SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 25, 2014

Investigators eye Chism’s phone

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — 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.”

Chism is believed to have spent approximately 25 minutes in the wooded area adjacent to Danvers High School, where he had wheeled Ritzer in a rolling recycling bin.

The documents also reveal that investigators now believe the 24-year-old Andover woman was first raped by Chism in the second-floor bathroom.

Chism denied sexually assaulting Ritzer when questioned after his arrest, and claimed to have stabbed her just twice.

According to the affidavit in support of the search warrant, what is likely Chism’s DNA was found last month in sperm cells taken from Ritzer’s body.

The grand jury that heard evidence last fall returned to Salem yesterday to hear additional evidence, and handed up a second count of aggravated rape against Chism yesterday morning.

Chism had already been indicted last fall on another aggravated rape count, alleging that he had used an object to commit that assault.

Chism was indicted as an adult on a first-degree murder charge, and as a youthful offender on rape and robbery charges, in November. Yesterday’s indictment also charges Chism as a youthful offender.

An arraignment date has not been scheduled, said Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett. A pre-trial hearing in Chism’s case is set for next Thursday, Jan. 30, but it is not yet known whether Chism, who is being held at a Department of Youth Services detention facility, will be brought to court for that proceeding.

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