Teen Pleads Not Guilty To Murder Of Danvers Teacher
SALEM, Mass. (CBS/AP) — A 14-year-old boy pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges including murder, aggravated rape and armed robbery in the killing of his high school math teacher.
Philip Chism is accused in the Oct. 22 death of Colleen Ritzer, a popular teacher at Danvers High School. Ritzer’s body was found in woods near the school with her throat slit and a note reading, “I hate you all.”
Chism was arraigned in Salem Superior Court. He also pleaded not guilty at his earlier arraignment in District Court. The case was moved to Superior Court after he was indicted last month.
Chism had recently moved to Massachusetts from Clarksville, Tenn.
Police have not released a motive for Ritzer’s killing. Chism’s attorney has declined to comment.
Students told police that Chism stayed after school the day the 24-year-old Ritzer was killed. One student who said she had also stayed after school to receive extra help that day said Chism appeared to become upset when Ritzer began talking about Tennessee.
Search warrant documents made public last month described surveillance video that authorities said showed Chism following Ritzer into a school bathroom, wearing gloves and a hood, then later walking out of the bathroom alone.
A short time later, the video shows him pulling a recycling barrel through the school and outside, according to the documents. A recycling barrel was found near Ritzer’s body. Authorities said she was sexually assaulted with a stick.
Chism is charged with murder as an adult. The aggravated rape and armed robbery charges are pending in Juvenile Court, but prosecutors have said they will seek to join those charges with the murder charge in adult court.
For Wednesday’s arraignment, Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead was sworn in as a special Juvenile Court judge so he can hear all the charges together.
Chism is due back in court January 30 for a pretrial hearing.
After the hearing, Ritzer’s family issued a statement reflecting on the pain and horror of losing her along with the outpouring of support they’ve received from the community.
“As a family, we remain devastated by the passing of our daughter and sister, Colleen,” said the Ritzer Family. “We are however strengthened by the tremendous outpouring of love and support we have received from so many throughout the local community and beyond. We are especially touched by the number of tributes to Colleen throughout Andover and Danvers, many of which will benefit a scholarship fund in her name.”
WBZ-TV’s Bobby Sisk reports
Hundreds of people packed two large rooms at Timothy’s in Danvers Wednesday night. “We were still turning vendors down at noon,” said organizer Ed Spicer. Spicer and his wife helped plan the “Ladies Holiday Shopping Night” which ended up bringing together nearly 60 vendors with proceeds from vendor fees, raffle tickets and donations going to the Colleen Ritzer Scholarship Fund. They’d planned the event some time ago, and had no idea Ritzer’s alleged killer, her student Philip Chism, was in court a few hours before.
“We were just very upset with what happened and so my husband and I thought about what can we do to help,” Marion Spicer said. “People have approached me saying they just want to donate money. I’m very happy. I didn’t expect to see a turnout like this,” said Carolyn Colberg, Event Coordinator at Timothy’s.
Many of those in attendance had been looking for a way to help. “I think it is extremely important and I think it is part of the healing,” Ed Spicer said. His wife hoped the outpouring of support would also comfort Ritzer’s family. “I just hope they know there are people out there like us, like everyone here, who wants to do whatever they can and so even if we can do this much we feel good about it,” she said. The Spicers hoped to raise as much as $2500 dollars for the scholarship fund.
One of Ritzer’s college classmates also set up a booth, selling bracelets that read, find good in everything. Since she started the effort shortly after her friend’s murder, she’s raised roughly $5000 in all. This latest fundraiser is just another way to pay tribute. “We so often hear of all the bad going on and it important to remember the good and although she isn’t here I know that for me my hope is to keep her legacy alive,” Katelyn Mahoney said.
WBZ-TV’s Bobby Sisk contributed to this report.