, Salem, MA

Local News

October 24, 2013

Shocked community mourns slain teacher


Behen said she’d last seen Ritzer during the 1 p.m. to 1:55 p.m. algebra class she shared with suspect Philip Daniel Chism on Tuesday, just hours before the murder. Nothing had seemed amiss between the two, though Chism had become withdrawn over the past couple weeks, she said.

“He used to do group work, and now he sits alone,” she said, adding that Chism rarely said much to classmates and often listened to headphones.

Rob Prentiss, father of 14-year-old Lizzie Prentiss, a sophomore at the high school who had Ritzer in her homeroom last year, said her daughter’s field hockey teammates had gathered at his and his wife Tricia’s residence yesterday to discuss what had happened and “ask the questions that need to be asked.” Coach Jill McGinnity was also present.

Prentiss said the tragedy wasn’t just difficult for students to absorb because it involved a teacher, but because it involved a student, as well.

“They’re trying to wrap their head around that kid who was sitting next to them in math class yesterday, and today he’s in prison,” said Prentiss. “Things like this don’t happen in Danvers; they happen anywhere else. Suddenly, we’re Anywhere U.S.A.”

Police Chief Neil Ouellette and Danvers Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Dana made brief comments to the press following the vigil.

“Today has been a very difficult day for our community,” Ouellette said. He called Ritzer a dedicated teacher who had an “amazing and positive impact” on the students and school.

“The students came together this evening of their own accord,” he said.

Dana said that the school and community would take time to digest the tragedy.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with her family,” Dana said.

One girl fainted during the vigil and was attended to by emergency personnel.

A homemade sign at the Cabot Road memorial quoted a recent statement that Ritzer had made on her Twitter account: “No matter what happens in life, be good to people,” it read. “Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”

Staff writer Neil Dempsey can be reached at





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