A month after the death of a popular teacher at Danvers High School in Massachusetts, a grand jury has indicted 14-year-old Philip Chism on charges of murder, aggravated rape, and armed robbery.
Philip will be tried as an adult on the murder charge, which is required by Massachusetts law for anyone over 14 indicted for murder, according to a statement Thursday by the Essex District Attorney’s Office.
The rape indictment alleges that Philip sexually assaulted the teacher, Colleen Ritzer, with an object, and the armed-robbery charge stems from the allegation that Philip, armed with a box cutter, robbed Ms. Ritzer of credit cards and other items.
State law requires that the latter two charges be initially handled in juvenile court, though the statement says prosecutors will seek to have the charges handled alongside the murder charge in adult court.
“The indictments returned today detail horrific and unspeakable acts,” district attorney Jonathan Blodgett said in the statement. “Since the moment Ms. Ritzer’s body was discovered, a dedicated and professional team of state police detectives assigned to my office, Danvers Police officers, crime scene forensic experts and assistant district attorneys have worked tirelessly to compile and present the evidence to the Grand Jury. This is the first step in a long process to secure justice for Ms. Ritzer and her family.”
On Oct. 22 Ritzer, a math teacher who was in her 20s, stayed after school to talk with Philip about an upcoming exam, according to The Boston Globe, citing prosecutors and students. Philip was new to the school this year and played soccer.
When both individuals were reported missing later that day, police began an investigation. Blood was found in a second-floor bathroom of the school, and Ritzer’s body was recovered in woods near the facility.
Philip, who was arrested the night of the death while he was walking along a highway, is being held without bail. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, noted the statement from the district attorney’s office.
Denise Regan, Philip’s court-appointed attorney, declined comment, the Globe said Thursday.
The same week as Ritzer’s death, a teacher at a Nevada middle school was fatally shot in an unrelated incident. Michael Landsberry, also a math teacher, was killed on Oct. 21 by a 12-year-old male student who then killed himself, police say. Mr. Landsberry was trying to talk down the student and has been hailed as a hero for preventing more tragedy at the school.