For the second time this week, a community is mourning the killing of a teacher, allegedly by a student. The latest victim, Colleen Ritzer, math teacher at Danvers High School in Massachusetts, was 24. A 14-year-old student was charged in the killing Wednesday and is being held without bail.
The Danvers community was shocked after Ritzer's body was discovered in the woods near her school early Wednesday morning.
The suspect, Philip D. Chism, was charged with murder and arraigned in adult court. His attorney asked for the hearing to be closed and to allow her client to stay hidden because of his age, the Associated Press reported. The judge denied the request. The Essex District's Attorney's Office told the Los Angeles Times that prosecutors next plan to pursue an indictment against Chism.
The investigation began when a missing-person report was filed Tuesday for the student, who had not returned home from Danvers High. Police also learned Tuesday night that Ritzer had not gone home after work and was not answering her cellphone.
Police discovered blood in the second-floor bathroom of the high school, and began to search school property. Ritzer's body was found in woods near the school.
Wednesday morning, police responded to a report of a pedestrian on a busy road, who turned out to be the missing boy.
Investigators said in court documents that the basis for the arrest was statements by the suspect and corroborating evidence at multiple scenes, the AP reported. They said they also recovered surveillance video.
Ritzer's death comes two days after a Sparks, Nev., student shot and killed a math teacher, Michael Landsberry, a former Marine and Nevada National Guardsman, at school on Monday.
A longtime neighbor of Ritzer's family in Andover told the Boston Globe that Ritzer "was gentle, with a big smile.... She was just always interested in being a math teacher."
"It makes no sense," said Mary Duffy, the neighbor.
Ritzer graduated magna cum laude in 2011 from Assumption College in Worcester, with a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a minor in psychology with a concentration in secondary education. She maintained an active presence on social media like Pinterest and Twitter, describing herself on the latter as a "math teacher often too excited about the topics I'm teaching."
It was on Twitter where Ritzer tweeted out lesson assignments to students along with characteristically upbeat non sequiturs.
Her Pinterest account was busy with inspirational updates about math, and included a photo taken when she'd led her students outside for a lesson on the sidewalk.
The echoes of her passion could be felt from the students and community members who knew her, and who shared their own tributes online.
There was one message of Ritzer's own that continue to spread around Twitter with the tributes to her, in what may prove to be her most lasting words.