The most likely outcome for teenager Philip Chism, a 14 year old student suspected of murdering a Danvers High School teacher by attacking her with a box cutter in a bathroom on the second floor of the school, is that he will be tried as an adult.
In Danvers, Essex County, a teenage boy was found wandering down a road, after he had been reported missing last Tuesday evening. The 14 year old is now in Danver Police custody, and will likely face adult charges for the murder of Colleen Ritzer, a local high school teacher. From evidence gathered by police from witnesses, it was reported that a student saw Ms. Ritzer enter this bathroom and that Chism had followed behind her.
Residents, as well as students, were shocked after it was revealed that Ms. Ritzer’s body had been found in woods near Danvers High School. “We are all terrified. It’s very scary,” said Caitlin McBride, a junior. “No one will ever look at this school the same way anymore.”
In the early morning hours, parents were called in order to give them the news that the school would be closed. As the school was being searched, witnesses said that crime scene tape draped the building. The Police are being tight-lipped about the status of their teen suspect. A tweet from the police search for the boy said that Philip Chism had last been seen at the Hollywood Hits, a theater on Endicott Street, around 6:30 p.m.
Essex District Attorney, Jonathan Blodgett, confirmed that Philip Chism is indeed the true suspect in the case. He cited state law against naming juveniles in criminal cases as the reason for his past reticence. It is not known what kind of connection Chism and Ritzer may have had, besides the fact that both went missing on the same day, and that Chism attended Danvers High School, while Colleen Ritzer taught at the school.
The suspected teenage murderer is known for being an accomplished athlete and a great kid, on and off the soccer field. The murder victim is 24 year old teacher, Colleen Ritzer. Ms. Ritzer was a beloved algebra teacher, who was known for her kindness to others. In a public tweet, one student said, “I hope when I’m older I can be half as nice as Ms. Ritzer was.”
The Danvers community is at a loss as to how two such well-liked persons could have been a part of the killing events that took place in the high school and nearby woods on Tuesday, October 22. “She was a very, very respected, loved teacher,” Blodgett said of Ritzer, calling the killing a “terrible tragedy.” As far as Chism, the shock that a teenager of 14 years could possibly kill Ms. Ritzer in cold blood and then put her in a recycle bin and dump her in the woods nearby is horrifying for most of the country to understand.
It does not help that the day before a middle-schooler shot and killed Michael Landsberry, a teacher at a school in Sparks, Nevada. The name of the pre-teenager is being withheld due to concerns about his age, which is reported to be 12.
“I cannot express enough appreciation for Mr. Landsberry,” Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez said. “He truly is a hero.” It was also reported that he believed many more people would have been victims if Landsberry had not prevented this by protecting the children in his class. One student was shot in the stomach, while the perpetrator was self-injured, with a shot to the head. The two 12 year olds were taken to the hospital and are stable and recovering.
The Danvers community wants to remember Colleen Ritzer for her dedication to her students. One student tweeted Friday to bring a candle to Danvers High School at 8 p.m. for a memorial service.
The recent tragedies across the country, especially those which involve a teenager, have brought up the question once again: Should teenage and preteens be charged with adult crimes when they plan and kill those who brook their authority by disciplining them for behaviors not conducive to learning? Or perhaps our legislatures will have to consider an alternative prison housing for youthful offenders who are under 18 years of age.
If we bury anymore gun or knife violence committed by teenagers on their victims, or sweep it under the rug, we will have done nothing to stop a teenage killer who could not be bothered to bury his victim.
Written by Lisa M Pickering
CNN Justice, The Washington Post