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14-Year-Old Danvers Student Charged In Teacher's Murder

This article is more than 9 years old.

A 14-year-old Danvers High School student has been charged with killing a teacher found slain in the woods behind the school.

A boy identified by authorities as Philip Chism was ordered held without bail on a murder charge at his arraignment Wednesday in adult court in Salem.

Colleen Ritzer (Facebook)
Colleen Ritzer (Facebook)

Chism's defense attorney had argued for the proceedings to be closed and her client to be allowed to stay hidden, because of his age. The judge denied the request.

Earlier Wednesday, authorities identified the victim as Colleen Ritzer, 24, of Andover. She taught math at Danvers High School.

Police started investigating after Ritzer was reported missing late Tuesday night because she had not returned home from work and was not answering her cellphone. Investigators found blood in a second-floor school bathroom and soon located her body, Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said.

He did not say how Ritzer died.

“She was a very, very respected, loved teacher,” Blodgett said, calling the killing a “terrible tragedy.”

Chism had also been reported missing late Tuesday. He was spotted walking along a road in neighboring Topsfield at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Students on Wednesday described Ritzer as a well-liked teacher.

“Just seeing her go like this is a complete shock," said Chris Weimert, 17, who took two of Ritzer’s classes. "It’s just not really fair. She was one of the nicest ladies you could ever meet.”

Ritzer had a Twitter account where she gave homework assignments, encouraged students and described herself as a “math teacher often too excited about the topics I’m teaching.”

“She was just always happy, always energetic,” another student of Ritzer’s, Ryan Kelleher, 17 said of her. ”She’d just be excited to teach and get into school and be with her students.”

All public schools in Danvers were closed Wednesday. Students at the high school said they planned to hold a vigil there for Ritzer Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Chism is due back in court Nov. 22.

Ritzer is the second teacher allegedly killed by a student in the U.S. this week. A Sparks, Nev., middle school teacher was allegedly shot by a 12-year-old student on Monday.

With reporting by the Associated Press and WBUR's Asma Khalid

This article was originally published on October 23, 2013.

This program aired on October 23, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.


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