Mass. teen who raped, murdered math teacher may return to court in separate case

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Jury finds Philip Chism guilty of first-degree murder.

SALEM, Mass. (AP) — A jury soon will be deciding the case of Philip Chism, the Massachusetts teenager charged with raping and killing his high school math teacher.Philip Chism followed his ninth-grade algebra teacher, Colleen Ritzer, into a school bathroom, strangled her, stabbed her at least 16 times and raped her.

Chism’s lawyers do not contest that he killed Ritzer but say he was severely mentally ill and was in the midst of a psychotic episode the day she was killed. Chism agreed Wednesday to meet again in February to discuss the next step in Chism’s prosecution for allegedly attacking a woman staffer at a Dorchester detention facility. Chism, now 16, was convicted of a raping Ritzer inside the bathroom but was acquitted of a second rape, in woods near the school where Chism put her body. Chism, who is now 16 years old, was convicted Tuesday by an Essex County Superior Court jury of raping and murdering Danvers High School teacher Colleen E.

It took the panel just nine hours of deliberations to reject the Chism legal team’s insanity defense that he lacked criminal responsibility because he suffered from an untreated psychosis suspected of being early-onset schizophrenia. But psychological experts for the prosecution testified that his inconsistent answers to their tests suggested he was faking, while his methodical preparation and execution of the crime indicated he knew what he was doing. Another student who also stayed late that day testified that Ritzer tried to engage Chism — a student who had recently moved to Massachusetts — in light talk about how his new community compared with his old town of Clarksville, Tennessee. The jury acquitted Chism of raping Ritzer in the woods where he left her body, apparently finding that either prosecutors failed to prove she was still alive, or that the assault was a continuous act with the rape in the school bathroom.

Jurors rejected the defense claim that Chism was insane on Oct. 22, 2013, when he followed Ritzer out of a classroom and into the girls’ bathroom, where he raped and murdered her. Standing later with the district attorney that prosecuted the case, Ritzer’s parents said the verdicts mark a new phase in their lives in which they hope to honor their 24-year-old daughter’s legacy. “This guilty verdict, while the beginning of justice for Colleen, is certainly no cause for celebration as there can never be true justice for the crime committed,” said Thomas Ritzer, her father. “There remains a tremendous absence in our lives, one that sadly can never be replaced.” The family, he added, will still be reminded of the crimes as Chism appeals the case and is eligible for parole at some point. “We will carry on and do our very best to find the good in every day,” said Peggie Ritzer, the victim’s mother.

While awaiting trial for Ritzer’s murder in 2014, Chism, who was being held at a Department of Youth Services facility in Dorchester, allegedly followed a woman clinician to the bathroom and attacked her from behind. A bloody box cutter, mask, gloves and a hooded sweatshirt were later found in his backpack by police who found Chism walking beside a highway in neighbouring Topsfield. He has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, assault with intent to murder, kidnapping, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon he faces in the Suffolk case.

As a juvenile, he cannot receive a life sentence without parole following decisions by the US Supreme Court and the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

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