Colleen Ritzer (24) was working as a well-loved math teacher at Danvers High School. She was known to really connect with her students and stay after school later hours to help tutor those who were struggling with the material.
On October 22nd, 2013, she asked one of her students, Philip Chism (14), to stay after school to talk to her. He had just moved from Clarksville, Tennessee and was fairly shy. Another student in the classroom that was there being tutored said that Chism got visibly upset when Ms. Ritzer tried to start a conversation about Tennessee. When she noticed that Chism was disturbed, she attempted to change the topic. The exact reason as to why he got upset is unknown, but it is suspected that it triggered thoughts of his parents’ divorce.
Just before 3:00pm, Ms. Ritzer headed to the bathroom. Minutes later, Chism also left the classroom. Surveillance cameras captured him walking toward the women’s bathroom with his hood concealing most of his face.
As he entered the bathroom, he pulled gloves over his hands and pulled out a sharp boxcutter. He scared her from behind and slashed her throat 16 times before brutally raping her. Another student apparently walked in as he was finishing up the rape and putting his pants on, but they abruptly left thinking they had just seen someone changing. The school surveillance camera captured Chism calmly exiting the bathroom with a bloodsoaked hand.
10 minutes later, he returned to the bathroom wearing a different jacket and rolling a green recycling bin. Chism allegedly had packed a change of clothes, a mask, and gloves in his backpack before attending school that day.
Security cameras placed outside of the school showed him rolling the bin containing her body to a nearby wooded area. Police believe that she was still, but barely alive during this time. He dumped her body onto the ground followed by shoving a tree branch in her. Then he posed her body in a sexually violating way with her shirt pulled up and her legs spread. Before leaving the crime scene, he left a note that said “I hate you all.” Chism left the scene on foot with his jeans covered in blood. He used his teacher’s credit card to buy fast food and a movie ticket at a local movie theater.
Chism was found shortly after midnight walking along a highway. When police searched the backpack he was carrying, they found a bloody boxcutter. He told the officers that the blood came from “the girl.” Authorities also found Ms. Ritzer’s credit card and her underwear in his possession. He was arrested and charged with rape, robbery, and murder.
While awaiting his trial in 2014, Chism committed a chillingly similar attack on another female staff member in the youth facility he was staying in. He apparently made sure he wasn’t being watched by anyone when beginning his attack. As the 29 year old woman walked into a locker room, Chism took his shoes off so his steps wouldn’t make noise. He slammed her up against the wall, choked, punched, and stabbed her with a pencil. The woman was saved after a staff member heard the commotion and rushed in to save her. In connection to that crime, he was charged with attempted murder by strangulation, assault with intent to murder, kidnapping and two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
In 2016, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison killing, raping, and robbing Colleen Ritzer. He has not been sentenced for the separate charges he gained for attacking the staff member while in custody.