Documents detailing Mass. teacher’s slaying sought

10:36 am | November 22, 2013

 

SALEM, Mass. (AP) — More details may be released in court about the death of a popular Massachusetts high school teacher who police say was killed by one of her students.

The Associated Press, The Boston Globe and other media organizations have asked a Salem District Court judge to lift an order that bars public viewing of search warrants and other documents in the slaying of 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer. Some of those documents are expected to be made public Friday.

Philip Chism, 14, has been held without bail since shortly after the Oct. 22 killing. He was indicted Thursday on charges of murder, aggravated sexual assault, and armed robbery. Authorities say he sexually assaulted Ritzer with an object before killing and robbing her.

“The indictments returned today detail horrific and unspeakable acts,” said Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

The indictment says Chism, armed with a box cutter, stole Ritzer’s underwear, credit cards and iPhone. A ruling on her exact cause of death is pending. Ritzer’s body was found behind Danvers High School.

Chism had previously pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. A message seeking comment was left with his attorney Thursday. The indictment adds charges of aggravated rape and armed robbery.

Chism was spotted leaving a movie theater about 6:30 p.m. on the day Ritzer was killed, then picked up by police as he walked along a highway in a neighboring town six hours later. Police said they believe Ritzer died sometime after the school day ended at 2 p.m., but they have not said exactly when.

Ritzer’s family issued a statement saying they continue to mourn and asking for privacy.

“We are devastated and heartbroken by the details of the horrific circumstances surrounding the death of our beautiful daughter and sister, Colleen,” the statement said.

Prosecutors have not revealed a motive for the killing, though two classmates said Chism was in Ritzer’s class after dismissal the day she was killed.

Chism had moved to Massachusetts from Tennessee before the start of the school year and played on the school’s junior varsity soccer team.

Court records indicate Chism’s parents had difficulties early in their marriage. In a parenting plan included in 2001 divorce papers, his mother, Diana, insisted on supervising any time her husband, Stacy, had with their son and a younger daughter. She cited “prior physical and emotional abuse as well as alcohol abuse” by her husband. Both adults signed the papers.

The divorce was apparently never finalized after both parents signed an order stating they wanted to attempt to reconcile.

Shortly after the killing, Diana Chism released a statement through her son’s public defender saying she was heartbroken for Ritzer’s family.

Ritzer was described as an enthusiastic, caring teacher who stood outside her classroom and greeted all students, whether they were in her classes or not.

Ritzer’s family has established a scholarship to honor her work. It will benefit graduates of Andover High School, in her hometown, who pursue teaching careers.

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