In Massachusetts, life in prison without the chance to get out is the worst punishment for a crime. It is a less severe form of the death penalty for people who have killed someone in the first degree. Colleen Ritzer was a teacher at Danvers High School who was killed in 2013. Her parents, Peggie and Tom Ritzer, are speaking out against H.1797, which is called “An Act to Reduce Mass Incarceration.”
Many families of victims in Massachusetts are angry about the house bill, and they are speaking out against it. Families of people who were killed in some of the most well-known murder cases in the state had different ideas about whether or not the people who killed their loved ones should be let out on parole.
Information of the Case
The 21st of November, 2013— According to the indictment, a Massachusetts teenager was accused of murdering a respected high school math instructor and viciously raped the victim in a terrible incident.
Phillip Chism, a 14-year-old student, was arrested and accused in 2013 with the murder of his Danvers High School teacher, Colleen Ritzer. Chism was charged with murder, aggravated rape, and armed robbery in connection with the terrible incident, according to Essex County authorities.
Strange Detail of Case
On October 23, Ritzer’s bones were located in a highly wooded area about 50 feet from a Danvers High School athletic field. Her throat had already been slit with a boxcutter, and she had been hit in the face, according to authorities.
According to court documents, Chism followed Ritzer into a lavatory after donning gloves, which was captured on a school surveillance camera. According to the docs, he hauled her body from the restroom in a blue recycling container on wheels.
He then went home to change his bloodied clothes, according to investigators. He ate at Wendy’s before going to see a Woody Allen picture at Hollywood Hits, a movie theatre near his Danvers home, where he lives with his mother and two younger sisters.
Ritzer and Chism were both reported missing on October 22nd. Chism was arrested and charged with first-degree murder as an adult at 5 a.m. on October 23, and Ritzer’s body was located a short time later.
Police and prosecutors claimed they didn’t know if Ritzer was alive or dead until they recovered her body, and they had no reason to suspect Chism until they saw security video of him entering the Danvers High School bathroom shortly after Ritzer on October 22.
They claimed it had been a long time since he was seen in Topsfield. According to MacDougall, as community guardians, they would have had no choice but to approach Chism as he walked alone in the middle of the night on a dark and narrow part of Route 1 near Topsfield.
When the police stopped Chism, they discovered a knife. A search of his suitcase later uncovered a bloodstained box cutter, according to the complaint.
Chism allegedly replied, “The girl,” when asked where the blood came from. He had Ritzer’s credit cards and driver’s license, as well as a pair of blue-green women’s underwear. He initially stated that he discovered the products at a gas station. Later, he claims to have grabbed them from Ritzer’s truck. Chism was arrested.
Colleen Ritzer’s body was discovered in a “supine position covered with leaves and debris” in an attempt to conceal it. She was raped with a sharp pointy item. Her throat was cut. A crime scene officer unfolded a handwritten message discovered next the corpse. “I despise you all,” it said.
The green recycling container was 20 yards away from the deceased in the security camera. Clothing and other personal stuff, as well as the blood-soaked gloves Chism wore in the video, were strewn about.
What prompted the investigation by the police?
Diana Chism called the police in the little northern Massachusetts town where she resides with her three children after being unable to reach her adolescent son Phillip Chism on the Danvers High School campus.
The phone’s position was then monitored via a “ping” from his cellular phone carrier. Authorities believe it was last seen near the Hollywood Hits Theater, where he had purchased a movie ticket before leaving.
A second “ping” location turned up nothing. His absence was widely publicised on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites.
The next day, a Danvers police officer reviewed security camera footage from the high school CCTVs and developed a minute-by-minute timeline of what happened after school on October 22.
The phone came at 6:34 p.m. on October 22, the first in a long run of contacts and an old-fashioned inquiry that helped solve a case that rocked the placid New England town of 26,000. One of the first elements in a police affidavit outlining Colleen Ritzer’s murder was her mother’s anxious call.
Inside of the Court
Later in 2015, the prosecution was done with its case after the forensic doctor who did Ritzer’s autopsy gave some painful evidence.
MacDougall told the court for the first time in open court what the prosecution thinks happened when Chism attacked Ritzer in a girls’ bathroom at school on October 22, 2013.
Essex Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall says that Chism, who was 14 at the time, started the horrible crime in the bathroom by strangling, rapping, and stabbing his 24-year-old math teacher. He was stopped when a student entered the bathroom.
Anna McDonald, a pathologist, said that the two things that caused death were suffocation and the 16 stab wounds to the neck, of which three hurt major blood vessels.
McDonald thinks she died of asphyxiation because the knife wounds on her neck were so bad that strangling her after stabbing her would have been too hard.
On the other hand, McDonald thinks that if she hadn’t been stabbed, she might have lived through the strangling. During cross-examination, Chism’s defence lawyer, John Osler, used McDonald’s testimony to show the jury that Ritzer was probably already dead when Chism rolled her into the woods in a recycling bin.
Chism went to court as a grown-up. If he was found guilty of first-degree murder, he could have been put to death. After decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States and the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, he could not get a life sentence without the chance of getting out as a minor.
Adults convicted of first-degree murder in Massachusetts are sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.
Do Her Colleagues and Friends Remember Her?
Ritzer, a 24-year-old math teacher at Danvers High School, was brutally murdered on October 22, 2013, perhaps at the hands of one of her students.
Tom and Peggie, her parents, and siblings Daniel and Laura, all of whom still reside at the Dascomb Roadhouse where she was raised, continue to miss her.
Ritzer’s colleagues and students from Hale Middle School in Stow, Mass., where she taught for one year before coming to Danvers High School, as well as friends and former classmates from Assumption College in Worcester, where she got her bachelor’s degree in 2011, remember her life and accomplishments.
What about Now?
Chism could not be convicted to Life No Parole since he was a minor at the time; therefore, he was handed a 40-year term instead. This opens the door for Chism to seek bail and get out of jail.
Chism’s sentence will stand regardless of the outcome of the legislative debate on H. 1797. Conversely, Colleen Ritzer’s parents hope to shield future generations from the difficulties they encountered. In their first ever television interview, they announced their intention to testify against H. 1797.
House Bill 1797 was introduced by Liz Miranda, a state legislator from Boston. The legislation, if passed, would allow parole hearings for prisoners after 25 years. The measure would be retroactively applied to all inmates at the state’s correctional facilities.
The Ritzers would have preferred a life sentence without parole for the killer, but because he was a kid, such a penalty was not possible.
“We have the impression that the state is still more concerned with the killers than with the victims and their families,” Peggie Ritzer said.
Peggie Ritzer told the media,“We haven’t done it yet since we’re waiting for the appropriate moment. He continued, “And this is the appropriate reason: They’re prioritizing the life of the perpetrator over that of the victim. What they’re saying is that the life of the victim doesn’t count for anything. It was important that they lived. How we live has meaning.”
Colleen Ritzer’s parents think that because Chism has been in prison for so long, it would be up to their other children to go before a parole board and fight any attempt by Colleen’s killer to get out. Colleen Ritzer’s father had a simple message for Massachusetts lawmakers who are thinking about getting rid of Life Without Parole:
“This is not right. Don’t make the families suffer. Don’t do it. “Think about what you’re doing to the families of the victims and what they have to go through,” he told them.