The prosecution of 15 year-old Philip Chism for the brutal rape and murder of math teacher Colleen Ritzer continues.I reported on that case in “Coleen Ritzer: A Legacy To Leave Behind” and “Coleen Ritzer: A Legacy To Leave Behind 2.” Now comes new information, not from the American press, but from The Daily Mail, which has been covering the story very effectively:
The teen who allegedly raped and murdered his high school maths teacher in a crime that shocked the nation tortured cats before he went on to kill, investigators believe.
Officers in 15-year-old Philip Chism’s home state of Tennessee are following up a lead that the soccer star – who is accused of slashing beloved Colleen Ritzer’s throat and brutalizing her body – got a twisted thrill from setting pet cats on fire.
The revelation is the first suggestion that the shy and seemingly well-behaved freshman may have had violent tendencies prior to October’s horrific killing in Danvers, Massachusetts.
But if he did have any sort of fascination with torturing animals, as officers believe, it would give investigators an insight into the depraved mind of a deeply disturbed teenager.
It is not thought he was ever arrested for the abuse, but police in Tennessee and Danvers are treating it as a serious line of inquiry and feel it may go some way to establishing a motive.
Known as the “Homicidal Triad,” cruelty to animals, pyromania and bedwetting past adolescence are often seen in serial killers and homicidal personalities. They are not present in every case, but crop up often enough to be significant. I’m not aware that investigators in this case are following that angle, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it eventually crop up, just as I was not surprised to discover the rape allegations against Chism.
According to reports at the time of his arrest, Chism admitted the murder yet he has never given a reason as to why he might have committed the crime. [skip]
He had previously pleaded not guilty to charges of rape, robbery and murder. [skip]
Chism, who had been asked to stay late by Ritzer to help after school, allegedly followed her into a bathroom shortly before 3 pm on October 22 and attacked her, sexually assaulted her twice, stripped her and then stole her cellphone, credit cars and her driver’s licenses.
In court documents released last month, state police said Chism confessed to killing Ritzer, but denied sexually assaulting her.
It is also not at all unusual for murderous personalities to delight in playing word games with the police, making partial admissions, but holding back pertinent details.
As I’ve previously noted, I follow this case because attacks from deranged shooters are not the only dangers teachers and students face. Had Ritzer been armed–an impossibility in Massachusetts–she might be alive today. At least she could have chosen to be prepared to protect herself. I’ll continue to update the case as more information becomes available.