SALEM (CBS/AP) — A Massachusetts teenager was convicted Tuesday of raping and killing his high school math teacher when he was 14.
Chism was convicted of raping Ritzer inside the bathroom but was acquitted of a second rape, committed with a tree branch in woods near the school where Chism put her body. He was convicted of armed robbery for stealing Ritzer’s credit cards and her underwear.
Video: Jury Reads Verdict
Chism stared straight ahead and did not have any visible reaction as the verdicts were being read in Salem Superior Court.
During his trial, his lawyer admitted Chism killed Ritzer, but said he was suffering from severe mental illness and was not criminally responsible for his actions. A psychiatrist who testified for the defense said Chism was hearing voices and in the throes of a psychotic episode when he killed Ritzer.
Ritzer, 24, was a popular teacher at Danvers High School, about 25 miles north of Boston, doing her dream job, teaching math, Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall told jurors in her opening statement.
Ritzer’s parents broke their silence after the verdict, saying “they are entering a new phase in their lives” and will continue to honor their daughter.
“This guilty verdict, while the beginning of justice for Colleen, is certainly no cause for celebration, as there can never be true justice for the crime committed,” Colleen’s father Tom Ritzer said. “There remains a tremendous and painful absence in our lives one that sadly can never be replaced.”
Colleen’s mother, Peggie Ritzer, thanked law enforcement, saying they showed the same kindness that defined Colleen. She said one of her daughter’s favorite quotes was “there is something good in every day.”
Related: Danvers Residents React To Verdict
“To celebrate our love for her and in recognition of the many lives Colleen touched and continues to influence despite the immense loss we are forced to endure, we will carry on and do our very best to find the good in every day,” Peggie Ritzer said.
In a statement, Danvers Public School Superintendent Lisa Dana said she hopes the Ritzer family and school community continue to heal. “We know Colleen’s message, ‘No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good is a wonderful legacy to leave behind,’ will live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved her,” Dana said.
On Oct. 22, 2013, Ritzer asked Chism to stay after school. Another student who also stayed late that day testified that Ritzer tried to engage Chism — a student who had recently moved to Massachusetts — in light talk about how his new community compared with his old town of Clarksville, Tennessee. The student said Chism became visibly upset and Ritzer eventually changed the subject.
A short time later, Ritzer left the classroom. Jurors were shown chilling surveillance video that showed Ritzer walking down the hallway to the bathroom. Seconds later, Chism is seen poking his head out of her classroom and looking down the hall. He then goes back into the classroom, but comes right back out with his hood on. Chism is then shown putting on a pair of gloves as he walks into the bathroom. Minutes later, he is shown emerging from the bathroom carrying the black pants Ritzer was wearing.
Chism, now 16, was tried as an adult.
A bloody box cutter, mask, gloves and a hooded sweatshirt were later found in his backpack by police who found Chism walking beside a highway in neighboring Topsfield.
Chism faces life in prison on the first-degree murder charge. As a juvenile, he cannot receive a life sentence without parole following decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Adults convicted of first-degree murder in Massachusetts automatically receive life without parole.
Judge David Lowy set a status hearing for Dec. 22 to discuss sentencing.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz reports
Lawyers for Chism are due back in court Wednesday on separate charges. Chism faces charges including attempted murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon stemming from an attack on a state Department of Youth Services worker while he was awaiting trial.
Chism had been in a youth detention facility in Boston in June 2014 when prosecutors said he followed a worker into a locker room and choked and beat her before other workers intervened. The worker suffered injuries to her face, jaw, neck and back.
Juvenile court cases are typically closed, but because Chism is being charged as a youthful offender, the case will be open to the public. It’s not clear if Chism will attend.
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