Philip Chism was just 14 years old when he murdered his 24-year-old math teacher, Colleen Ritzer, at Danvers High School before dumping her dead body behind the school.
On October 22, 2013, a Danvers High School ninth grader in Massachusetts named Philip Chism did the unthinkable. At just 14 years old, he brutally abused his 24-year-old math teacher, Colleen Ritzer.
The supposedly cheerful Ritzer was known to go out of his way to help his students with math and had asked Chism to stay after school on that fateful October day. She didn’t know the plot Chism had set in motion days before.
At the end of the school day, Chism followed Ritzer into the school bathroom. Wielding a box cutter, Chism robbed her, raped and killed her, then dumped her body in a trash can in the woods behind the school. Chism then went into town and bought a movie ticket using Ritzer’s credit card.
When police caught him the next morning, Chism hadn’t washed his hands and still had Ritzer’s blood all over him.
Who was Felipe Crisma?
Philip Chism was born on January 21, 1999. In the fall of 2013, Chism had recently moved from Tennessee to Danvers, Massachusetts, where he was not as well known in school other than being a good football player. One report referred to him as “antisocial” and “really tired and out of it.” It was also reported that his mother was going through a difficult divorce at the time of the crime.
Ritzer, meanwhile, was a beloved member of the faculty. According to a struggling student, she was always positive and happy. “She made me feel like she wanted to go to math class,” they reported to The New York Times.
And Chism was no exception for her. A student overheard Ritzer complimenting Chism on her drawing skills at the end of class and then asked him to stay after school so she could help him prepare for an upcoming test.
Chism reportedly became visibly upset with Ritzer when he brought up his move from Tennessee, according to Boston Magazine. Accordingly, Ritzer changed the subject, but the student witness later observed that Chism was apparently speaking to himself.
Hours later, he did the unthinkable.
The brutal murder of Colleen Ritzer
On the morning of October 22, 2013, Danvers High School’s newly installed security camera system showed 14-year-old Chism arriving at school with several bags, which she placed in her locker. Inside her bag was a box cutter, a mask, gloves, and a change of clothes.
According to The New York Timesschool security footage showed Ritzer leaving the classroom for the second-floor women’s restroom at around 2:54 p.m.
Chism can then be seen walking down the hallway looking her way, then walking back into the classroom and re-emerging with her hood over her head. Following Ritzer, Chism put on her gloves as he entered the same bathroom.
Chism proceeded to steal Ritzer’s credit cards, iPhone, and underwear, before raping her and stabbing her 16 times in the neck with the box cutter. a student went into the bathroom at one point, but catching a glimpse of someone partially naked with a pile of clothing on the floor, he quickly left thinking they were changing.
Chism appeared in several different outfits throughout the crime, which police later said showed how she had planned the murder in advance. At 3:07 p.m., Chism emerged from the bathroom with a hood over her head and walked out to the parking lot. When he returned two minutes later, he was wearing a new white T-shirt.
Chism then returned to the classroom with a different red hoodie on her head, then returned to the bathroom at 3:16 p.m. pulling a recycling bin. She reappeared in the white T-shirt and a black mask, pulling the trash can with Ritzer’s body into an elevator and then out of the school.
He dragged the container to a wooded area behind the school, where he raped Ritzer’s lifeless body again, but with a tree branch.
Cameras then caught Chism returning to school, dressed in a black shirt and glasses and a pair of bloody jeans, completing his ghoulish fashion show.
Justice for the Ritzer family
When neither Chism nor Ritzer were seen after school, both were reported missing. After speaking with students and school staff, police found blood in the bathroom, Ritzer’s bag, the bloody recycling bin, and Ritzer’s bloody clothing near the trail that leads through the woods behind the school.
At 11:45 p.m., CCTV footage was acquired and reviewed, and Chism became a suspect. Meanwhile, Chism used Ritzer’s credit card to buy a movie ticket, then left the theater to steal a knife from another store. He was walking down a dark road outside of Danvers when police stopped him on a routine security call at 12:30 a.m.
A quick Chism search for identification turned up Ritzer’s credit card and driver’s license. Chism was taken to the local station where his backpack was searched and Ritzer’s bag and underwear were found, along with the box cutter covered in dried blood.
According to court documents, when Chism was asked whose blood it was, he said, “It’s from the girl.” When she was asked if she knew where she was, she chillingly replied: “She’s buried in the woods.”
At 3 am, police discovered the gruesome sight of Ritzer’s half-naked body covered in leaves near a pair of stained white gloves. They had to remove a branch from his vagina, and a folded handwritten note lay nearby with the phrase: “I hate you all.”
Philip Chism was charged with the murder, aggravated rape and armed robbery of Colleen Ritzer. He was tried as an adult and on February 26, 2016, he was sentenced to serve at least 40 years in prison.
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