Philip Chism refuses to enter courtroom to stand trial for murdering high school teacher

Chism, 16, was twitching, mumbling and saying he was about to explode as he sat in a holding cell

The box cutter that prosecutors say Philip Chism used to kill his high school math teacher, Colleen Ritzer. It was shown during the first day of the now-16-year-old’s murder trial. —Ken Yuszkus / The Salem News

Minutes before the recycling bin Philip Chism allegedly used to dispose of his teacher’s body was brought into the courtroom, the teenager refused to leave his holding cell Tuesday to continue his murder trial.

Defense attorney Denise Regan said Chism, 16, was twitching, mumbling and saying he was about to explode as he sat in a holding cell just outside the courtroom at Salem Superior Court.

“He doesn’t want to hurt anyone,’’ she said Chism stated.

Judge David A. Lowy took a brief recess to observe the teenager. Chism was laying on the floor of the cell, muttering with his eyes closed, and wouldn’t respond to anyone’s questions, the judge said.


The court reached out to Dr. Virginia Merritt, the psychologist who performed Chism’s previous 20-day competency evaluation in Worcester, to do another, presumably shorter, evaluation. The jury was then excused for the day.

Court adjourned just after 4 p.m. with no decision on Chism’s competency. A court officer told the packed gallery that “it could still go either way.’’

A court officer also told the court that Chism said he didn’t want to hurt them or anyone else.

“I can’t take this anymore,’’ the officer recounted Chism saying.

It is the second day of Chism’s trial as an adult on charges of murder, rape and robbery. He is accused of killing his Danvers High School teacher, Colleen Ritzer, on Oct. 22, 2013.

The morning’s testimony included police officers describing what they found in a bathroom at the school and the woods. One officer described a bloody recycling bin that Chism allegedly used to discard Ritzer’s body in the woods.

That bin was going to be brought into the courtroom as evidence after the break, prosecutor Kate MacDougall said.

Chism’s trial was already delayed last month during jury selection when he refused to enter the courtroom and told a psychologist that he was hearing voices and wanted to die. After a 20-day competency evaluation, the judge deemed him competent to stand trial — meaning he understood the charges against him and could assist in his defense.


During the evaluation at a state hospital in Worcester, Chism was diagnosed with a psychotic disorder and put on medication, his attorney said. Regan admitted in her opening statement that Chism did what he’s accused of, but said he was in the midst of a psychotic break when he killed Ritzer.

Jump To Comments

Get the latest breaking news sent directly to your phone. Download our free app.