The teenager charged in the shocking slaying of beloved Massachusetts teacher Colleen Ritzer has been described by former classmates as a “quiet and reserved” boy who was “well liked” on his JV soccer team.
Danvers High School student Philip Chism was spotted walking along a highway in the early hours of Oct. 24, hours after his family had reported him missing.
Chism was questioned in the disappearance of Ritzer, who had been reported missing at 11:20 p.m. Tuesday night. After the popular young teacher’s battered body was found in a wooded area near the school, police placed him under arrest.
Colleen Ritzer was described as “an amazing
daughter and sister.” USA Today
The criminal complaint states that authorities believe, based on "the interview of the juvenile suspect and video recovered at the school” that Chism assaulted and killed Ritzer and then transported the body to another location.
Chism, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall, was arraigned in a Salem courthouse on Wednesday and ordered held without bail. As his mother Diane Chism wept in the courtroom the teen's attorney entered a plea of not guilty. A grand jury will determine whether the 14-year-old student will stand trial in an adult court.
Boston’s Fox 25 News reports that a source close to the investigation told their reporter Heather Hegedus that Chism “admitted to police that he followed Ritzer into the women’s bathroom, punched her in the face and slashed her throat with a box cutter.”
Police remove Ritzer’s body from the woods on Wednesday morning. Reuters
The source added that the teen concealed Ritzer’s body in a recycling bin and wheeled it into the woods.
The teenager and his family had recently moved to the Danvers area, where he enrolled in the town’s only high school. A member of the JV soccer squad, he was described as seeming “like a normal kid,” according to fellow student Mitchell Bussone.
The Danvers High School senior joined in the search for Chism on Tuesday night after the younger boy was reported missing. He told NBC News, “A lot of us welcomed him in. He fit in well and we liked him.”
Ritzer’s brutal slaying has left the school community in “disbelief,” he said.
Hundreds gathered at a candlelight vigil held in Ritzer’s honor. AP
Ritzer’s family issued a statement requesting privacy as they mourned the loss of “our amazing daughter and sister.” They remembered her “passion for teaching, and how she mentored each and every one of her students.”
The 24-year-old Ritzer, who was starting her second year teaching Math at Danvers H.S., was known as a dedicated, engaging instructor. She reached out to her students via social media, to provide help with their algebra and geometry homework – and also offer inspirational advice about the challenges they faced as adolescents.
Ritzer’s Twitter account describes her as “a Math teacher often too excited about the topics I’m teaching.”
The Boston Globe featured some of Ritzer’s recent tweets in a story about her life.
“No matter what happens in life, be good to people,” she wrote during the summer. “Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”
Ritzer posted inspirational messages on social media. USA Today
Ritzer was a graduate of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, from which she graduated magna cum laude in 2011. She was pursuing a master’s degree in school counseling at Salem State University.
On Wednesday night, the Boston Red Sox asked fans to observe a moment of silence in honor of Colleen Ritzer before the opening game of the World Series at Fenway Park.