When word broke of the murder of popular high school math teacher Colleen Ritzer (24) yesterday, the community of Danvers, Massachusetts and the nation at large were shocked. Adding to this tragedy was the horrific realization that one of her own students, Philip Chism (14), was suspected of stabbing Ritzer to death.
The young teacher's murder, coming as it did, on the heels of the killing of another teacher by a student in Nevada just days earlier made the story that much more jarring. With details about the crime unfolding so rapidly, one major change in the case almost passed by without mention. Philip Chism is being charged as an adult.
Chism was a relatively new addition to the community and the school, having moved to Massachusetts not so long ago from Tennessee. Chism was described by his teammates on the high school soccer team as being a nice guy. In fact, Chism was first missed on Tuesday when he didn't appear for practice. His teammates were the ones to begin the search for the teen who was later found on foot, one town over.
Though he stands at over six feet tall, Chism is only just barely a teenager. Although he has not yet faced a trial, there seems to be little doubt as to his having some sort of involvement in the crime. Reports have made mention of video footage that allegedly shows him hiding Ritzer's body in the woods behind the school. The real question is motive: Why would anyone, let alone someone so young, take the life of someone else and ostensibly destroy their own life in the process?
Height aside, Chism is still a child. As a teenager, he's just barely got control over his own body, his emotions, and his impulses. While this is no way justifies murder, I think it should have been considered when it came to charging him. If he is found guilty as an adult, he could be sent to an adult facility, which is tantamount to a death sentence. I am sure we'll continue to learn more about the boy and his victim and why he might have committed this crime, but I'd be hard pressed to hear any evidence that might make me think that charging Chism as an adult is the right choice.
Do you think Chism should have been charged as a child, or that given the nature of the crime, he should have to face adult consequences?
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