, Salem, MA

November 22, 2013

Police: Chism appears to have planned attack

Julie Manganis


Court documents released this morning confirmed for the first time disturbing details about the final moments of a Danvers teacher's life. 

It appears that Philip Chism, the 14-year-old boy charged with killing Colleen Ritzer, had come to school prepared: police say he was armed with a box cutter knife, and had a ski mask, gloves and multiple changes of clothing with him that day. 

Chism, who was indicted yesterday on charges of murder, rape and robbery in the death of Ritzer, 24, had stayed after school to get extra work from Ritzer on the afternoon of Oct. 22, a classmate told police. 

But it appears that his meeting with Ritzer — which turned tense when Ritzer began talking about Tennessee, according to another student — had ended and Ritzer had stopped to chat with another teacher before heading to a second floor restroom at 2:54 p.m., a surveillance camera shows. 

At 2:55 p.m., Chism, a hood over his head, went into the same bathroom. 

What happened after that, over the next 12 minutes, is what prosecutors will now have to prove at trial. There are no cameras in the bathroom where, police believe, Ritzer's throat was slashed. 

At 3:06 p.m., another student, hoping to call her father, opened the door and saw what she described as the dark-colored backside of someone, bent over. She thought someone was changing clothes and backed out quickly. 

A minute later, surveillance cameras show Chism leaving the bathroom alone, the same hood over his head. Then, he returned, wheeling a recycling bin — and wearing different clothing. He was then seen wheeling the bin away from the school. 

Surveillance videos showed Chism a few more times, going back and forth inside the school, going to his locker, and then finally leaving at 4:06 p.m. 

For the next several hours, both Chism's and Ritzer's families were looking for their missing loved ones. Dianna Chism, the boy's mother, called police. 

A few hours later, Ritzer's parents had reported their daughter, who still lived at home, missing. 

Ritzer's body was found, partly buried in leaves and debris, in a wooded area near the school. Investigators determined that she had been sexually assaulted. 

Next to her was a folded note. 

"I hate you all," it read. 

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.