PHILIP CHISM – The 16-year-old Danvers High School student who was found guilty of murdering his math teacher when he was just 14 will have a probation requirements hearing, but will not appear at it. Colleen Ritzer, 24, a teacher at Danvers High School was found murdered in the woods near the school in October of 2013. In addition, Chism’s sentencing date for the murder conviction has been pushed back to February 26th from the original date of tomorrow after a request from a juvenile probation official. Chism was convicted of aggravated rape, robbery, and first-degree murder and faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 – 25 years. He faces separate charges of attempted murder for an unrelated incident at a state-run facility where he was awaiting trial. A hearing on that matter has been set for Feb. 11th. Chism is accused of attacking a female employee.
DYLANN ROOF – The court will draw from a pool of 600 potential jurors for the trial of Dylann Roof, 21, who is accused of murdering 9 people at a Charleston church last year. He faces 9 counts of murder in state court as well as 33 federal charges (which include hate crimes and obstruction of the practice of religion). He’s accused of entering Mother Emanuel Church during a Bible study meeting and opening fire upon the parishioners, which included state Senator Clementa Pinckney. He injured 3 people and killed 9. Jury selection is scheduled for June 28th. The state prosecution has announced their intent to seek the death penalty. The federal prosecution has stated they will most likely make a decision in March on whether to seek the death penalty. The judge said that the large pool is necessary due to the complexity of the case. The pool is about twice as large as a typical trial.
DYLANN ROOF-INSPIRED THEATER SHOOTING – The drifter who walked into a Louisiana movie theater last summer and shot several people left behind a hate journal in which he thanked the man accused of a Charleston church shooting for the “wake up call”. “Had Dylann Roof reached political maturity he would have seen the word is not [racial slur] but liberal,” 59-year-old John “Rusty” Houser wrote shortly before he fatally-shot two women at a Lafayette theater. Houser was a former bar owner from Georgia with a long history of mental illness. He committed suicide after his deadly shooting spree as cops closed in on him. His journal was found in the Motel 6 he was staying at, entitled: “Reasons for My Actions.” Houser was a fan of Donald Trump, who is currently running for Republican Presidential nomination. He called America “a filth farm” and “If you have not stood against filth, you are now a soft target.” Houser bashed the media and went on a sexist, racist, and homophobic rant including saying that “40% of whites are now as depraved as the majority of blacks.” Houser also appeared to rail against religion as well stating, “God is not good.” In addition, he wrote that women and blacks are not “mentally” equal to white men. In his final entries, he mentioned “Trainwreck”, the movie that was screening when he entered to begin shooting and a movie time. “My choice is clear for anyone that is a leader. If you see the truth, you know what is to come.”
MCSTAY FAMILY MURDER – Charles “Chase” Merritt, a former business partner of Joseph McStay, is accused of killing the family of 4 and hiding their bodies in shallow graves in the Mojave Desert near Victorville, California. Prosecutors allege that his motive was greed and that he killed the family with a sledgehammer. Merritt has fired his defense attorneys. Following a closed hearing Thursday in San Bernardino Superior Court in which Judge Michael A. Smith conferred with Merritt’s attorneys – Jimmy Mettias, David Askander, Sharon Brunner and Rajan Maline – Smith granted Merritt’s request. He found that there was a “breakdown in the attorney-client relationship…” A hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday where it will be decided whether he will retain or be appointed a new attorney or represent himself. The trial is scheduled to begin in April.
Merritt, 58, faces the death penalty if convicted of the February 2010 beating deaths of Joseph, 40, his wife, Summer, 43, and their children, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3. Prosecutors allege that Merritt was a gambling addict who was heavily in debt and killed Joseph McStay and his family. He allegedly withdrew $21,000 out of McStay’s online business account after the family vanished. He then patronized some casinos in the California area. The family was discovered by a man riding a dirt bike in the Mojave Desert. Autopsies concluded that the family was beaten to death by a blunt object. Investigators believe it was the 3 lb. Stanley sledgehammer found in the shallow grave with Summer McStay and one of her sons. The prosecution believes the victims were tortured before dying given the extent of their injuries including to their heads, legs, arms, and torsos.
The McStay family was last seen alive on Feb. 4, 2010 when Joseph McStay went to lunch with Merritt at a Chick-fil-A near where Merritt lived to talk business. Joseph McStay owned the online company Earth Inspired Products, which sold custom-made decorative water fountains.