, Salem, MA

October 24, 2013

'Those things don't happen around here'


---- — DANVERS — The Rev. Michael Doyle was walking his dog before the 9 a.m. Mass yesterday at St. Mary of the Annunciation Church when he learned of the murder of a Danvers High teacher.

“I was shocked,” said the priest.

That was the reaction throughout this quiet town where residents had been preparing for a weekend church fair and a dedication ceremony at the new Danvers High School.

The murder of Colleen Ritzer, 24, whose body was found in a wooded area near the high school, and the arrest of a 14-year-old student in connection with the crime, was shocking news.

“Not many people do bad things in this town,” said Drew Kraft, a sophomore at Danvers High, who was talking with friends yesterday morning in Danvers Square after school had been canceled.

“Those things don’t happen around here,” echoed Ted Kougianos, co-owner of the New Brothers Restaurant and Deli, where customers talked of little else over coffee.

Even Danvers, however, has experienced its share of violent incidents in recent years. Just two months ago, a troubled Danvers man was fatally shot by police as he advanced on them with a knife. In May, a 26-year-old Danvers man pleaded guilty to the 2011 murder of his father.

For some, there was a sense that Danvers had suddenly been swept up in a national story about school violence.

“What is going on with these kids?” asked Dave Wilkins, 88, who was walking in Danvers Square wearing a “Greatest Generation” cap.

Wilkins said he wasn’t as much surprised as “disappointed it happened in Danvers. ... I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, with it happening all over the country.”

Doyle said this incident made him think of the school shooting this week in Nevada, where a middle school student killed a teacher.

“Sadly, this kind of thing is becoming more commonplace,” he said. “It seems to be on the rise, and it’s something that needs to be addressed.”

For those who knew the slain teacher, this was personal and painful.

“It hurts ... it hurts,” said Destiny Beeson, 15, a sophomore at Danvers High who was in Ritzer’s class last year. “She was a very outgoing teacher. She always tried to make everyone else’s day happy.”

Tom Dalton can be reached at