DANVERS, Mass. – A teacher who was allegedly killed by one of her students had asked him to stay after school the day she was killed, a classmate said Thursday, as students met with grief counselors and tried to come to grips with the slaying of the popular teacher.
Philip Chism, 14, was charged with murder Wednesday in the death of Colleen Ritzer, 24, a math teacher at Danvers High School.
Rania Rhaddaoui sat two seats away from Chism in Ritzer’s Algebra I class, the final class of the school day. She said Chism was drawing in a notebook rather than taking notes Tuesday.
“She came over and said, ‘I didn’t know you draw,’ and he said, ‘yes,’ then later on, she said, ‘Can you stay after with me?’ ” Rhaddaoui said. “Obviously, he stayed after because when I was leaving, he was still at his desk.”
She said Ritzer had scheduled a test for Friday, but she was unsure why exactly Ritzer asked Chism to stay after school.
Ritzer never returned home that day. Blood in a second-floor bathroom helped lead investigators to her body, which was dumped in the woods behind the school in a close-knit community about 20 miles north of Boston.
Chism was picked up by police in the early morning hours Wednesday, walking along Route 1 in neighboring Topsfield.
The high school remained closed for classes Thursday, but grief counselors were on hand to offer comfort to students.
Kaitlyn Nash, 16, went to the school to be with her friends. She said students who knew and loved Ritzer were still trying to make sense of what happened.
She said she found it particularly frightening that she had theater rehearsal Tuesday afternoon and was at the school when authorities believe Ritzer was killed.
“It’s just terrifying,” she said. “I know a lot of people don’t want to go back to school at this point. I know we have to, and we just need to get on with.”
Classes were expected to resume today.
Authorities offered no clues Thursday on Chism’s alleged motive. They also would not say how Ritzer was killed but multiple Internet news sites reported she was killed with box cutters.
Chism had moved to Massachusetts from Tennessee before the start of the school year and was a top scorer on the school’s junior varsity soccer team.
Chism’s teammates on the soccer team have said he was soft-spoken and nonviolent.
Ritzer was described as an enthusiastic, caring teacher.