SALEM (CBS/AP) — Teenager Philip Chism was sentenced Friday to serve at least 40 years in prison for the rape and murder of Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer in 2013.
“The crashing waves of this tragedy will never wane,” Salem Superior Court Judge David Lowy said as he handed down a sentence of 25 years for the murder and 40 years and one day for raping and robbing Ritzer.
Those sentences will be served concurrently, in other words, at the same time, which means Chism will not be eligible parole for 40 years. Since he committed the crimes when he was 14, he will be in jail until he’s at least 54 years old.
Chism showed no emotion as the sentence was read.
Earlier in the day, Ritzer’s mother led an emotional group of family and friends who delivered heartbreaking victim impact statements.
Chism, 17, was convicted December 15, 2015 of rape, armed robbery and first-degree murder in the brutal death of the 24-year-old Danvers High School teacher in October 2013.
Nine people read personal statements to Lowy Friday morning before Chism’s formal sentencing.
Ritzer’s mother, father, brother, sister and friends each addressed the court, all sharing their stories about the popular math teacher and the pain that her loss has caused.
Tom Ritzer said he felt like he had failed his daughter.
“I didn’t protect Colleen. A dad’s job is to fix things. I would do anything I could if could fix this for Colleen.”
Her brother Dan asked Lowy to “put this animal behind bars.”
Peggy Ritzer, Colleen’s mother, ended the first part of the session with a 32-minute statement describing her final memories of her daughter and the pain their family has endured living without her.
She said her daughter’s death had left her “so very broken.”
“Now I isolate myself from people I love because pretending being to be happy is so difficult,” she said.
Peggy Rizter also called for Chism to get a “sentence of death,” but admitted that’s not an option under Massachusetts Law.
“He is pure evil and pure evil can never be rehabilitated,” she told the court.
“Colleen matters,” she said. “Colleen was a caring and loving young woman full of life and a beloved teacher.”
Watch: Peggy Ritzer’s Statement
Chism’s defense team made a last-minute filing Thursday aimed at limiting the number of victim impact statements at the sentencing.
Lowy denied the request, ruling that all nine people could address the court.
“These are crimes that make one’s soul ache,” prosecutor Kate MacDougall told the court Friday, asking for a sentence of life in prison with a chance of parole after serving a minimum of 50 years.
Defense attorney Susan Oker asked for a sentence that would make Chism eligible for parole no later than age 40. She cited scientific studies that said a juvenile brain is not fully developed.
Chism’s mother issued a brief statement before Friday’s sentencing hearing.
“Words can’t express the amount of pain and sorrow these past two and a half years have been. However, there is no one who has suffered more than the Ritzer family. My utmost esteem, prayers, and humble respect is with them today as they continue their journey to heal,” Diana Chism wrote.
Philip Chism will stay at the same secure juvenile detention center in Worcester where he’s been since his trial, until he’s 18. Then he’ll move to a state prison.
Friends and family of Colleen Ritzer have created a scholarship for students who plan to pursue a career in education. For more information visit: http://ColleenRitzerScholarship.com
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