A 14-year-old boy has been charged with murder in the death of beloved Massachusetts math teacher Colleen Ritzer, 24, on Tuesday. Philip Chism, a freshman at Danvers High School, has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder. The criminal complaint states: "Based on his statements and the corroborating evidence found at multiple scenes at the Danvers High School and surrounding wooded area, [he] was subsequently placed into custody and booked for murder."
A source told the local Fox affiliate that Chism admitted to police that he "followed Ritzer into the women's restroom, punched her in the face and slashed her throat with a box cutter." Chism then allegedly stuffed the body in a recycling bin and dragged it into the woods near the school.
Police came to the school shortly before 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday to look for Ritzer, and found blood inside a second floor bathroom. The body was found shortly thereafter, and Chism, who had been reported missing, was picked up walking along a highway after midnight.
The motive remains completely unclear. Chism, 6'2", had recently moved to Danvers from Tennessee but so far there appears to be no sign he was troubled. One student who knew Chism from soccer told NBC, "What went through my head was how could this happen? That’s what everyone is asking." Chism was the top goal-scorer on the school's JV soccer team, and one teammate says he "kept to himself" at practice. But another classmate tells Fox, "He wasn't violent at all. He was really the opposite of aggressive."
Hundreds of mourners attended a candlelight vigil for Ritzer in the school parking lot last night, and the Red Sox held a moment of silence in Ritzer's honor before last night's game. Her family released this statement:
At this time, we are mourning the tragic death of our amazing, beautiful daughter and sister. Everyone that knew and loved Colleen knew of her passion for teaching and how she mentored each and every one of her students. We would like to ask everyone to respect our privacy at this most difficult time. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.
Students described Ritzer as the "nicest teacher anyone could ever have."