Teen’s grandfather testifies in Danvers murder trial

Philip Chism, left, appears in Salem Superior Court where a judge declared the Massachusetts teenager charged with raping and killing his math teacher competent to stand trial, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, in Salem, Mass. (Ken Yuszkus/The Salem News via AP, Pool)

SALEM, Mass. (WPRI) — The grandfather of Philip Chism described his grandson as well-behaved and respectful as he took the stand in the teen’s murder trial Tuesday.

Chism, 16, is on trial for the rape and murder of 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer, a math teacher at Danvers High School.

The prosecution rested their case Monday, having shown evidence they believe proves Chism brutally murdered Ritzer in a women’s bathroom and used a recycling bin to transport her body to the woods nearby.

Chism’s lawyers began laying out their case Tuesday, setting the stage for their insanity defense. The lawyers have acknowledged that Chism, who was 14 at the time, killed Ritzer, but they argue he should not be held criminally responsible because he was driven by a severe mental illness.

Chism’s grandfather told the jury that Philip was very quiet, saying he has a beautiful soul.

A family friend from Tennesee also took the stand Tuesday, saying Chism’s family would often stay at her house. Claudia Rodriguez testified that Chism was a normal kid and very polite, but was very angry to learn he was moving to Massachusetts.

Several former Danvers High School students told the jury that Chism was outgoing at the start of the school year, but became quiet and reserved in the weeks leading up to Ritzer’s death.

“I thought it was strange,” said Matthew Lebel. “I knew him as a very excited person, very outgoing, talking to us and getting to know us, and then all of a sudden he just got quiet and changed completely.”

Chism’s grandfather also testified Tuesday that Philip’s grandmother and aunt both suffered from mental illness.

Comments are closed.