Legal analyst: Danvers, Mass. murder an unsettling case

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October 25, 2013, 8:23 am
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(NECN) – In Danvers, Mass., the high school re-opened Friday with extra security on hand. This comes as we learn more about the murder of 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer.

Police sources tell NECN the popular math teacher's throat was slit with a box cutter after she went into the girl's bathroom near her classroom. They say the suspect, her 14-year-old student Philip Chism, changed his clothes after the attack and then carried her body out of school and into the woods using a recycling bin.

Thursday night, a vigil was held for Ritzer in Stowe, Mass. where she held her first job at Hale Middle School.

No motive has been determined yet in Ritzer's death.

Attorney and NECN legal analyst Randy Chapman joined us in studio with more on the case.

Chism was charged in adult court, but ultimately it will be presented to a grand jury and then brought to superior court. Chapman says almost certainly it will be a matter that will be handled in adult court and he will be facing adult penalties.

Can we read into the defense attorney’s decision to not seek bail for Chism?

Chapman says the reality is that she was more concerned at the preliminary stage with polluting the public with information and details regarding the case that she didn’t want to be revealed.

Fellow students say Chism seemed like a regular guy, so will defense be able to bring up a mental health defense?

Chapman says there are two aspects of mental health. One of which is insanity, basically excusing what he did. He says that would be difficult case because he seemed to conduct himself in an ordinary type manner. The other is the mitigation of mental health, and a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling stated juveniles have slower mental development.  

The big question is why would anyone want to kill such a young, beautiful and dedicated teacher?

Chapman says that is what is so unsettling about the whole case. He says people find it disturbing because people seem normal and then all of a sudden something like this happens with no warning.

Tags: danvers massachusetts, murder case, Philip Chism, colleen ritzer, mental health defense
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