I ended the first article of this series: Coleen Ritzer: A Legacy to Leave Behind, thus:
And now, because we have elected politicians who value making statements and promoting dangerous, politically correct gestures rather than upholding the unalienable rights of citizens, we, the surviving citizens of these United States, will support Phillip Chism for the rest of his long, natural life, and Coleen Ritzer will be, forever, 24.
I was wrong. Fox News explains:
A teenager who raped and killed his high school math teacher was sentenced Friday [02-26-16] to life in prison with eligibility for parole in 25 years.
Philip Chism was convicted in December in the 2013 death of Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer. He was 14 when he followed the 24-year-old Ritzer into a school bathroom, strangled her, stabbed her at least 16 times and raped her.
This is where I was wrong. We will not be supporting Chism for the rest of his life. It is highly likely, particularly considering that Chism will be incarcerated in Massachusetts, that at the age of 41, he will be freed to murder and rape again. He’s a sexual predator. There is no known treatment, save locking such demons up and throwing away the key. If released—and he will be—he will thank the citizens of Massachusetts in blood. Note that the Fox story did not mention this, which I documented in Coleen Ritzer: A Legacy To Leave Behind 4:
Prosecutors have asked for strict security for a Danvers teenager charged with killing his teacher after he allegedly attacked a female youth worker this month.
In court papers released Thursday at the request of The Salem News, Essex County prosecutors said 15-year-old Philip Chism slipped away from caregivers before the June 2 incident at a youth facility in Boston.
Prosecutor Kate MacDougall said Chism crept along a common hallway ‘crouched down out of view,’ followed the woman to a locker room and tried to choke her while holding a pencil. Other workers came to the woman’s aid when she screamed.
Chism is at Worcester State Hospital for evaluation.
Back to Fox, where we may try to understand, to the limited degree such a thing is possible, the horrific effects of such crimes on survivors:
Judge David Lowy pronounced the sentence after hearing victim-impact statements from Ritzer’s loved ones. He called the slaying ‘brutal and senseless.’
‘Colleen Ritzer lived a life of quiet heroism,’ Lowy said. “The crashing waves of this tragedy will never wane.’
Ritzer’s parents, siblings, colleagues and lifelong friends described a young woman who loved her job, her students and life and who never had a negative word to say. Many of them wore pink, her favorite color.
Peggie Ritzer said her daughter’s death had left her ‘so very broken.’
‘Now I isolate myself from people I love because pretending being to be happy is so difficult,’ she said.
She asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence. ‘He is pure evil, and evil can never be rehabilitated,’ she said.
Tom Ritzer said he felt like he had failed his daughter.
‘I didn’t protect Colleen. A dad’s job is to fix things. I would do anything I could if could fix this for Colleen.
It is not uncommon for such crimes to destroy the families of victims. People sometimes are unable to carry on. The mere sight of a spouse is a glaringly intolerable reminder of the lost loved one.
Prosecutors had asked that he stay in prison for at least 50 years. Defense attorney Susan Oker asked for a sentence that would make Chism eligible for parole no later than age 40. She cited scientific studies that said a juvenile brain is not fully developed.
This is one of the faults in our criminal justice system. Juvenile brains are indeed not fully developed, but, as the research of Dr. John Money, who died in 2006, suggested, our “love maps,” the way in which we process and express sexuality, is firmly imprinted by 13, or earlier. Sexual predators start young, and they virtually never change. Judge Lowy called the crime “brutal and senseless,” but apparently not sufficiently brutal and senseless to put Chism away until he poses little or no threat to women. Considering Chism beat, raped, stabbed, raped with a tree branch and ultimately murdered Ritzer, one wonders what sort of brutality would have to be involved to encourage Lowy to hand down a maximum sentence. Lowy was obviously swayed by Oker’s argument and by Chism’s relative youth when he committed these irredeemably evil acts. Chism will almost certainly be released at a vital age, an age when he will be highly motivated, physically capable, and anxious to commit more atrocities. This was an issue I addressed in the second article in this series:
Why did Chism do it? The police have several theories: he wanted Ritzer sexually, but she rebuffed him. He was afraid if he failed her math class, he couldn’t play soccer. These are both plausible theories, but they explain little. Millions of kids have crushes on attractive teachers. Millions of kids fail a class and are temporarily prevented from participating in athletics or other school activities. They don’t brutally rape and murder anyone. What makes Chism different from the overwhelming majority of 14 year-olds–or adults, for that matter–that deal with such stresses every day without resorting to violence?
