SALEM, Mass. — Fourteen-year-old Philip Chism, wearing a sweater, tie and khakis, pleaded not guilty to murdering his math teacher at his arraignment Wednesday afternoon in Essex Superior Court. He also pleaded not guilty to armed robbery and aggravated rape.
The judge is still debating how to treat the other two charges. Because he is 14, Chism is being tried as a “youthful offender” for the armed robbery and aggravated rape accusations. But, he’s being charged as an adult for murder, as is the law in Massachusetts for teens 14 or older charged with murder. The prosecution wants to join all three charges together.
Chism was indicted last month.
The body of 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer, a popular Danvers High School math teacher, was discovered in the woods behind the high school on Oct. 22. According to documents received by The Associated Press, her throat was slit and a note that read “I hate you all” was found near her body.
The indictment alleges that in addition to murdering Ritzer, Chism, armed with a box cutter, stole Ritzer’s credit cards, cellphone and underwear.
Chism previously pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in district court, before the case was moved to superior court.