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Teen Charged In Murder Of Danvers High School Teacher

DANVERS (CBS) – A teenager has been charged with killing a Danvers High School teacher in a horrific case that led the town to close all public schools for the day.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Lana Jones reports

Danvers Teacher Murdered

Philip Chism, 14, was ordered held without bail at his arraignment in Salem District Court Wednesday afternoon.  He's charged as an adult in the beating death and assault of 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer, a math teacher at the high school.

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said Ritzer was found dead in the woods behind the school early Wednesday morning, a short time after she had been reported missing.

Colleen Ritzer
Colleen Ritzer (Twitter Photo)

Blodgett said it was "apparent she was a homicide victim."

"It was learned from an interview with the suspect and video surveillance footage recovered at the high school, that a juvenile student that attends Danvers High School assaulted and subsequently murdered Colleen Ritzer and disposed of her body near the high school grounds," court records state.

The chain of events started Tuesday evening when Chism was reported missing by Danvers police. (Continued...)

Philip Chism
Philip Chism in Salem District Court, Oct. 23, 2013 (WBZ-TV)

Later, at 11:20 p.m., Blodgett said police received a report that Ritzer had not returned to her home in Andover and was not answering her cell phone.

Investigators went to the high school and found blood in a second floor bathroom, the D.A. said.

About an hour later, Topsfield police found Chism walking on Route 1.

Danvers High School
Police found Colleen Ritzer in these woods behind the high school before sunrise. (WBZ-TV)

He was taken to Danvers police and interviewed.  Authorities also looked at video surveillance from inside the school and a short time later Ritzer's body was found in the woods behind the high school.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Doug Cope reports

Danvers Teacher Murdered

Blodget would not say how she died or what her relationship was to the teenager.  According to the criminal complaint, they were known to each other.

Court records indicate Ritzer was beaten and assaulted.

Students said Chism played on the high school's junior varsity soccer team.

Read: Suspect Had Been In Danvers A Short Time

"We have no reason to believe any other suspects are involved," Blodgett told reporters at a news conference Wednesday morning at the high school.

"She was a very, very respected, loved teacher," the D.A. said of Ritzer, who graduated from Assumption College in 2011 and Andover High School in 2007.

Read: Ritzer Remembered As Passionate, Inspirational

"I just remember seeing her in the hallway and she always had a smile, like 'hi' to everyone and she was just an amazing person," Megan Papagelis, a Danvers High graduate, told WBZ NewsRadio 1030 Wednesday.

"It's just shocking to see that this could happen. Unbelievable." (Continued...)

School will reopen to all PreK-8 students in Danvers on Thursday. The high school will be open to students and families from 10am to 12pm and grief counselors will be available. A parent information meeting will be held at the field house Thursday night at 6:30pm.

Friday will be a full school day for all Danvers schools.

The Ritzer family released this statement Wednesday afternoon:

"At this time we are mourning the tragic death of our amazing, beautiful daughter and sister. Everyone that knew and loved Colleen knew of her passion for teaching and how she mentored each and every one of her students. We would like to ask everyone to respect our privacy at this most difficult time. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers."

"We are very saddened by the horrific tragedy that has occurred in Danvers. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim, her family, and the entire school community," state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said in a statement to WBZ-TV.

A candlelight vigil was held for Ritzer Wednesday night at Danvers High School.

Watch: Blodgett News Conference


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