District Attorney Seeks 50 Years in Prison for Philip Chism in Teacher’s Death

Philip Chism will be sentenced Friday in the murder, rape and armed robbery of Colleen Ritzer. Prosecutors are asking that he serve at least 50 years behind bars.

The teenager faces life in prison after being charged in the 2013 death of the 24-year-old Danvers High School teacher. He was 14 at the time of the killing, but was tried as an adult. He is now 17. 

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office filed a memo in court Thursday.

The Commonwealth says the following sentences are consonant with justice: 

  • For the murder of Ritzer by deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty (ESCR2013-1446-001), life in prison with parole eligibility after 25 years. 
  • For the aggravated rape by natural sexual intercourse of Ritzer (ESCR2014-0109-001), life in prison with parole after 25 years, to be served from and after the sentence in ESCR2013-1446-001.
  • For the armed robbery of Ritzer ESCR2013-1447-002), life in prison with parole eligibility after 25 years, to be served concurrently with the sentence in ESCR2014-0109-001.

They want those sentences served consecutively.

Chism's defense attorney has asked that Chism be given concurrent sentences and serve 26 years in prison.

The defendant was tried before a jury for about a month. He was found guilty on Dec. 15, 2015. 

During his trial, his lawyer admitted Chism killed Ritzer, but said he was suffering from severe mental illness and was not criminally responsible for his actions. A psychiatrist who testified for the defense said Chism was hearing voices and in the throes of a psychotic episode when he killed Ritzer. Jurors rejected an insanity defense.

Ritzer was a popular teacher doing her dream job, teaching math, Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall told jurors in her opening statement.

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