Family of Murdered Teacher Colleen Ritzer Protests Bill Affecting Convicted Killers

Colleen Ritzer
Colleen RitzerNational Memorial to Fallen Educators

The family of Colleen Ritzer, who was raped and murdered by her student, Philip Chism, are fighting a bill that would eliminate life sentences without the possibility of parole to first-degree murderers.

The parents of a Massachusetts teacher murdered by her 14-year-old student in 2013 pleaded with lawmakers Tuesday to reject a bill that would end prison sentences of life without the possibility of parole.

"Don't do this. Don’t do this to the victims. Don’t do this to the families. Think about what you’ll put the families through ... There’s no justice strong enough for someone who rapes and murders your daughter," urged Tom Ritzer, the father of 24-year-old high school math instructor Colleen Ritzer, who was raped, choked and stabbed inside a campus bathroom.

Freshman Philip Chism later put the teacher's body in a recycling bin and wheeled it into woods near Danvers High School. In 2016, at age 16, Chism was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Tom Ritzer was addressing state legislators considering a bill that would give parole eligibility to those convicted of first-degree murder after serving 25 years in prison. The measure would end sentences of life without the possibility of parole.

“Those who intentionally take an innocent life should not have an opportunity for parole. It’s that simple,” said Colleen's mother, Peggie Ritzer.

The pending legislation doesn't guarantee parole, but rather allows prisoners to request release from the state Parole Board. Prosecutors and relatives of the victims are permitted to testify at board hearings. 

Ritzer's father said his family was denied the satisfaction of seeing Colleen's killer locked away for good.

"The least you can ask for is life without parole. We didn’t get that. Don’t take it from the families that did," he said Tuesday. "Now you want to give them all a chance for parole at 25 years? Really? Come on. This is infuriating and disrespectful to all the families and the victims. We deserve better than this. Justice must support the victims, not the criminals.

"Respect and honor Colleen, and all the victims. We strongly oppose” the bill. “Don’t do this,” the father said.

The bill, titled "An Act To Reduce Mass Incarceration,” is one of several measures pending in Massachusetts designed to help overhaul the criminal and legal system.

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