SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 26, 2013

Little new information released in murder investigation

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — Prosecutors and investigators continued to withhold details yesterday in the case of a slain Danvers High math teacher, citing, among other reasons, concern for the victim’s family. As family and friends prepared for the funeral of Colleen Ritzer on Monday, investigators continued to work on the case but remained tight-lipped about details.

An autopsy has been conducted, but prosecutors are awaiting the results, said a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.

A high-profile prosecutor, Kate MacDougall, has been assigned to prosecute Philip Chism, the 14-year-old student accused of killing her sometime after school on Tuesday.

In their effort to limit the release of information, prosecutors asked a Salem District Court judge late Thursday afternoon to seal all documents pertaining to a search warrant issued in the case, including the affidavit by state police trooper Robert LaBarge, the results of the search and even the motion asking that the materials be impounded.

Those documents are normally available to the public.

“The motion actually contains some of the sensitive information we didn’t want released,” said Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

“The affidavit in support of our motion contained information that may be prejudicial to the defendant,” she explained. She added that information in 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.”

Judge Michael Lauranzano ordered the materials impounded at 4:14 p.m. Thursday, just minutes before the court closed for the day.

Investigators are believed to have searched for evidence from several locations, including the second-floor bathroom where blood was found by police searching for Ritzer, the wooded area next to school where her body was found and Chism’s Danversport home.

Monahan said the motion to impound the documents was made late in the day because MacDougall, the prosecutor who will handle the case, was tied up for most of the day at a trial in North Andover.

MacDougall is the prosecutor who handled the case of Kristen LaBrie, a Salem woman convicted of attempted murder for withholding chemotherapy from her autistic son, a case that garnered national attention.

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