WBUR

Danvers Residents Gather To Mourn Slain Teacher

Danvers High School students hold a candlelight vigil to mourn the death of Colleen Ritzer, a 24-year-old math teacher who was allegedly murdered by 14-year-old student Philip Chism. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/AP)

Danvers High School students hold a candlelight vigil to mourn the death of Colleen Ritzer, a 24-year-old math teacher who was allegedly murdered by 14-year-old student Philip Chism. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/AP)

DANVERS, Mass. — Hundreds of Danvers residents came together Wednesday night to grieve the murder of a popular math teacher.

Colleen Ritzer, 24, was found dead in the woods behind Danvers High School Tuesday night. A freshman student, 14-year-old Philip Chism, has been charged with her murder.

It’s not just students who gathered, trying to make sense of the murder. Parents and folks with no children in the school system came alongside students for the vigil outside the high school Wednesday night.

Some teens huddled in a prayer circle. Others wiped away tears and lit candles for their lost teacher.

“She was the kind of teacher that blamed herself if you got a bad grade. And she was always there for us, always,” said freshman Rania Rhaddaoui, one of Ritzer’s algebra students, her voice shaking as she broke into tears. “She was always happy, always smiling, even if it was a Monday morning.”

“She was the kind of teacher that blamed herself if you got a bad grade.”
– freshman student Rania Rhaddaoui

For Rhaddaoui, the shock is too much. She knew both Chism and Ritzer. She says Chism was in her algebra class.

“He was shy, he didn’t talk much. He was very smart, he was in honors classes,” Rhaddoui said. “He was very nice. It shocks me. Nobody would ever think he would do something like this.”

After class Monday, Rhaddoui says Chism stayed behind apparently for extra help, while she went off to rehearse a school play.

Now, students and parents such as Gail Wade are trying to understand whatever happened next.

“You don’t think about this happening. You see it happen other places, you don’t think it’s going to happen in your town,” Wade said. “Brand new, beautiful school. Wonderful teachers, wonderful curriculum that they have here for the kids.”

Classes were cancelled for the town’s high school students for a second day Thursday, but the school will be open for students to meet with counselors. Officials say classes are scheduled to resume Friday.

Kyle Cahill, a fellow student who played on the soccer team with Chism, says Chism had just moved to Danvers.

“I didn’t know him too well but he played soccer with me so, like, I knew him as a person,” Cahill said.

Students went looking for Chism Tuesday evening after he was reported missing, having never returned home after school. Later Tuesday night, Ritzer was also reported missing.

After midnight, Chism turned up. He was found by police walking along Route 1 in nearby Topsfield.

Court documents say investigators interviewed Chism and also reviewed video surveillance from the school.

Chism was charged as an adult with first-degree murder and is being held without bail.

Ryan Kelleher, who also played soccer with Chism, says he and other students are trying to understand how something like this could happen.

“He moved here in the summer. I can’t think of any reason after a month that you would have that much hatred, or whatever it was, to do that,” Kelleher said. “She was just the nicest person.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
  • fun bobby

    did he use an object to kill her? if so we need to ban that object right?

    • brettearle

      Do you think it’s possible that all of us ought to step back a bit–and mourn this senseless act, whether we are part of that community or not…..before we start getting political about it?

      Why don’t you delete your Too-Soon comment and post it, in a couple of weeks?

      That way, we know that we’ve all given this tragedy the kind of grieving respect that it deserves.

      • fun bobby

        in a couple of weeks no one will care about this story at all.
        besides the fact she was a white teacher killed by a student she was just one of many killed that day. if she had been shot we would already be hearing the calls for more gun control. for proof just read the same day comments from the teacher killed a couple of days ago.

        • Joyce Taylor

          She was killed with a box cutter. Yes ppl are killed all day everyday but its called respect for human mourning.yes u can mourn for ppl u dont know and at my age (47) we wonder wtf is going on with these kids who kill. We’re cn more and

          • Joyce Taylor

            More kids killing.definitely are killing adults and their peers.thts part of the shocker for me anyway.you feel sumn i dnt care how much you say u dont feel.u feel sumn

          • fun bobby

            i can’t really decipher the garbled thought you are expressing

          • Joyce Taylor

            Because you’re an idiot who doesnt deserve anymore attention. Im not gonna. dignify anything you ask with an answer. Btw I hope we dont we dont see you asking for help if something happened to your loved. Dont start your boo hooing then. Keep it to yourself. Oh! Maybe you dont have any family.
            Maybe they left you on a doorstep where you should have stayed !!

          • fun bobby

            if I need some help texting a teenager I will be sure to contact you. I did not ask you anything. maybe you should put the cell phone down for a few minutes some time

          • fun bobby

            at 47 you communicate using texting jargon?

      • wareinparis

        Honestly, I do not know who “fun bobby” is, but I do know he is NOT funny. A little discretion is needed and deserved here. Please, whoever you are, try to remember the most basic rule of decent behavior we all try to teach our children: TREAT OTHERS THE WAY YOU WANT THEM TO TREAT YOU.

        • fun bobby

          do you get bent out of shape every time you hear about someone dying on the news? no one rebuked the person who made an anti gun rant on the comments for the teacher who was shot

    • G W C

      just stop, fun bobby. or take it to a less thoughtful community.

      • fun bobby

        yeah I bet you would be calling for more gun control if she had been shot

        • G W C

          act like a human being.

          • fun bobby

            I’ve been desensitized by the media. am I supposed to get all worked up every time I see someone is killed on the news? is that what you do? go read the comments about the teacher shot out west the day before. the high minded politically correct commenters on this forum wasted not a moment in making political anti gun statements

          • G W C

            you’re so hot for controversy and it’s plain to anyone who read your comment. why use this particular story’s comments section if you were really interested in discussing how over-saturation has desensitized you? you wouldn’t. but you knew you could rile up some “libs”. sweet life.

          • fun bobby

            I do love parlay, apparently so do you.

          • Joyce Taylor

            If it was a family member such as your mom dad Sis bro or ur kid,im sure you wudn b desensitized

          • fun bobby

            god knows we need all the spelling teachers we can get.

          • Joyce Taylor

            Everyone knows we abbreviate some words or just breakdown some words when som1 is rushing. You really are a moron.

          • fun bobby

            “we” who?

  • beantown182

    Problem with our society is people like fun bobby. There are no feelings toward others… Only looking for ways to try to bring people around you down. If you have no care for the girl or young man why bother writing comment’s that’s only going to upset them? Maybe it does pain you to see something like this and we all react differently but if it does. Try and choose your words wisely as in thinking before you type.

    • fun bobby

      ” If you have no care for the girl or young man why bother writing comment’s that’s only going to upset them?”
      neither of those individuals are in a position to be upset by me. personally I am disgusted to read about these things.

  • Joyce Taylor

    Somewhere somehow there was a breakdown in this kids life

Most Popular