Danvers teen pleads not guilty to math teacher's murder
SALEM, Mass. (AP) - Philip Chism, 14, was arraigned Wednesday in Salem Superior Court on murder, aggravated rape and armed robbery charges in the killing of his high school math teacher. He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and is due back in court in January.
Philip Chism is accused in the Oct. 22 death of Colleen Ritzer, a popular teacher at Danvers High School. Ritzer's body was found in woods near the school with her throat slit and a note reading, "I hate you all."
Chism pleaded not guilty to all charges at his arraignment Wednesday. He also pleaded not guilty at his earlier arraignment in District Court. The case was moved to Superior Court after he was indicted last month.
Chism had recently moved to Massachusetts from Clarksville, Tenn.
Police have not released a motive for Ritzer's killing. Chism's attorney has declined to comment.
Students told police that Chism stayed after school the day the 24-year-old Ritzer was killed.
One student who said she had also stayed after school to receive extra help that day said Chism appeared to become upset when Ritzer began talking about Tennessee.
Search warrant documents made public last month described surveillance video that authorities said showed Chism following Ritzer into a school bathroom, wearing gloves and a hood, then later walking out of the bathroom alone.
A short time later, the video shows him pulling a recycling barrel through the school and outside, according to the documents. A recycling barrel was found near Ritzer's body. Authorities said she was sexually assaulted with a stick.
After the arraignment Wednesday, Ritzer's family spokesperson made the following statement:
"As a family, we remain devastated by the passing of
our daughter and sister, Colleen. We are however strengthened by the tremendous
outpouring of love and support we have received from so many throughout the
local community and beyond."
Chism is charged with murder as an adult. The aggravated rape and armed robbery charges are pending in Juvenile Court, but prosecutors have said they will seek to join those charges with the murder charge in adult court.
During Wednesday's arraignment, Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead was sworn as a special Juvenile Court judge so he could hear all the charges together.
The defense wants more time to research the youthful offender charges possibly being taken to superior court. The next court date is set for Jan. 30.