‘True monster’: Man convicted of raping, killing Mass. teacher pleads guilty in brutal assault case

BOSTON — A man convicted in the rape and death of a Massachusetts high school teacher more than a decade ago when he was a teenager pleaded guilty Friday to charges in connection with a separate “horrific and terrifying” assault case involving a Department of Youth Services worker.

Philip Chism, now 25, was just 14 years of age when he strangled Colleen Ritzer, his algebra teacher, and repeatedly stabbed her with a box cutter in a Danvers High School bathroom in 2013. He then used a recycling bin to bring her body into nearby woods.

During closing arguments in his rape and murder trial, prosecutors stated that Ritzer was “stripped, battered, brutalized, and violated.” Chism, of Danvers, was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2016 in connection with Ritzer’s death.

Appearing in Boston Juvenile Court, Chism, charged as a youthful offender, pleaded guilty to attacking and seriously injuring a DYS worker on June 2, 2014.

Assistant District Attorney David Bradley alleged that Chism, who was 15 at the time, eluded staff at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Dorchester and followed the female clinician into a bathroom area, where he trapped, choked, beat, and attacked her with a sharpened pencil.

“At some point, the 29-year-old female clinician walked down the hallway and entered a bathroom inside a staff locker room. Chism kicked off his sandals, which would have made noise on the floor, before moving toward the hallway in a crouch that kept him out of the staffer’s view. Chism had a pencil in his hand and opened the door to the locker room. When the female clinician came out of the bathroom, Chism stared at her from about a foot away,” Bradley told the court. “He placed both his hands around her neck and began to choke her while pushing her back against the cinder block wall in the bathroom. The victim was unable to scream because Chism’s hands tightly gripped her throat.  When she managed to get his right hand away from her neck, Chism repeatedly punched her in the face, head, and jaw. She screamed as other staffers rushed to help her and restrain him. The victim escaped from the bathroom gasping for air with injuries to her neck, face, jaw, and back. Chism began to repeatedly yell, ‘I’m gonna kill them all.’”

When asked by the judge if he was voluntarily admitting to the facts laid out in court by a prosecutor, Chism responded, “That is correct, your honor.”

The victim was not present in court for Chism’s change of plea but in an impact statement read by the prosecutor on her behalf, she called Chism a “monster.”

“Following this horrific and terrifying event, I remembered the bruises across my face, around my body, and my neck,” the prosecutor read from the statement. “His face still haunts me, that lack of emotion, just ready to kill...True monsters exist in this world. Philip Chism is a monster.”

A charity, the Colleen Ritzer Memorial Fund, was founded after her death. The fund awards hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and scholarships to future teachers.

Ritzer, known for always having a smile on her face, loved to teach and loved life. She graduated from Assumption College in 2011 and was a standout student at Andover High School, graduating in 2007.

At the time of her death, her family said in a statement, “We are mourning the tragic death of our amazing, 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.”


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