As Danvers mourns teacher, suspect’s mother says ‘heart is broken’

Danvers High School students have been mourning the death of teacher Colleen Ritzer this week.
Danvers High School students have been mourning the death of teacher Colleen Ritzer this week.
(Bizuayehu Tesfaye / AP)

As a Massachusetts community paused Saturday to remember a young teacher killed at her high school this week, the mother of the 14-year-old suspect in the death said Saturday that she was “struggling to understand” the case.

Fourteen-year-old Philip Chism, who is being tried as an adult, was charged with murder in the killing of 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer, his math teacher at Danvers High School. Ritzer’s body was found in the woods near the school this week.

Chism’s lawyer on Saturday released a statement on behalf of the boy’s mother, Diana Chism: “On Oct. 22, 2013, two families were unexpectedly and inconceivably changed forever,” read the statement, published in the Boston Globe. “Ms. Chism’s heart is broken for the Ritzer family and the loss of their daughter and sister Colleen Ritzer.”

The killing rattled the town of Danvers, in northeastern Massachusetts, as its citizens mourned the loss of the beloved teacher. All schools were closed until Friday, and the high school became a crime scene.


At a Saturday football game between Danvers High and nearby Winthrop High School, a moment of silence was held for Ritzer. Players from both schools wore decals that read “In Loving Memory,” with an image of footprints on a heart and Ritzer’s initials.

Admission for the football game was waived, and instead there was a sign adorned with red hearts that said, “Donations to the Danvers High School Colleen Ritzer Scholarship Fund.”

The Danvers team won Saturday night, and local residents used Twitter to express their feelings about the game and Ritzer.

That win was for you ms ritzer #RIP #DanversStrong #playoffs— Kyle Gagne (@kgagne97) October 27, 2013


Proud of my Danvers family— Grahambino (@WoollyGrahamoth) October 26, 2013

Danvers cheerleaders also won a competition Saturday, and many of the girls credited Ritzer with their success on Twitter.

THE most amazing feeling in the world Ms.Ritzer we are grand champs because of you ¿¿¿¿ first place for you ¿¿¿¿ #flywithusforever ¿¿¿¿ Danvers— Kaitlyn (@KaitlynCondon) October 26, 2013

1ST PLACE DANVERS THAT WAS FOR YOU MS RITZER— Kailee LeBlanc (@KaileeLeblanc08) October 26, 2013


The slaying came to light when Chism was reported missing after he did not return home from school Tuesday. On Tuesday night, police learned that Ritzer had not returned home either and was not answering her cellphone.

On Wednesday morning, police received a report of a pedestrian walking on a busy road. It was Chism.

Police discovered blood in the second-floor bathroom of the high school, and from surveillance footage were led to the woods, where they discovered the body.

Police believe Chism followed Ritzer into the restroom, attacked her and slashed her throat with a box cutter.


Another comment tweeted Saturday night captured the sense of disbelief in the community.

No this didn’t happen. Ms. Ritzer, you’re still here... I still don’t believe it #Why— Esmy ¿ (@BornSinner_08) October 26, 2013


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Twitter: @skarlamangla