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October 24, 2013

Andover woman, 24, found dead in woods Danvers High student charged with murder

DANVERS — It started Tuesday night as two cases of missing persons: one, a teenage boy who was last seen at a local movie theater; the other, a young teacher who hadn’t returned home from work and wasn’t answering her phone.

It became a murder investigation early yesterday when police found the teenager walking north on Route 1 in Topsfield and, then, the teacher’s body in a wooded area behind Danvers High School.

Philip Chism, 14, is now charged with first-degree murder in the death of Colleen Ritzer, 24, a math teacher at the school.

Chism was ordered held without bail by a Salem District Court judge yesterday. He will be held at Middleton Jail, according to court officials.

But few details of just what happened have been confirmed. An attempt by a prosecutor to outline the facts of the case was cut off by Chism’s lawyer, who objected to the police report being read in court.

What is known so far is that police, who were already looking for the missing teenager, a recent transplant from Tennessee, were called shortly after 11 p.m. because Ritzer had not returned home and wasn’t answering her cellphone.

Police secured the school and found blood in a second-floor bathroom, said District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

Then, just over an hour after Ritzer was reported missing, Topsfield police found Chism walking north on the southbound side of Route 1 in that town. He was taken into custody.

As a result of an interview with the teenager and a review of surveillance video from the school, Ritzer’s body was found in the woods near the school.

“It was apparent that she is a homicide victim,” Blodgett said yesterday morning.

According to a three-paragraph statement of facts filed with the court, the teacher and the student knew each other at school; the report does not say whether the boy was Ritzer’s student.

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