The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 24, 2013

Town mourns after teen charged in teacher's death

DANVERS, Mass. (AP) — Grief counselors met Thursday with students mourning the death of a popular high school math teacher who authorities say was killed by one of her 14-year-old students.

Classes won't resume until Friday at Danvers High School, where 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer was described as a caring teacher who stood outside her classroom and said hello to even students she didn't teach.

Authorities have not said whether she had any run-ins with Philip Chism, a student new to the school who is charged with murder.

Ritzer was reported missing Tuesday after she did not return home from school. Blood in a second-floor bathroom helped lead investigators to her body, which was dumped in the woods behind the school in a close-knit community about 20 miles north of Boston.

Authorities have not released a cause of death or a motive. Chism, who was also reported missing, was found walking along a state highway overnight.

Fellow students said Chism had moved to Massachusetts from Tennessee before the start of the school year and was a top scorer on the school's junior varsity soccer team.

Jean McCartin, a Danvers School Committee member, said the school has extensive programs to help ease the transition for new students who may have problems, but there was no information about Chism that would have presented any red flags.

"He just presented himself to us like any other student would," she said Thursday. "And that's what I think is so hard for the administration right now. You know, their hearts are breaking because they just didn't know he was in need, if he was in need. We don't know. We just don't know what his motive was, nobody knows at this point. No one knows why he would have behaved in this way and done such a terrible thing."

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