SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 24, 2014

Ritzer family seeks to right injustice

By Dustin Luca
Staff writer

---- — ANDOVER — The family of slain Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer threw its support behind the proposed legislation announced yesterday that could impact the 14-year-old teenager charged with her murder.

The Ritzer family of Andover did not attend yesterday’s press conference but issued a written statement saying they are “thankful for this effort to right a great injustice for victims and their families.

Ritzer, a lifelong Andover resident, was found murdered outside Danvers High on Oct. 23. One of her students, Philip Chism, has been charged with her death,

Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, met with the Ritzer family at their request on Monday, Jan. 6, to discuss possible action in response to the state Supreme Judicial Court decision late last year that opened the door to juveniles sentenced to life being allowed parole hearings after serving 15 years.

Finegold and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, have joined with a coalition of legislators in filing legislation requiring juveniles convicted of first-degree murder to serve at least 35 years before becoming eligible for parole.

The statement from the Ritzer family reads:

“Lost in the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court is justice for the victims and those that mourn such devastating losses. The Court’s decision extends greater rights to those youths convicted of horrible crimes than victims and their families.

“Allowing an individual convicted of such a heinous crime a parole hearing after serving only 15 years of a life sentence is unconscionable. As we have shared before, there will never be ‘parole’ for our family’s life sentence without Colleen.

“We are thankful for this effort to right a great injustice for victims and their families. While it is our belief that judges should be provided the discretion to sentence juvenile offenders convicted of first-degree murder to life without parole, this effort, if successful is a significant improvement over the Court’s unfortunate decision.

“It is our hope that Sen. Finegold’s proposal will pass the Legislature and be signed into law so that those convicted of first-degree murder serve longer sentences before they are eligible for parole and therefore prevented from harming others.”

While the family has refrained from speaking publicly on Ritzer’s murder, yesterday’s statement marks the second time they have addressed the state Supreme Judicial Court decision since it was made in December.