By Warren Talbot
---- — The family of Colleen Ritzer of Andover who was allegedly murdered by one of her students at Danvers High School in October, today issued a statement critical of a recent ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that allows youths convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison the opportunity for parole.
“The Ritzer family feels a deep sense of betrayal and anguish with the recent decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that provides more rights to those youths convicted of horrible and heinous crimes than victims and their families," the statement said. "This decision should not be applauded, rather overturned as an act of justice and humanity to victims of violent crimes and their families.”
Ritzer, 24, was found dead in the woods behind Danvers High School on Oct. 23.
Philip D. Chism allegedly raped, robbed and killed her before dumping her body near the school.
Chism was indicted in Essex County last month. He will face the first degree murder charge as an adult; for his indictments on the rape and armed robbery charges, he was treated as a juvenile, and those charges at least initially will be handled in Salem Juvenile Court.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges and is being held without bail.
Prior to the SJC ruling, he faced a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
Ritzer was allegedly murdered a day after she had stayed late to tutor Chism for a exam.
"While these convicted murderers are now provided a second chance through the possibility of parole, victims slain at the hands of ‘youthful offenders,' possibly even our precious daughter Colleen, will be victimized again and again," the family said in the statement.
The ruling came Christmas Eve.
"Our daughter and sister Colleen was taken in a cruel manner; we are now forced to endure a tremendous loss for life while her likely attacker will be afforded the opportunity for parole if convicted. There will never be ‘parole’ for our family’s life sentence without Colleen," the statement said. "If the individual charged with her horrific murder is convicted and sentenced to life in prison, he must never, ever have an opportunity for parole. Paroling such violent offenders would be more cruel and unusual punishment to victims’ families and loved ones."