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Students Return To Danvers High School After Teacher Murder

DANVERS (CBS/AP) — Classes resumed at Danvers High School Friday two days after a student allegedly killed a teacher there.

Philip Chism, 14, is charged with murder in the death of Colleen Ritzer, a 24-year-old math teacher. School had been canceled the previous two days.

Colleen Ritzer
Colleen Ritzer. (Facebook photo)

On Friday, the U.S. flag outside the school flew at half-staff and ribbons in Ritzer's favorite color pink hung from a row of six trees in front of the building.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Karen Twomey reports

Danvers High School Classes Resume

An electronic sign displayed a tweet that Ritzer posted this summer:

"No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind."

Read: Scholarship Fund Set Up In Honor Of Danvers Teacher

"RIP Miss Ritzer. Gone, not forgotten," was written in the school colors of blue and white on the windows of a pickup truck in the student parking lot.

Danvers High School
A tribute to Ms. Ritzer on a truck in the high school parking lot. (WBZ-TV)


Funeral arrangements were also announced Friday. The funeral will be held Monday morning at 10 at St. Augustine Church in Andover.

Her wake will be Sunday from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m., also at St. Augustine.

On Friday afternoon, officials at Assumption College, where Ritzer graduated in 2011, held a memorial service in her honor.


Ritzer's death left behind "a mountain of sadness," said the Rev. Dennis Gallagher, who officiated at the service at the school in Worcester, about 50 miles from Danvers. But, he said, Ritzer was obviously committed to both to her profession, and to being kind to others.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Lana Jones reports

Assumption College Service

"Wherever it came from, she seems to have understood some really important things about life," he said.

WBZ-TV's Sera Congi reports

Back at Danvers High, a police officer stood outside a cruiser in front of the school, part of the extra security intended to reassure students. Side doors were to be locked for the next few days, and counselors would be on hand, officials told 800 parents at a meeting Thursday night.


Student Dylan Fitch, who was in one of Ritzer's classes, said on Friday morning that he thought the return would be "awkward."

"We can get through it, but it's really not going to be the same," he said.

Rabih Chaghouri, whose daughter is a freshman, said he's confident the school is safe. "This could happen in any neighborhood, any street, anywhere. You never know what goes on in people's heads."

Well into the night Friday, the growing memorial outside Danvers High School was a comforting place to keep the candles burning for Ritzer. Returning to school for the first time on Friday allowed students to comfort each other. "It was hard, but everybody was helping each other and was there for each other," said a student who only gave her name as Christina.

Some found it hard to walk past the door to Ritzer's classroom.


"I didn't go in," said Christina, "and some said it was really hard for them."

There were signs of trying to return to normalcy as the junior varsity soccer team, on which Chism was a player, took to the field. Members of the girls soccer team were overcome as they passed by the tributes to the popular teacher. And even junior high school football players who use the school grounds had a difficult practice Friday night. "It's tough, we were practicing the night it happened and it didn't sink in until the next day," said coach Chris Condon.

Details of the crime were not part of the lessons, but Emily Nestor, who shared a class with Chism, sought out counselors. "It was so hard to be in English class because he was in there. I needed help for that," she said.


Authorities have offered no clues on Chism's alleged motive. They also would not say how Ritzer was killed. The case was still being investigated, said Carrie Kimball-Monahan, a prosecutor's spokeswoman.

Law enforcement sources told WBZ-TV a box cutter was used to kill Ritzer and her body was carried out of the school in a recycling bin.

Sources told WBZ Friday that Chism used Ritzer's credit card in the hours after she was killed.


Tuesday's school day ended for both Chism and Ritzer in her last-period Algebra I class, where she noticed him drawing in a notebook rather than taking notes, said Chism's classmate Rania Rhaddaoui, who sat two seats from him.

Ritzer asked Chism to stay after class, Rhaddaoui said, but she didn't know why.

Ritzer never returned home. Blood in a second-floor school bathroom helped lead investigators to her body, which was dumped in the woods behind the school in this close-knit community about 20 miles north of Boston.

The second-floor bathroom at the school would be closed indefinitely, Danvers police chief Neil Ouellette said.

Authorities believe Ritzer was killed after school ended at about 2 p.m., but they have not released a specific time.

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

Police picked up Chism early Wednesday, as he walked along Route 1 in neighboring Topsfield. Chism appeared briefly in court Wednesday for arraignment on a murder charge and was ordered held without bail.

Chism had moved to Massachusetts from Tennessee before the start of the school and excelled on the junior varsity soccer team.

Caio Silva, a Danvers High School senior and varsity soccer player, said he knew both Chism and Ritzer. He said he and his teammates are helping each other.

"A lot of the guys are really shocked, a lot of guys are down, really upset," he said.

"It's just really sad," he said. "A lady that was really sweet and a kid who was really sweet. It just doesn't really match up."

WBZ-TV's Beth Germano and Karen Anderson contributed to this report.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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