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Philip Chism Ruled Competent To Stand Trial In Danvers Teacher Murder

DANVERS (CBS/AP) — A Massachusetts teenager charged with raping and killing his math teacher is now mentally competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Sixteen-year-old Philip Chism is charged in the October 2013 rape and killing of 24-year-old Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer.

Jury selection had begun in Chism's trial last month, but it was suspended after Chism's lawyers expressed concerns about his competency. Essex County Superior Court Judge David Lowy reviewed the findings of a mental health evaluation in a Salem courtroom and said Wednesday that it can resume.

Colleen Ritzer
Colleen Ritzer. (Facebook photo)

Chism was 14 at the time but is being tried as an adult. He pleaded not guilty.

His trial was delayed after a judge ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation. Chism had refused to enter the courtroom, banged his head against a floor and told a psychologist he hears voices and hopes someone will shoot him.

Lowy had him undergo a 20-day evaluation.

Chism's lawyers argued that the anniversary of Ritzer's death served as proof that the trial should be moved. The judge, however, rejected the defense request to move the trial.

Chism's defense team said they have concerns about the recent delay impacting the availability of a doctor they plan to call who questions Chism's mental responsibility.

Jury selection will resume Thursday. The judge said opening statements could be given on Nov. 16 or earlier.

Ritzer's body was found in woods near the school. Prosecutors said her throat had been slit with a box cutter. A student in Ritzer's class said she overheard the teacher asking Chism to stay after school after she saw him drawing instead of taking notes.

Chism had recently moved to Massachusetts from Clarksville, Tennessee.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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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