Often, criminals act for no reason other than that they want to do it. Rapists like to rape, to beat, torture and hurt their victims. They derive immense pleasure from their acts. Even burglars, thieves and non-violent criminals act because they enjoy what they do, even deriving a kind of sexual thrill. They often think themselves smarter, more cunning than others. They may think themselves superior, possessed of a kind of insight others lack, but ultimately, they do it because they want to do it and they like it.
It’s scary because there is no way to prevent that kind of behavior. In most cases, there is no way to predict it. As in similar cases, those that knew Chism, his soccer coach, fellow players, classmates, even his parents, can’t understand why Chism (allegedly) went off the deep end. They say he was the nicest kid on the soccer team, quiet, never violent, the last person anyone would suspect. This too is common and makes this kind of violence so inexplicable.
Is Chism a sociopath, someone essentially lacking a conscience? Does he feel nothing for the suffering of others, or is he a sadist, delighting in that suffering? Perhaps a combination of both? Or do we just need to have names for that kind of unimaginable cruelty, because if we name something, it implies we understand and can control it? We certainly need to feel we are in control.
Back To Fox:
At trial, the defense admitted Chism killed Ritzer but said he was suffering from severe mental illness and wasn’t criminally responsible for his actions. A psychiatrist who testified for the defense said Chism, who had just moved to Massachusetts from Clarksville, Tennessee, was hearing voices and in the throes of a psychotic episode when he killed Ritzer.
Really? Was he “in the throes of a psychotic episode” when he attacked another woman at a youth facility in Boston? Will he be so enthralled when he is released from prison in the future? And if so, what difference will that make to his future victims? Will they be any less dead if he rapes and murders them merely because he wanted to and enjoyed it, than if he were psychotic? Will the survivors be comforted?
Oh, but we can’t blame the judge for his decision. Yes we can. He works for us, and his decisions affect us all.
The other articles in this series are:
I suggest, gentle readers, they may be worth your time. There are several worthwhile lessons to be learned from this case that Coleen Ritzer, and her legacy of selfless dedication and kindness, not be forgotten.
The eternal battle of good and evil for human souls is fought among us each and every day. Because we have free will, we may reject this reality, and the forces of evil work very hard to ensure we do just that. If we, willfully, refuse to so much as acknowledge the existence of evil, if we blithely imagine that all philosophies, all cultures, all people are equally valid and worthy, that kindness and altruism is the default condition of our species, evil delights, for its never-ending task is made all the easier. We cannot combat when we cannot see.
There are some among us who, again, exercising free will, ally with evil more readily than others. They delight in doing its bidding. They leave the good—particularly the good that deny the existence of evil–shaking their heads, unable to process the atrocities of such as Philip Chism. There may be a genetic component involved. Such deviance may run in families. Nature, as well as nurture, may be involved.
One may even think of such things in theological terms. Do demons possess human beings? If one is predisposed, if one is willing, such a relationship would seem far more likely, and far more deadly. Regardless of how we struggle to understand it, evil exists.
We see, all around us, in ISIS, in ethnic cleaning, in Iran, in the genocidal maniacs surrounding Israel, in parents that teach their children to hate, murder and commit suicide to kill others, in domestic crime and terrorism, evil. We see the consequences of ignoring evil, of refusing to believe it exists, of cultural relativity, every day. We see it in “leaders” who refuse to call evil by its name. We see it in legislators who, thinking evil a quaint superstition, deny the law-abiding and good the means to defend their very lives.
We see it in Philip Chism, who is surely laughing and biding his time. Twenty-five years, after all, is but a blink of an eye in an eternal war. And people escape from prison all the time…