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Student charged with teacher's murder

3 years 1 month 2 weeks ago October 23, 2013 Oct 23, 2013 Wednesday, October 23 2013 October 23, 2013 11:32 AM in News
Source: Associated Press

DANVERS, Mass. - A 14-year-old high school student described by classmates as soft-spoken and pleasant was accused of killing a well-liked math teacher, whose body was found in the woods behind the school.

Philip Chism was ordered held Wednesday at his arraignment in adult court on a murder charge in Salem.

His defense attorney argued for the proceedings to be closed and her client to be allowed to stay hidden because of his age. The judge denied the request, and the teen is due back in court on Nov. 22.

Authorities say the teen killed 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer, whose body was found in the woods behind Danvers High School early Wednesday.

Police started investigating after Ritzer was reported missing late Tuesday night, because she had not returned home from work and was not answering her cellphone. Investigators found blood in a second-floor school bathroom and soon located the victim, he said. He did not say how Ritzer died.

"She was a very, very respected, loved teacher," Blodgett said, calling the killing a "terrible tragedy."

Chism also was reported missing Tuesday after not coming home from school. He was spotted walking along a road in neighboring Topsfield at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Ritzer had a Twitter account where she gave homework assignments, encouraged students and described herself as a "math teacher often too excited about the topics I'm teaching."

She was a 2011 graduate of Assumption College, a school spokeswoman said Wednesday. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in math, a minor in psychology and a secondary education concentration, according to the college's 2011 commencement program.

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 Chism, 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."

Kyle Cahill, a junior, said he knows Chism from the soccer team. He said the 14-year-old moved to Massachusetts from Tennessee before the school year began and was a top goal scorer on the school's junior varsity team.

He called him a quiet, nice kid.

"He wasn't violent at all. He was really the opposite of aggressive," Cahill said.

Cahill said there was a soccer team dinner Tuesday night that the accused teen skipped, and team members were wondering where he was.

"We're all just a family. It just amazes me really," he said. "I'm just stunned."

Ryan Kelleher, a senior who also plays soccer, said the arrest of the soft-spoken Chism didn't make sense to him.

"From what I know about him and seeing him every day, it just doesn't add up that he would do such a thing, unless this was all an act to fool somebody," the 17-year-old said.

Kelleher took Ritzer's algebra class last year and said hello to her on Tuesday in the hallway. He said students related to the young teacher, who liked to wear jeans and UGG boots just like the students.

"She just loved to come to school and just teach and teach students and help them succeed," he said.

There was no reason to believe anyone else was involved and there was no public safety danger, authorities said.

All public schools in Danvers, about 20 miles north of Boston, were closed Wednesday.

The high school's students were planning a candlelight vigil near the school Wednesday evening.

Ritzer is the second teacher allegedly killed by a student in the U.S. this week. A Sparks, Nev., middle school teacher was allegedly shot by a 12-year-old student on Monday.

IMAGE: Twitter

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