The teenager charged with murdering his “gentle and caring” math teacher, caught a Woody Allen movie and picked up fast food after the alleged killing, authorities and local media reported Thursday.
Philip Chism, 14, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to the charge of murdering 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer, whose body was discovered in the woods behind his high school in Danvers, Mass., some 20 miles north of Boston.
Sources told NBC affiliate in Boston, WHDH, that Chism allegedly killed Ritzer in a second-floor bathroom at Danvers High School around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday before bringing her body out into the woods.
He then went to eat and catch a movie, according to witnesses.
Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokeswoman for the Essex District Prosecutor’s Office, would not confirm details in the case but said police had investigated a sighting of the teen at the Hollywood Hits Theater in Danvers.
Chism had initially been reported as a missing person on Tuesday evening, having failed to return home.
Scott Przybycien, a manager at the cinema, told the Boston Herald that a boy who looked like Chism bought a ticket for the 4:30 p.m. showing of the Woody Allen movie “Blue Jasmine.” He “blended right in,” Przybycien told the Herald.
Sources told WHDH the teenager later went to a nearby Wendy’s to eat, all while his junior varsity soccer teammates searched the town for him because he failed to show up for practice.
Chism allegedly used a box cutter to stab and cut Ritzer, the Boston Globe reported, citing an unnamed law enforcement official.
The attack marked the second killing of a U.S. teacher by a student this week, following a shooting in Nevada in which a 12-year-old boy armed with a handgun killed a teacher and wounded two schoolmates before turning his gun on himself.
Prosecutors charged Chism as an adult, which allowed them to release his name and could mean that he would face a longer potential sentence in an adult prison rather than a juvenile facility if he is convicted.
Friends of Ritzer paid tribute to her Thursday, describing the young teacher as “gentle and caring.”
"I just want people to know how special of a person she was,’’ Jennifer Berger told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY. “She was my best friend in the whole world, and knowing her made my life so much better, and [she] made everyone’s life better.”
Another friend, Dan Yanofsky, added: “Of everyone I’ve ever known in my life, she is the last person I would think something like this could happen to because every report and every story that you read about how kind and gentle and caring she was, it was absolutely true.”
"She was just a young, caring girl who had the whole world ahead of her,’’ Ritzer’s uncle, Peter Martellucci, told TODAY’s Ron Allen. “And to be taken just so tragically, it's awful."
In a statement, Ritzer’s family said they were “most grateful for the outpouring of support during this very difficult time.”
The statement went on to request privacy while “the necessary arrangements are made to celebrate Colleen's vibrant life.”
On Thursday night, over 800 parents and teachers met with district officials and law enforcement representatives at the school to be updated on the situation. The event was closed to the media, but afterward, officials said the school would re-open on Friday, but the affected bathroom would remain closed "for the foreseeable future."
First published October 24 2013, 6:20 PM