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Wednesday
Oct232013

Massachusetts Teen Charged in Murder of High School Teacher

Danvers Police | The Ritzer Family(DANVERS, Mass.) -- A 14-year-old Massachusetts boy was charged as an adult and held without bail Wednesday in the stabbing death of a beloved high school math teacher.

Philip D. Chism remained silent during his first court appearance where he was charged with murdering Colleen Ritzer, 24, who taught math at Danvers High School. He was dressed in a white jail jump suit and exhibited little emotion.

The boy's lawyer put her hand on Chism's back and told the judge "he's only 14," but the judge replied that it was an "adult court and an adult proceeding."

A probable cause hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 22.

Prosecutors allege the teen, who was a transfer student to the school, stabbed Ritzer and then dumped her body in the woods behind the campus.

"She was a very respected, loved teacher," said Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett. "At 24 years of age it's a terrible tragedy for the entire Danvers community."

Police discovered Ritzer's blood in a second floor bathroom late Tuesday night before her body was later found behind the school, Blodgett said.

Blodgett declined to say what the motive might have been.

"The teacher was reported missing and as a result of that, and her not answering her cell phone, police instituted a search and found blood," Blodgett said.

Law enforcement sources told ABC News there is surveillance video inside the high school that shows the student hauling Ritzer's body from the bathroom toward the woods in what appeared to be a recycle bin. The school is a new building and is equipped with 130 cameras, officials said.

All public schools in Danvers were closed Wednesday.

Chism had been reported missing Tuesday after he failed to return home from school. He was found Tuesday night in a neighboring community.

Ritzer was described by her students as an "amazing teacher."

Her passion for her students shined through on her Twitter account, where she described herself as a "math teacher often too excited about the topics I'm teaching."

Ritzer's family released a statement mourning their "beautiful daughter and sister."

"Everyone that knew and loved Colleen knew of her passion for teaching and how she mentored each and every one of her students. We would like to ask everyone to respect our privacy at this most difficult time. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers," the Ritzer family said.

Salem State, where Ritzer was a graduate student in the school counseling master's program, released a statement remembering the "dedicated teacher."

"She believed children have much to offer and often do not realize how special they are as individuals," the school said.

Earlier this week police in Danvers, a community north of Boston, had sent well wishes via Twitter to Sparks, Nev., after a school teacher was killed there by a student.

"Thoughts are with those families affected by the Sparks Middle School Shooting today & especially with 1st responders from Sparks PD," according to the Danvers Police Department Twitter feed.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio