On October 22, 2013, Philip Chism murdered her math teacher Colleen Ritzer in the women’s bathroom at Danvers High School 60 Cabot Road, Danvers MA. Colleen Ritzer was a well-respected math teacher, 2011 graduate of Assumption College, a top liberal arts university, and was pursuing a graduate degree from Salem State College at the time of her murder. Since childhood Ritzer dreamed of becoming a teacher and according to ColleenRitzerScholoship.com, “as early as three, Colleen realized her love for helping others through the caring efforts of her favorite preschool teacher, who would also become her mentor and lifelong friend.” Colleen was popular and beloved by all of her students.
Her student and killer, Philip Chism, was 14-years-old when he followed his teacher into the women’s bathroom and took her life. According to a police search warrant of the Chism resident, Philip was born on January 21, 1999, he was bi-racial, and struggling with the recent divorce of his parents. Chism was a soccer star at Danvers, but most children at the school viewed him as a loner with no real friends.
Philip Chism lived with his mother Diana in a basement apartment at her aunt’s house at 10 Riverside Street. Philip moved with his mother from Clarksville, Tennesse and one source told detectives that his teacher Colleen Ritzer kept mentioning Tennesse in class, which apparently angered the boy.
Ritzer was not reported missing until 9pm that evening when a fellow math teacher, Sarah Giaquinta, received a call from the Ritzer family asking about their daughter’s whereabouts. Philip Chism’s mother also contacted police about her son’s whereabouts since he did not show up for soccer practice as per his usual schedule. Both Ritzer and Chism shared the last period math class together, and sources claim that she asked him to stay after dismissal to get tutoring on his mathematics.
When detectives reviewed the security camera footage around the school on this day, they could easily map out the movements of both victim and killer. CCTV clearly shows Philip Chism following his teacher into the women’s restroom, donning gloves, leaving after changing his outfit, returning to the crime scene with a garbage bin, and finally wheeling his victim outside of the school and into an adjacent wooded area.
Philip Chism was arrested by Topsfield PO Neil Hovey after he was spotted walking in the area around 1230 am after the murder. In his backpack was a bloodstained box cutter, which when asked whose blood it belonged to, he replied, “the girl.” Also inside Philip Chism’s backpack were several of Colleen’s credit cards and two driver’s licenses along with her underwear, a blueish/green sheer design.
Colleen Ritzer’s remains were found in the early morning hours in a wooded area near the highschool. Her body was sexually posed with a piece of bark from a tree shoved inside of her vagina and was resting in the supine position covered in leaves. Beside Ritzer was a handwritten note by Chism stating, “I hate you all.” Experts believe Colleen was alive during the rape and that this murder was sexually motivated and planned.
The courts tried Philip Chism as an adult in which he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Chism’s defense attorney claims his client was in a state of psychosis during the murder, however, this theory is debunked as he clearly planned out the murder and the foresight to bring a change of clothes, a box cutter, and a ski mask to school. They sentenced Philip to 25 years for first-degree murder with two 40-year concurrent sentences for aggravated rape and robbery. He will be eligible for parole when he turns age 57.
If you want to support the Colleen Ritzer Scholarship, please visit https://colleenritzerscholarship.com/ and graciously donate to the organization that has already raised over $300,000 to support future educators.