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Lawyer: Teen standing trial in teacher's death said he was "about to explode"

SALEM, Mass. -- After a defense attorney for a Massachusetts teen accused of killing his math teacher said the 16-year-old would waive his right to appear at his murder trial, the accused teenager changed his mind and told a judge he wants to be present for the proceedings, according to CBS Boston.

Sixteen-year-old Philip Chism told his lawyer Tuesday he was "about to explode" and refused to go back into the courtroom. He told a court officer he "can't take this anymore," reports the station.

Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer is seen in this undated picture provided by Ritzer's family.
Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer is seen in this undated picture provided by Ritzer's family. AP Photo/Courtesy of Dale Webster via the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune

Denise Regan, Chism's lawyer, told the Salem Superior Court judge that her client was shaking, twitching and mumbling and told her "he's about to explode and ... doesn't want to hurt anyone."

Witnesses were describing some of the blood-stained evidence in the case at the time.

Chism, who had moved to Massachusetts from Clarksville, Tennessee, shortly before starting high school, has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in the October 2013 slaying of 24-year-old Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer. Chism was 14 at the time.

The judge at first called a recess, then ended proceedings about an hour earlier than scheduled after trying unsuccessfully to speak to Chism himself. He then called for a psychological evaluation.

Wednesday morning before the jury entered the courtroom, the judge spoke to Chism and explained that staying out of court meant he could not hear testimony, He said he didn't want to give up that right, and the judge ruled that he is still competent to stand trial.

Jury selection had been delayed several weeks while Chism underwent a competency evaluation. Opening statements launched Tuesday.

Regan said in court Monday that Chism killed Ritzer but isn't criminally responsible because he is mentally ill.

Ritzer's mother testified earlier Tuesday about the day her daughter was killed.

Peggie Ritzer said her daughter had a consistent routine and came home every day at 3:30 p.m.

When she didn't that day, the family at first thought she had made other plans or been in an accident.

They began to worry when she wasn't home for dinner, wasn't answering her cellphone and hadn't posted on Facebook. They tried contacting her friends and other teachers.

Her husband went to the high school and found his daughter's car still in the parking lot.

"At that point we started to get very upset," Peggie Ritzer said.

Police later found her body in the woods behind the school.

The defense did not cross-examine Peggie Ritzer.

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