The president of Assumption College in Worcester, which Ritzer graduated from magna cum laude in 2011, said she would be “missed by all those who knew her. The Assumption community will keep Colleen’s family members in its thoughts and prayers during this time of great sorrow and loss.”
Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett described Ritzer as a “very, very respected teacher,” calling her murder a “terrible tragedy.”
Her family issued a statement the day after the murder, brought out to members of the media, typed on a simple piece of white paper.
“At this time, we are mourning the tragic death of our amazing, beautiful daughter and sister,” it read. “Everyone that knew and loved Colleen knew of her passion for teaching and how she mentored each and every one of her students. We would like to ask everyone to respect our privacy at this most difficult time. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.”
The oldest of three children, her younger brother, Daniel, attends the University of Connecticut, while her younger sister, Laura, is a senior at Andover High School.
Ritzer loved watching her younger sister play ice hockey, going to as many games as she could.
“She loved her little sister and liked supporting Laura, so she would go to her games,” said her friend, Jennifer Berger.
Fr. Peter Gori, the pastor at St. Augustine Church on Essex Street, tried to console the family the day after the murder.
Parents Thomas and Peggie Ritzer reeled from the shock and sought answers, Gori said. He offered comfort and the knowledge that the community was there for them and grieving with them.
“There is no rule book for this sort of thing,” Gori said. “I let them know they were in our prayers and our compassion. If anything, what can make a terrible situation worse even is thinking you are alone in this. To be present for people suffering like this is a source of strength. ... It’s more important for them to be surrounded by love and caring that’s soothing for her parents and brother and sister.”