Jury Finds Mass. Teen Guilty of Murdering Teacher - NBC New York
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Jury Finds Mass. Teen Guilty of Murdering Teacher

The trial started the first week of October

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Ritzer's Family Responds to Chism Trial Verdict

    Collen Ritzer's family endured weeks at Salem District Court of listening to the gruesome details of how the young teacher was brutally raped and killed by one of her students. Now they say they are preparing for the next phase of their grief. (Published Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015)

    A Massachusetts teenager accused of raping and brutally killing his high school math teacher in 2013 was found guilty of first-degree murder on Tuesday.

    Philip Chism, 16, was also found guilty of raping Danvers High teacher Colleen Ritzer in the high school bathroom and stealing her underwear, but not guilty of raping her in the woods outside the school.

    Members of Ritzer's family cried uncontrollably in the courtroom on Tuesday as the verdict was read. 

    Chism showed no emotion, but his mother sobbed quietly as she learned her son's fate.

    "This moment belongs to Colleen Ritzer," Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said. "We can't bring her back, but we can provide some sense of justice for her family."

    During his trial, his lawyer admitted Chism killed Ritzer, but said he was suffering from severe mental illness and was not criminally responsible for his actions. A psychiatrist who testified for the defense said Chism was hearing voices and in the throes of a psychotic episode when he killed Ritzer.

    Ritzer, 24, was a popular teacher doing her dream job, teaching math, Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall told jurors in her opening statement.

    On Oct. 22, 2013, Ritzer asked Chism to stay after school. Another student who also stayed late that day testified that Ritzer tried to engage Chism - a student who had recently moved to Massachusetts - in light talk about how his new community compared with his old town of Clarksville, Tennessee. The student said Chism became visibly upset and Ritzer eventually changed the subject.

    A short time later, Ritzer left the classroom. Jurors were shown chilling surveillance video that showed Ritzer walking down the hallway to the bathroom. Seconds later, Chism is seen poking his head out of her classroom and looking down the hall. He then goes back into the classroom, but comes right back out with his hood on. Chism is then shown putting on a pair of gloves as he walks into the bathroom. Minutes later, he is shown emerging from the bathroom carrying the black pants Ritzer was wearing.

    Chism, who was 14 at the time, was tried as an adult.

    Blodgett thanked the jurors after the verdict was issued for their professionalism throughout the duration of the "excruciatingly horrifying" trial. He also thanked Judge David Lowy, the prosecuting attorneys and the police involved in the investigation.

    "Today was a good day for the Commonwealth," he said.

    Tom Ritzer, Colleen's father, said that while the verdict is the beginning of justice for his daughter, it is by no means cause for celebration.

    "There remains a tremendous and painful absence in our lives, one that sadly, can never be replaced," he said.

    A status hearing will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 22 relative to sentencing. Defense lawyers have asked for a pre-sentencing investigation because he is a minor.