DANVERS — The mother of the Danvers High School freshman charged with the grisly murder of his math teacher says her “heart is broken” for the victim’s family, that she is “struggling to understand” the situation and that her “son was born in love and is dear, very dear” to her.
Diana Chism, mother of murder defendant Philip Chism, 14, expressed her sentiments Saturday through her son’s court-appointed attorney, Denis Regan. It was the family’s first response to the slaying of beloved teacher Colleen Ritzer, 24, in a second-floor Danvers High girls bathroom after classes last Tuesday.
“On October 22, 2013, two families were unexpectedly and inconceivably changed forever,” attorney Regan said on behalf of the mother. “Ms. Chism’s heart is broken for the Ritzer family and the loss of their daughter and sister. Ms. Chism would like you to know that her son was born in love and is dear to her, very dear. She is struggling to understand this and respectfully asks for some time to process this.”
The statement continued: “She asks that you know that she cares for the world’s hurt over this and greatly hopes for your prayers for the Ritzer family, the Danvers community, for her son, and all those affected by this tragedy.”
Philip Chism is charged as an adult with killing the teacher with a box cutter, placing her bloody body into a recycling barrel and wheeling it out of the school, then dumping it in a wooded area next to the school and covering it with leaves.
NBC News reported Saturday that an investigator told the network Ritzer’s throat was slashed from behind. The youth has pleaded not guilty.
The murder occurred Tuesday after classes were dismissed for the day and following a special tutoring session the teacher had given the student defendant. A school surveillance camera captured Chism following Ritzer into the bathroom and later wheeling the recycling barrel down the hall and out of the school, his clothes bloodied.
No one apparently witnessed what the surveillance camera details. Ritzer’s family reported to the school at 11:20 p.m. that she had not returned home yet, and a search of the premises turned up blood in the bathroom and her body in the woods about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The student defendant had also been reported missing by his family, and police found him at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, walking along Route 1 in Topsfield. He’d changed clothes and bought a ticket to the Woody Allen film “Blue Jasmine” at the Hollywood Hits movie theater in Danvers. The theater manager said Chism was the only patron in the theater and left after the movie ended at 6:15 p.m.
State Police searched the scene of the murder, the woods where the victim’s body was found and the defendant’s home in Danvers under a court-issued warrant, but a judge sealed the details of what was discovered. Search warrant details are normally considered public record in Massachusetts.
“The motion (to seal) actually contains some of the sensitive information we didn’t want released,” said Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.
“The affidavit in support of our motion contained information that may be prejudicial to the defendant,” she said, adding that the documents “may contribute to the increased psychological and emotional distress of the victim’s family and others.
“It also contains names of witnesses which we have not had an opportunity to call before the grand jury,” she said.
Prosecutors and the attorney for the defendant were advised that several news outlets plan today to challenge the judge’s order sealing the search warrant details on the basis of the public interest in the information.
A similar challenge to search warrant details in the murder case involving former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez was successful earlier this year.
The CNHI News Service is a service of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., parent company of the Times, The Salem News and other publications in the North of Boston Media Group.