A Massachusetts State Police trooper broke down in tears on the witness stand Thursday while describing the fatal injuries suffered by a 24-year-old math teacher allegedly killed by her student.
Former Danvers High School freshman Philip Chism, now 16 years old, is being tried as an adult for the savage 2013 rape and murder of his teacher, Colleen Ritzer.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and aggravated rape.
Prosecutors allege Chism, then 14, raped the 24-year-old woman with a stick, repeatedly stabbed her and then disposed of her body by stuffing it inside a recycling bin and dumping it in the woods by the school on October 22, 2013.
Thursday marked Day 3 of testimony at a motion to suppress hearing, which got under way back on January 9.
State Police Trooper Steven Buccheri became visibly emotional when asked to describe for the court the extent of Miss Ritzer’s injuries, reported the Boston Globe.
The law enforcement official’s voice broke and he was seen wiping his eyes on the stand when asked how many wounds had been inflicted to Colleen Ritzer’s neck.
‘Sixteen,’ Buccheri replied with a heavy sigh.
The trooper also told the court that Chism led police to Ritzer’s body in the woods.
The teenager’s defense team have been pushing to have his alleged confession to the crime, the transcript and the video recording of his interview thrown out of court.
Chism’s lawyers argue that their client never waved his Miranda rights and invoked his right to remain silent in his initial encounters with police. They also claim that investigators pressured his mother to get him to talk to the cops.
Closing arguments in the motion to suppress hearing will be heard Monday, after which a judge will make a determination regarding the evidence in the case.
Earlier this month, Detective Sergeant Phil Tansey from Danvers, Massachusetts, police told a jury at Essex Superior Court how Philip Chism described the details of Collen Rizter’s grisly death after he was arrested in October 2013.
The youngster, who was 14 at the time, allegedly helped investigators recover the body by pointing to the spot on a map of woods behind Danvers High School where he dumped her corpse.
Tansey told the court that Chism confessed to murdering the popular 24-year-old during police interviews, but denied sexually assaulting her with a stick which was found near her body.
Authorities say surveillance video from October 22, 2013, shows Chism following Ritzer into a bathroom in Danvers High School, wearing gloves and a hood, then later walking out of the bathroom alone.
Tansey’s statements came as Chism’s lawyers look to throw out confessions and other evidence seized from him the night he was detained tossed out as evidence before trial.
A short time later, the video shows Chism pulling a recycling barrel through the school and outside.
Ritzer’s body was later found in nearby woods, naked from the waist down and with her throat slit and a note that read, ‘I hate you all.’
A recycling barrel was found near Ritzer’s body. Authorities said she was sexually assaulted with a stick.
On January 16, prosecutors called on State Police Detective Lt. Norman Zuk, who testified that Chism said a ‘trigger word’ had set him off before the murder. Zuk did not say what that word was.
Defense lawyers, meanwhile, called on Dr. Thomas Grisso, a retired University of Massachusetts professor and expert in juvenile psychiatry.
He testified about the ability of juveniles to understand the implications of waiving their right to not speak with police.
Defense lawyers say Chism was detained by police for more than three hours after he was picked up around 12.30am October 23.
They say he had been handcuffed for most of the time, was not allowed to make a phone call and had asked a number of times for food.
Chism’s lawyers say police coerced his mother, Diana, to get her then-14-year-old son into waiving his rights and making detailed statements about the murder, including how he knocked Ritzer out with a ‘karate chop’ before slicing her neck two times with a box cutter.
Prosecutors maintain Chism, who had recently moved to Massachusetts from Clarksville, Tennessee, and his mother never absolutely invoked their right to a lawyer.
At a recent hearing, prosecutors played audio from Diana Chism’s interview with police.
The mother said her son was ‘capable of snapping’ under the recent stress of his parents’ separation and that his family had a history of mental health issues.
Two local police officers also testified they found Chism carrying Ritzer’s ID and credit cards, a bloody box cutter and women’s underwear. Chism told the officers a woman was ‘buried in the woods’ and could not be helped.