Philip Chism, a teen charged with raping and murdering his high school math teacher, had a bloody box cutter and women’s underwear in his backpack when police detained him, according to testimony by police officers in a hearing last week. Diana Chism said her son, who recently moved to Massachusetts from Tennessee, did not have a history of violence, but she acknowledged he was recently stressed due to his parents’ divorce and that his family has a history of mental health problems, which could have caused him to snap.
“Anybody is capable of snapping under stressful situations,” Diana Chism said in an audio recording played in court. “Please don’t tell me someone is dead…”
The mother’s police interview and the officers’ testimony were part of a pretrial hearing in Essex Superior Court in which Chism’s lawyers sought to have the teen’s police confession thrown out. The hearing will continue on Jan. 16th.
Chism, 15, is being charged as an adult. He has pled not guilty in the October 2013 rape and murder of Colleen Ritzer, 24. Chism’s lawyers say police coerced him into waiving his rights and making detailed statements about the murder the night he was detained. Prosecutors maintain that neither Chism nor his mother invoked an attorney. Chism’s mother considered it, but left it up to her son and Chism decided to speak with detectives.
Diana Chism is heard on the recording saying, “I just want to say my son…does have a right to legal representation.”
Earlier in the hearing, Officers Neal Hovey and Joseph DeBernardo testified that they found Philip Chism on a poorly lit stretch of roadway carrying Ritzer’s ID and credit cards. They were responding to a report of an African American man walking on the side of the road. The officers picked up Chism after learning that he was reported missing by his mother.
At the station, officers searched his backpack and found suspicious items. They stated that when they found the bloody box cutter Chism said, “The girl.” The officers said that they read Chism his rights, he understood them, and continued to answer questions. DeBernardo said he asked Chism where the girl was. He responded: “Buried in the woods.”
“If we find her, can we help her?” Chism said no.
Authorities say surveillance video from Oct. 22, 2013, shows Chism following Ritzer into a school bathroom, wearing gloves and a hood, then later walking out alone. A short time later, Chism returns with a recycling bin, which he pulls through the school and outside.
A recycling bin was found near Ritzer’s body as well as a note that said, “I hate you all.”. Prosecutors allege that after the murder, Chism used Ritzer’s credit card to buy fast food and attend a movie at the mall.
In addition to the Ritzer case, Chism has pled not guilty to attempted murder and other charges stemming from an attack at the Department of Youth Services where Chism was in custody awaiting trial.