EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 23, 2013

Andover High grad found slain at Danvers school where she taught

By Jill Harmacinski, Julie Manganis and Judy Wakefield
Staff writers

---- — DANVERS — An Andover woman who was a teacher at Danvers High School was killed last night and a 14-year-old student is being held as a suspect in the homicide, according to the district attorney.

Colleen Ritzer, 24, who graduated from Andover High School in 2007, was found dead in a wooded area behind the Danvers High. Officials aren't saying at this point how Ritzer was killed, and are not confirming the identity of the assailant.

However, District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said at a press conference this morning that the discovery of Ritzer's body was linked to another investigation into that of a missing teenager. That teenager, Phillip Chism, was found at around 12:30 a.m. walking on Route 1 in Topsfield and was taken into custody by police.

Citing a state law, Blodgett would not specifically state that Chism is the suspect in Ritzer's death. Blodgett said a 14-year-old suspect will be arraigned in Salem Juvenile Court later today on a charge of murder.

Danvers police put out a public alert last night saying they were searching for Chism, 14,of 10 Riverside St., Danvers. The boy had last been seen near Hollywood Hits movie theatre off Route 128.

Investigators began searching for Ritzer last night around 11:20 p.m. after she did not return home and did not answer her phone. When they went to the high school, police found blood in a second-floor bathroom. Working with the state police along with Topsfield and Danvers police, they conducted a search and found Ritzer in the woods near the school.

"It is apparent she was a homicide victim," Blodgett said.

Blodgett did not comment on a motive for Ritzer’s murder. A reporter asked whether Ritzer was stabbed, which Blodgett rebuffed.

Town officials, included Town Manager Wayne Marquis and Danvers School Superintendent Lisa Dana, were grim faced during the press conference.

Ritzer had worked as a math teacher in Danvers since September 2012. She graduated from Assumption College in Worcester in 2011.

In 2007 when she graduated from Andover High, Ritzer received a technology award for Excellence in TV production. Joe Spanos, the retired head of the TV production department at the high school, remembered Ritzer well.

"I cried when I heard the sad news this morning," said Spanos, who still lives in Andover and retired two years ago. "She was a great student. I taught her in my TV production class. She was a teaching assistant. She always wanted to be a teacher."