McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

November 22, 2013

Affidavit describes chilling rape, murder of teacher


CNHI News Service

DANVERS. Mass. — A police affidavit was unsealed Friday in the recent slaying of a popular high school math teacher, disclosing scary details tying the 14-year-old student defendant in the case to the murder.

The affidavit by State Trooper Robert C. LaBarge Jr., said teacher Colleen Ritzer, 24, was raped and killed Oct. 22 when her throat was cut with a box cutter in a girls bathroom at Danvers High School in this Boston suburb.

The affidavit said the murder was planned and that a folded note -- declaring, "I hate you all." --  was found next to  Ritzer's partially buried body in the woods adjacent to the school early the next day. The document said her body was in a sexually staged position and mostly naked.

Philip D. Chism, a freshman in Ritzer's math class, was indicted Thursday by a grand jury on first-degree murder, aggravated rape and armed robbery charges -- the latter stemming from theft of the teacher's credit cards, underwear and cellphone.

The teenager was arrested and held without bail as an adult defendant the day Ritzer's body was discovered. But the police affidavit was sealed until after the grand jury could hear the case and return indictments.

The affidavit said school surveillence cameras showed Ritzer talking with another teacher in a second-floor hallway around 2:30 p.m. on the day of the murder, then heading to the nearby girls bathroom. The videotape shows Chism, wearing a hooded sweatshirt over his head and putting on gloves, entering the bathroom a few minutes after Ritzer, said the affidavit.

There's no surveillance camera in the bathroom  but the hallway cameras showed Chism leaving the bathroom -- now wearing a white T-shirt, jeans and gray sneakers -- and returning to the teacher's classroom, which he then leaves, wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and  carrying a backpack, and two bags.

He's next observed pulling a plastic recycling bin to the first-floor elevator and wheeling it into the second-floor bathroom, the affidavit said. It  states he then exits the bathroom, wearing a black mask and white T-shirt, pulling the bin through the school and out to the wooded area where Ritzer's body was discovered. The affidavit said Chism is observed leaving the school around 6 p.m., now wearing a black shirt and glasses, and carrying jeans.

The youth is next reported seen by a movie theater manager, sitting through the Woody Allen film "Blue Jasmine" about the romantic trials of a New York socialite. He was picked up by police late that night walking aimlessly along a local highway. The affidavit said he had a knife on him and that his backpack contained a box cutter, credit cards and driver licenses belonging to Ritzer, and a pair of women's blueish-green sheer underwear.

Significantly, the affidavit disclosed that while Ritzer and Chism were both in the bathroom, a female student entered about a half-hour later, at 3:06 p.m. But she quickly departed after seeing a "butt" and clothes on the floor, and assuming someone was changing clothes.

The student's name was redacted in the affidavit. As was another student's name who told investigators that she had stayed after class, along with Chism, to get extra help from Ritzer.

During the tutorial, the student said, Ritzer and Chism were talking about China, when Ritzer made reference to Tennessee, and this seemed to visibly upset Chism.

"She (the student) said Ms. Ritzer apparently was unaware Phillip was upset and continued to talk about Tennessee," the affidavit said. "She said that (eventually) Ms. Ritzer became aware that Phillip was getting upset about her talking about Tennessee. She said Ms. Ritzer later changed the topic. She also said she observed Phillip talking to himself in the classroom."

Chism, a sister and his mother had moved from Tennessee a few months earlier -- after the mother filed for what she told police was a "stressful" divorce from Chism's father, according to the affidavit. They were living with the mother's aunt in Danvers.

Chism has been described by teachers and students at Danvers High as a quiet, lanky youth who excelled as a member of the junior varsity soccer team.

Ritzer, in her second year of teaching, was described as a warm and affable person who always saw good in people, and went out of her way to help her students succeed. More than 1,000 people attended her funeral service in her hometown of Andover, Mass.

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Details for this story came from the police affidavit filed in the case in Salem, Mass., District Court.