The Murder of Massachusetts Teacher Colleen Ritzer
Seven years ago today, 24 year old Massachusetts native, Colleen Ritzer, arose from her slumber, readied for a busy day as a Math teacher at Danvers High School, and scurried out the door for a full day of doing what she loved; teaching high school students. Colleen had no idea that on October 23, 2013 she would meet a gruesome fate. That unthinkable fate Colleen would meet occurred in the very place that she taught with passion daily : Danvers High School, near Boston.
On the afternoon of 10/23/2013, Colleen, (Miss Ritzer as her pupils called her) exited her DHS classroom for a restroom break. Around 2:54 pm, a school surveillance camera captured Colleen headed towards and entering the ladies restroom. A minute later, the same camera captured high school student, 14 year old Philip Chism, exit a classroom with a hood over his head and enter the same restroom Colleen had entered. 12 minutes later, Philip exited the women’s restroom, but Colleen did not. At 3:14pm, Chism was again caught on surveillance footage getting a large, plastic, green recycling can and rolling the can into the women’s restroom. At 3:22 pm, Philip is again caught on camera, exiting the restroom with the green recycling bin. Additional camera footage captured Chism wheeling the bin out of the School and to a wooded area behind the school.
Upon retreating from the wooded area, Philip went back into the school, entering and then exiting the women’s restroom. He is seen on surveillance footage here, walking through the school barefoot in bloodied clothes. https://youtu.be/kv–Oc-U8VE
Philip then left the school to watch a movie at a local movie theatre. When he didn’t return home from school, Chism’s mother contacted the Danvers Police Department, prompting authorities to contact the school principal about the well-being of Chism. Philip Chism was not able to be located and was listed as a missing child. Without coincidence, around the same time, another teacher at DHS also contacted the principal stating that Colleen was missing. Chism was later safely located in a nearby town in Massachusetts. Law enforcement and the principal conducted a search of the high school after midnight, discovering Colleen’s car still in the parking lot. A subsequent search by authorities in the very early morning hours of 10/23/2013, revealed Colleen’s lifeless body within the wooded area behind the school.
In the days to come after the discovery of Colleen’s body, the details proved grisly. Philip Chism, 14 years old at the time and a minor, was charged with first degree murder, two counts of rape, and one count of robbery. Philip’s defense went forth with an insanity plea based on the teenager’s family mental health history and lifestyle. The road to Trial was slow, filled with mental health evaluations and delays. In February 2017, Philip Chism finally stood trial for his accused actions. The prosecution revealed during trial Colleen’s murder was sexually motivated.
During the trial, the forensic pathologist explained in detail the injuries inflicted upon Colleen. Colleen had been stabbed 16 times and asphyxiated by strangulation. Colleen was also raped; TWICE. The State was unable to prove that the second time Colleen was raped (with a tree branch) occurred while she was still alive. The defense stood by their claim that Chism’s acts were due to a psychotic break. Prosecutors speculated that Colleen was still barely alive while being wheeled out of the school in the recycling bin. Upon conclusion of the trial, the jury found Philip Chism guilty of 1st degree murder, Rape, and Robbery. Chism was sentenced to 25 years with the possibility of parole for the 1st degree murder charge due to Massachusetts laws surrounding minors involved in crimes. Chism was also sentenced to two additional 40 year sentences for the rape and robbery charges. All sentences are being served concurrently. Philip Chism will likely be released from prison in his early fifties. Colleen didn’t live past the age of 24.