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January 25, 2014

Investigators eye Chism’s phone

DANVERS — Prosecutors want to know if Philip Chism, the Danvers teenager charged with raping, robbing and killing his math teacher, Colleen Ritzer, last October “memorialized” the crime in photos taken with his smartphone, newly released documents reveal.

In court papers filed yesterday afternoon, state police asked a Salem Superior Court judge for permission to conduct a forensic search of Chism’s Samsung smartphone, to look for photos and other evidence.

Such photos could explain why Ritzer’s body was both covered with leaves, in an apparent attempt to conceal it, and also posed in a sexual manner. Investigators say it is “not unusual” for individuals who have killed someone, particularly in cases involving sexual violence, to document the act through photos, audio or video, “for further humiliation of the victim or later viewing, for guilty relief or for enjoyment.”

And it could also explain why Chism, now 15, attempted to destroy the phone by smashing it.

Chism told investigators on the night of his arrest that he’d smashed the phone in order to disable its GPS and the ability of investigators to track him — something investigators note could have been more easily done by simply shutting it off, or discarding the battery.

Chism’s black and orange phone and Ritzer’s iPhone were both found, broken, near the Hollywood Hits Theater in Danvers, after a search by police with dogs.

“... Chism’s explanation for attempting to destroy his phone, along with the other minimizations and denials in his interview, seems doubtful,” wrote Trooper Steven Buccheri. “Given the other information ... particularly the evidence of significant planning in this case and sexual offenders’ proclivity to memorialize their crimes, it is likely that he destroyed the phone in order to hide incriminating evidence contained on it, including, but not limited to evidence of his planning, motive and any memorialization of his crime.”

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