Massachusetts teenager charged in October killing in court on assault charge

By Elizabeth Barber

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts teenager accused of raping and murdering a teacher at his former high school appeared in a Boston court on Wednesday to face charges of stalking and attacking a female staffer at the detention center where he is awaiting trial.

Philip Chism, 15, was charged with following a Department of Youth Services staff worker into a bathroom last month, where prosecutors say he beat her, stabbed her with a pencil and attempted to strangle her.

  Chism was arraigned in Suffolk County Juvenile Court on one charge of attempted murder, two charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and one charge of kidnapping.

Chism has been charged as an adult in the alleged rape and murder of 24-year-old math teacher Colleen Ritzer in October at his high school in Danvers, Massachusetts, about 20 miles north of Boston.

Prosecutor Mark Zanini said at the hearing that the June 2 incident occurred when Chism was alone with a male staff worker in the center’s common space. As Chism sat at a desk with a pencil and book, he studied the staff worker and decided that the worker was inattentive, Zanini said.

Chism then hatched a plan to get to the staff hallway, where he had just seen a 29-year-old female staff worker and, still holding the pencil, began moving from desk to desk around the room to get nearer to the hallway, Zanini said.

  Chism sneaked into a staff locker room that he had seen the female staffer enter, Zanini said. He found her, put both hands on her neck, pushed her into the bathroom and began attacking her, according to Zanini. Other staffers heard her screams and rescued her, he said. 

  Chism, dressed in a blue shirt, khaki pants and boating shoes, and cuffed around his ankles and wrists, looked down at the table as Zanini read the narrative of the alleged attack. Chism spoke twice during the hearing, each time answering "yes" to the question of whether he understood the judge’s orders. 

Chism has been charged as an adult in the Ritzer case, which makes his identity public and could subject him to stiffer penalties if convicted. He is being treated as a juvenile in the June case.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Barber; Editing by Scott Malone and Eric Beech)