Family of murdered Danvers teacher sues town, school department

DANVERS, MASS. (WHDH) - The family of Colleen Ritzer, the Danvers teacher raped and murdered inside Danvers High School in 2013, has filed a lawsuit against the school department, the town and other organizations.

The suit was filed against the town of Danvers, the school department, the architectural firm that designed the security system and the new wing where Ritzer was killed, and the school’s cleaning company.

Ritzer’s family is seeking answers to many questions surrounding her death, as well as compensation to enhance school safety programs. They are not seeking personal financial compensation. The lawsuit said the Ritzer family wants to know why no one was monitoring the school’s new state-of-the-art security cameras and how Chism could roam around the school covered in blood without being noticed. The suit also wants to know what the school is doing to improve security.

Ritzer’s killer, Philip Chism, was convicted in December and sentenced in February. He was 14 in October 2013 when he followed the 24-year-old Ritzer into a school bathroom, strangled her, stabbed her at least 16 times with a box cutter and raped her.

Chism was sentenced to life in prison in February with a possibility of parole in 40 years for the murder, rape and armed robbery of Ritzer. Judge David Lowy sentenced Chism to life in prison with a parole eligibility of 25 years for the murder charge, and two concurrent charges of 40 years in prison for rape and armed robbery.

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,” said Lowy. “The crashing waves of this tragedy will never wane.”

The architectural firm declined to comment and the cleaning company did not respond when 7News reached out.

Statement from Steve Bartha, Danvers Town Manager:

“Colleen’s death was a tragedy for the whole community and our hearts go out to the Ritzer family. We respect the legal process that the family is persuing.”

Comment from Lisa Dana, Danvers School Superintendent:

“At this point, we cannot comment on the pending litigation. We are, however, committed to continuing Colleen Ritzer’s legacy of kindness and dedication to teaching.”

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