, Salem, MA

Local News

October 25, 2013

'No one knows why'

Accused student was a newcomer to town, not well-known

DANVERS — Fourteen-year-old Philip Chism was a quiet kid, a soccer player and a skateboarder, and a newcomer to town who had moved here over the summer from Tennessee. But not much else is known still about the student accused of killing his teacher, Colleen Ritzer.

Yesterday, nobody answered a knock on the door at Chism’s home on Riverside Street as a small dog barked inside. A vehicle with a Maine license plate sat in the driveway.

Several neighbors said the family moved in August to the white house at the water’s edge in Danversport, which they said had long been the home of Chism’s mother’s family. Chism lived there with his mother and two younger sisters, according to neighbors.

In his few months in town, Chism had made a mark as a top player on the JV soccer team. Several teammates called him smart and friendly. But even the soccer players said they didn’t know him well.

“It’s a big puzzle, honestly,” said Kyle Cahill, 16, a junior.

Chism was also a skateboarder, another student said.

“My friend skated with him the other day,” said Chris Davis, 16, a junior.

Rania Rhaddaoui, a classmate at Danvers High, said Chism was quiet, and she never saw him raise his hand in math class. She said they were also in the same history class, where he told classmates he spoke three languages: English, Portuguese and Japanese.

If he was troubled, it wasn’t readily apparent to those at school.

Jean McCartin, a Danvers School Committee member, said the school has extensive programs to help ease the transition for new students like Chism. She said there was no information about Chism that would have raised any red flags.

“He just presented himself to us like any other student would,” McCartin said. “And that’s what I think is so hard for the administration right now. You know, their hearts are breaking because they just didn’t know he was in need, if he was in need. ... No one knows why he would have behaved in this way and done such a terrible thing.”

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