Police accuse Danvers student in death of Colleen Ritzer

Massachusetts authorities say a Danvers high school teacher was found murdered, and a teenage student has been taken into custody. (Reuters)

Colleen Ritzer, a 24-year-old math teacher, was found dead in the woods near Danvers High School in Danvers, Mass. earlier Wednesday. Police have apprehended a high school student who will face a murder charge in juvenile court. Authorities have not identified the boy because he is 14. They have also not said whether he knew Ritzer or how Ritzer died :

Police started investigating after Ritzer was reported missing late Tuesday night because she had not returned home from work and was not answering her cellphone. Investigators found blood in a second-floor school bathroom and soon located the victim, he said. He did not say how Ritzer died.

“She was a very, very respected, loved teacher,” [Essex District Attorney] Blodgett said, calling the killing a “terrible tragedy.”

The boy also was reported missing Tuesday after not coming home from school. He was spotted walking along a road in neighboring Topsfield at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Associated Press

The Boston Globe reported on Ritzer’s interactions with her students via social media , which revealed a teacher who treated her students as friends:

She had a Twitter account and website to remind her math students what their homework was. Ritzer often interacted with students through Twitter, and her personality peeked through in her posts about math.

One student tweeted this morning that she had been worried about Ritzer because she didn’t send any tweets Tuesday. In another tweet, the student said, “I hope when I’m older I can be half as nice as Ms. Ritzer was.”

Ritzer’s Twitter page was decorated for the season. She had pictures of a recent pumpkin-picking excursion and a tweet about making her first-ever apple crisp.

Scrolling through the page, birthday wishes and other exchanges with students could be found mixed in with tweets about math.

She recently tweeted good luck to her students for their PSAT exams. Students often favorited her tweets.

Another student tweeted today to bring a candle to Danvers High School at 8 p.m. tonight.

“It is optional, but something we should do,” the student tweeted, “RIP Ms. Ritzer.”

The Boston Globe

Ritzer is the second math teacher in two days in the United States who authorities believe was killed by a student. On Monday, a student allegedly shot and killed Michael Landsberry at a middle school in Sparks, Nev. Investigators believe Landsberry was killed while trying to persuade a student who had just shot a classmate to put down a gun:

At a news conference Tuesday, law enforcement and school officials again lauded the teacher’s actions, which police say gave students time to run for safety.

“I cannot express enough appreciation for Mr. Landsberry,” Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez said about the 45-year-old ex-Marine. “He truly is a hero.”

“His actions yesterday I believe saved the lives of many children,” added Col. Jeffrey Burkett, commander at the Nevada Air Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing where Landsberry served.

Police said they believe the shooter at one point tried to enter the school but couldn’t open the door because of emergency lockdown procedures.

After killing Landsberry, the boy fired at a second student, hitting him in the abdomen. He then shot himself in the head.

The two 12-year-old boys who were wounded are in stable condition and recovering.

Associated Press

All public schools in Danvers are closed Wednesday following Ritzer’s death.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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