, Salem, MA

November 19, 2013

Judge waives Chism appearance Friday


---- — DANVERS — The Danvers teenager charged with murdering his math teacher at Danvers High School last month won’t be in court Friday, after a judge agreed yesterday to waive Philip Chism’s appearance during a hearing that is scheduled for that day.

That was among several developments in the case yesterday and late last week, when prosecutors turned over a list of some of the evidence against Chism, 14, to his attorney — including a tape of Chism’s interrogation, surveillance video from a second movie theater Chism may have visited after the slaying and photos of what was described as a “cleaning appliance” at Danvers High School, according to court papers.

Prosecutors are expected to obtain an indictment against Chism this week, which would obviate the need for Friday’s scheduled probable cause hearing. Instead, it is likely that Chism’s next court appearance will be in Salem Superior Court for arraignment on whatever charges the grand jury hands up. He has been charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 22 slaying of Colleen Ritzer, 24, of Andover.

The grand jury hearing for the case was in session yesterday and is expected to be back at work tomorrow and Thursday.

Also yesterday, Chism’s lawyer convinced a prosecutor and a judge to allow her access to the sealed search warrant affidavit in the case, on the grounds that while the public may not be entitled to view the impounded document, she, as Chism’s attorney, is.

Defense lawyer Denise Regan filed the motion yesterday. It was granted by Judge Matthew Machera.

Earlier this month, another Salem District Court judge, Michael Lauranzano, extended an impoundment order barring the release of search warrant materials, which are normally public records, until Nov. 22; Regan, who had not yet reviewed the materials herself, said yesterday that she does not know whether she will seek to extend that order.

During a hearing earlier this month, Regan had asked Lauranzano to keep the materials sealed until after Chism’s trial, contending that they would create too much bias against her client to allow him a fair trial.

Prosecutors have said little about the details of the case.

Machera also allowed motions for funds to pay a defense investigator, who will travel to interview potential witnesses in Florida and Tennessee, question students and other witnesses in Danvers, and compile a list of news reports in which potential witnesses were quoted in the days after the slaying.

During a hearing last Thursday, Regan was unable to convince the same judge to require prosecutors to turn over additional evidence in the case, including potentially “mitigating” evidence. Such mitigating evidence, if it exists, is required to be presented to the grand jury.

Prosecutors noted in court papers filed Thursday that the evidence they have shared so far with Regan includes police reports by Topsfield and Danvers officers, the interrogation of Chism, recordings of two interviews with Chism’s mother, Dianna, and numerous surveillance videos and photos.

The surveillance videos listed on the “notice of discovery” include recordings from the AMC Theater, which is inside the Liberty Tree Mall. Employees of the Hollywood Hits theater, on the other side of Route 128, have said Chism purchased tickets for “Blue Jasmine” the afternoon of the killing. The filing raises the possibility that Chism visited two movie theaters that day.

The videos also include surveillance from BJ’s Wholesale Club, which is adjacent to the Hollywood Hits theater.

The photos turned over include images of Chism’s Danversport home and the item described as a “cleaning appliance” at Danvers High School. Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, would not elaborate on what that appliance was.

Law enforcement sources have said Ritzer’s body was removed from the school in a recycling bin.

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