Family Of Slain Danvers Teacher Files Lawsuit Against Town, School

DANVERS (CBS) – The family of slain Danvers teacher Colleen Ritzer has filed a lawsuit against the town and school department for “negligent infliction of emotional distress.”

Ritzer was killed on October 22, 2013 inside Danvers High School.

Read: Ritzer Family Lawsuit

Philip Chism, who was 14 at the time, was convicted and ordered to serve at least 40 years in prison for the rape and murder of Ritzer on October 22, 2013 inside Danvers High School.

Peggie and Tom Ritzer, Colleen’s parents, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Essex Superior Court against the Town of Danvers, Danvers Public Schools, S.J. Services Inc. and Denisco Design Partnership.

Tom and Peggie Ritzer react to the sentencing of Philip Chism in February 2016. (WBZ-TV)

Tom and Peggie Ritzer react to the sentencing of Philip Chism in February 2016. (WBZ-TV)

The lawsuit seeks to have several questions answered.

Security cameras captures Chism’s movements the day he killed Ritzer. But the family wants to know why no one was monitoring the cameras, what measures have been made to correct security system deficiencies, and why Chism could roam freely around the school committing the crimes without being noticed.

Family members say the school, town and security company DeNisco Design Partnership “failed to keep Colleen safe.”

S.J. Services, the janitorial company used at the school, is accused in the lawsuit of acting negligently when they cleaned the women’s bathroom where Ritzer was attacked. The scene was not immediately reported, and as a result police did not know for hours that Ritzer had been killed.

The lawsuit claims it is “highly likely” that the charge Chism was acquitted of was a result of the slow response time by S.J. Services.

“As a result of defendants’ negligence, Colleen was unsafe and vulnerable to the vicious attack by Chism,” the lawsuit alleges.

The family asks in the lawsuit to “award such other relief as this court finds appropriate.”

Members of the Ritzer family declined to comment

Town Manager Steve Bartha issued a statement on the lawsuit.

“Colleen’s death was a tragedy for the whole community and our hearts continue to go out to the Ritzer family. We respect the legal process that the family is pursuing. As this is now a matter of pending litigation, we really have no further comment,” Bartha said.

The School superintendent and School Board also issued a statement saying they cannot comment on the lawsuit, but they are committed to continuing Ritzer’s legacy of kindness and dedication to teaching.


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