Teen Charged With Killing Math Teacher Refuses To Enter Courtroom

The murder trial of a teenager charged with killing his math teacher ended early Tuesday when he told his lawyer he was "about to explode" and refused to go back into the courtroom.

Denise Regan, a lawyer for 16-year-old Philip Chism, told the Salem Superior Court judge that her client was shaking, twitching and mumbling and told her "he's about to explode and ... doesn't want to hurt anyone."

Witnesses were describing some of the blood-stained evidence in the case at the time.

The judge at first called a recess, then ended proceedings about an hour earlier than scheduled after trying unsuccessfully to speak to Chism himself. He then called for a psychological evaluation.

Chism, who had moved to Massachusetts from Clarksville, Tennessee, shortly before starting high school, has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in the October 2013 slaying of 24-year-old Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer. Chism was 14 at the time.

Regan said in court Monday that Chism killed Ritzer but isn't criminally responsible because he is mentally ill.

It was not clear when proceedings would resume. Jury selection was delayed several weeks while Chism underwent a competency evaluation.

Ritzer's mother testified earlier Tuesday about the day her daughter was killed.

Peggie Ritzer said her daughter had a consistent routine and came home every day at 3:30 p.m.

When she didn't that day, the family at first thought she had made other plans or been in an accident.

They began to worry when she wasn't home for dinner, wasn't answering her cellphone and hadn't posted on Facebook. They tried contacting her friends and other teachers.

Her husband went to the high school and found his daughter's car still in the parking lot.

"At that point we started to get very upset," Peggie Ritzer said.

Police later found her body in the woods behind the school.

The defense did not cross-examine Peggie Ritzer.

This article was originally published on November 17, 2015.


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