For Immediate Release - December 04, 2013

14-Year Old Arraigned on Murder, Aggravated Rape and Armed Robbery Charges

Philip Chism, 14, of Danvers, was arraigned in Salem Superior Court today for murder, aggravated rape and armed robbery in connection with the October 22, 2013 murder of Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer.  Judge Howard Whitehead ordered that Chism continue to be held without bail. 

Chism pleaded not guilty to the murder charge.  (Massachusetts General Law chapter 119, section 74 requires that anyone who is 14 or over and is indicted for murder be tried as an adult.) 

A plea of not guilty was entered on Chism’s behalf on the aggravated rape and armed robbery charges. Chism was indicted as a Youthful Offender on the aggravated rape and armed robbery charges.   (According to Massachusetts General Law chapter 119, section 54, an offender who is between 14 and 17 and commits an offense that is a felony and causes serious bodily harm is charged as a Youthful Offender.)  Typically, the Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over Youthful Offender charges.  For the purposes of today’s arraignment, Judge Whitehead was appointed as Justice of the Juvenile Court.

The Commonwealth intends to move to join the Youthful Offender charges with the murder charge in Superior Court.

Essex Assistant District Attorneys Kate MacDougall and Melissa Woodard are representing the Commonwealth.  The victim’s family is receiving services from Essex Victim Witness Advocate Maureen Leal.

Mr. Chism is represented by Attorneys Denise Regan and Susan Oker.  The case is next scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on January 30, 2014.  The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

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