Posted on October 24, 2013

Boy, 14, ‘Hid out in High School Before Slashing Teacher, 24, to Death with Box Cutter Stolen from Art Class’

Will Payne and Michael Zennie, Daily Mail (London), October 24, 2013

A teenager, charged with murder after his math teacher was found slashed to death with a box cutter, had hid out in the school with the weapon he stole from an art class, sources claimed tonight.

The body of Colleen Ritzer, 24, was found in woods behind Danvers High School on Wednesday morning after she was allegedly killed by 14-year-old student Philip Chism.

Colleen Ritzer

Colleen Ritzer

The small Massachusetts town paid tribute to the slain teacher on Wednesday night with hundreds of residents holding a candle-light vigil at the school where she died. Many students dressed in her favorite color pink and described her as a ‘brilliant ray of light’.

The community is desperately trying to understand what could have motivated such a senseless and brutal act.

Some details from Tuesday night’s tragic events have started to emerge with many students saying that the killer hid inside the school after class before killing Miss Ritzer.

It is believed that he used a craft knife stolen from an art classroom to attack the math teacher after forcing her into a second-floor bathroom.

Philip Chism

Philip Chism

One boy told how dedicated Miss Ritzer, who had been a teaching assistant up until 12 months ago, had only stayed late in school because she wanted to mark quizzes she had given out to her students that day.

The student said: ‘She was such a great teacher and she worked really hard. She had set some math quizzes that day and I guess she had stayed late to mark them.

‘Apparently the boy hid in school after class, he didn’t go home at all. Then I heard he forced her into the bathroom and attacked her with a knife from the art room.

‘People are saying he then dragged her down the stairs and got rid of her body in a recycling bin. No one has any idea why he did it. It is a tragedy.’

Other students, who played soccer with accused 14-year-old Chism, said that he was a really nice boy but incredibly shy and hard to get to know.

One said: ‘He was nice, but really quiet. No one really knew him that well. Apparently when he was arrested he was unresponsive and barely said anything at all.

‘Nothing like this has ever happened in Danvers before. No one can believe what is going on.’

Students told WCVB that Miss Ritzer was a brilliant ray of light who was dedicated to her students.

Danvers Superintendent Lisa Dana told the crowd: ‘We will work together to insure that Miss Ritzer’s legacy is defined not by one day or one person but by the many lives that she impacted.’

Police sources earlier revealed that Chism was seen on surveillance footage dragging a recycling bin with Miss Ritzer’s body through the halls of the high school and dumping her remains in the woods near campus.

In a bizarre twist, WCVB-TV today reported that after the gruesome killing, Chism walked to Hollywood Hits theaters in Danvers and watched Woody Allen’s latest film Blue Jasmine – a movie about a middle-aged woman’s mental breakdown. Miss Ritzer’s phone was later found near the movie theater.

Beloved math teacher Miss Ritzer, 24, was reported missing by her family when she didn’t come home from school on Tuesday night. When police went to search the school, they found a bathroom covered in blood.

Students flooded social media with an outpouring of grief over the murder, describing the teacher as dedicated and bright.

Chism appeared in court on Wednesday afternoon where he was charged as an adult in Miss Ritzer’s murder.

The boy’s attorney entered a plea of not guilty and requested a mental health evaluation for the boy and suggested she would argue that he was not mentally competent to stand trial. He was held without bail following the arraignment in Salem District Court.

His family was in the courtroom during his arraignment and a woman believed to be his mother could be seen sobbing in the gallery.

Arrest records say Chism is 6’2 and is 140 pounds. A police report indicated that he and Miss Ritzer knew each other from school and that she had taught the 14-year-old.

WBZ-TV reported that the teenager is from Tennessee and had recently moved to Danvers.

The Boston Globe reports that he appeared to have made friends in his short time in Danvers and had joined that school’s soccer team.

Administrators shut down all schools in the district on Wednesday as the murder investigation  continued and students struggled to cope with the horrifying news.

The investigation began on Tuesday night after Chism’s parents called police when he didn’t return home from school.

Danvers police took to social media to help search for the boy. He was last seen at a movie theater about 6.30pm on Tuesday.

About 11.30pm, Miss Ritzer’s family reported her missing.

They said she had not returned home from school and was not answering her phone.

Officers then went to the school, where they found a second-floor bathroom covered in blood.

Police in neighboring Topsfield picked up the missing teen about 12.30am on Wednesday after they discovered him walking along a highway.

Chism was taken to detectives in Danvers where he allegedly led police to the teacher’s body behind the school.

A police source told ABC News that surveillance video from the high school, which is rigged with 130 cameras, shows Chism dragging a recycling bin with Miss Ritzer’s body through the halls and out the door of the school.

A source told WCVB that after the killing, Chism went to the movies where he saw Blue Jasmine, which stars Cate Blanchett as a fallen socialite who spirals into homelessness after she loses her money. The film is directed by Woody Allen.

Ritzer taught math at Danvers High School. Her Twitter feed, which she used to communicate lessons to her students said: ‘Math teacher often too excited about the topics I’m teaching.’

‘She was a very, very, respected, loved teacher. It’s a terrible tragedy for the entire Danvers community,’ Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said.

She lived with her mother and father in nearby Andover.  Her family issued a statement saying: ‘At this time we are mourning the tragic death of our amazing daughter and sister.

‘Everyone that knew and loved Colleen knew of her passion, her teaching and how she mentored each and every one of her students.’

Chris Weimert, 17, was a student in Ritzer’s geometry class last year. He said she had taught at the school for two years and was a warm, welcoming person who would stand outside her classroom and say hello to students she didn’t teach.

‘She was the nicest teacher anyone could ever have. She always had a warm smile on her face,’ he said.

Weimert said the suspect, who he knew from seeing him around school, ‘seemed like a good kid’. He said, ‘It really threw the whole town of Danvers a curve ball.’

Students immediately tweeted tributes to their teacher.

‘The sign on ms ritzer’s white board that said “You matter.” Made my day, everyday. This is so surreal #RIP,’ one student tweeted.

‘There was no teacher like Ms. Ritzer, she was a role model, and nothing but positive. Rest easy, you will never be forgotten,’ student Emily McPherson wrote.

Ritzer was in her second year as a teacher at Danvers High School. She was also studying for a masters degree at Salem State University.

No motive has been given in the murder.

Following the horrifying discovery, administrators shut down all schools in Danvers, a quiet Boston suburb with a population of 26,000.

Miss Ritzer is the second math teacher killed at school by a student this week. Michael Landsberry, who taught eighth grade math, was gunned down Monday by a 12-year-old student after he tried to stop a shooting rampage at Sparks Middle School in Nevada.