Philip Chism was fourteen years old when he sexually assaulted and murdered his teacher. According to court documents Philip Chism would follow the teacher into a washroom where he would sexually assault the twenty four year old woman before murdering the woman. Phillip Chism would steal her credit card and use it to buy movie tickets. Phillip Chism would attempt an insanity plea however the jury did not go for it and in the end this teen killer would be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for forty years
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Peggie and Tom Ritzer and their two remaining children have 38 years before they will have to face Philip Chism again.
They say that’s too soon.
In an emotionally charged day in Salem Superior Court, the Ritzers spoke about the loss of their daughter Colleen, killed at 24 years old at the hands of one of the students she taught.
Philip Chism, then 14, raped, murdered and robbed Ritzer in the bathroom of Danvers High School on Oct. 22, 2013, leaving her body posed in the woods just outside the school.
A jury in December found him guilty of first-degree murder with deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity and cruelty. They rejected the defense’s argument that Philip Chism was insane when he killed Ritzer with a box cutter.
Judge David A. Lowy sentenced Philip Chism to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 25 years on the murder charge — the maximum he could levy on that count. But he also gave the now 17-year-old boy a 40-year concurrent sentence on the charges or aggravated rape and armed robbery, meaning Chism will be 54 before he gets a chance at freedom.
“One cannot see and hear what this court has during the course of this case without feeling that the crashing waves of this tragedy will never wane,’’ Lowy said as he handed down the sentence. “No math will ever erase the reality that this crime was committed by a 14-year-old boy.’’
Back in October 2013, when Chism pulled his hoodie on and followed Ritzer into the girls’ bathroom, juveniles found guilty of first-degree murder were automatically sentenced to life without parole, just like adults.
But two months after Ritzer was buried, the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court, following a U.S. Supreme Court decision, made life without parole for juveniles
unconstitutional, and limited the number of years juveniles could be held without parole.
The Ritzers railed against the “disrespectful’’ decision the courts made.
“Colleen’s family, friends, students and those who admired her have been given a life sentence without parole, but not the individual who committed the heinous act,’’ Peggie Ritzer said after the sentence was announced. “This is wrong and unjust.’’
Her husband, Tom, added that a criminal like Philip Chism shouldn’t get a second chance. They plan on fighting for an amended law that would prevent other families from going through what they will have to.
Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said the high court’s decision “redefined justice’’ for families of murder victims by prohibiting life without parole for juvenile killers.
“Often times, when courts make decisions, the impact of those decisions can seem very remote,’’ Blodgett said. “I want everyone to see the impact of that decision. This family, that has suffered beyond measure, cannot close the book on this case.’’
Prosecutors had asked for Philip Chism to serve at least 50 years before he was eligible for release — two consecutive life sentences for the murder, then the rape and robbery, each with parole eligibility after 25 years.
His defense, meanwhile, requested parole eligibility after 26 years, with Chism eligible for release before he turned 40.
It was an emotional morning, as friends and family of Colleen Ritzer spoke to the judge about their loss. Ever since her daughter was murdered more than two years ago, Peggie Ritzer can barely stand to take a picture of her remaining children. Instead of a trio, she’s left with two.
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