying an eight dollar ticket to the Woody Allen movie “Blue Jasmine” at 4:15 Tuesday afternoon. He tells WBZ-TV there was nothing about his clothing or manner that stood out.
If the murder was carried out before then, Danvers police chief Neil Ouellette was asked how it could have happened on school grounds without anyone noticing. He told reporters the high school is an “open concept” with a lot of after school activities. The school has what he called “advanced” security, but all policies and procedures will be looked at, he said.
For parents, the open house-style meetings Thursday morning provided an opportunity for students to come back to school on their own terms. Thursday night, hundreds of parents met with teachers and grief counselors to discuss the loss and how to talk to their kids about it.
WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson reports
Jennifer Berger cannot believe that Colleen, her friend of 19 years, is gone. She last saw Colleen on Saturday night when they got together to make cookies. “We would have girls nights all the time, all we needed was pizza and do a little baking, nothing crazy just spending time with your best friends,” Berger explains.
That circle of friends includes Dan Yanofsky. “There was nothing fake about Colleen. She wore her heart on her sleeve, and the love that she had for everyone that she knew was the strongest love I’ve seen for anyone,” Yanofsky says.
Jennifer doesn’t want to know any details of Colleen’s murder, including the suspects name. “I don’t want to give whoever this person was any attention. They don’t deserve any of my time or anyone else’s time. Colleen was an amazing person and that is where the focus should be.”
Classes will resume at Danvers High School Friday morning.
WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson and Beth Germano contributed to this report.