Prosecution adds new aggravated rape charge in Philip Chism case

February 27, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Good morning:

Time to update readers on the Philip Chism case in Massachusetts. He is the 14-year-old boy charged with raping, robbing and killing his 8th grade math teacher, Colleen Ritzer.

First, a word of caution. The article discusses graphic and potentially disturbing acts.

A new charge of aggravated rape was added last month, so he now faces two rape charges.

The first charge was based on a stick or tree limb that police found inserted into her vagina when they found her body in the woods next to the school.

I suspect the second charge is based on an STR/DNA test result that detected the presence of spermatozoa that yielded a complete profile matching his known profile. Such a result would warrant two separate rape charges and the delay in charging the second count may have been due to a delay in processing the evidence at the crime lab.

To review the STR/DNA testing procedure, read my recent article about the Craig Michael Wood case, How DNA testing will be used in the case against Craig Michael Wood.

I have been somewhat perplexed by the original rape charge involving the tree limb because I have been assuming it was was inserted in the woods post mortem (i.e., after she died). If that were so, the appropriate charge would be abuse of a corpse.

I have to assume, however, that the prosecution knows the difference between the two charges, so I think they believe they can prove that he inserted the limb, which I also have read described as a stick, in the bathroom before he slashed her throat.

This new rape charge probably preceded that act and may not have involved penetration of her vagina.

The defense is attempting to sever the new rape charge to keep it in juvenile court. Unless he pleads guilty, he will be tried in adult court on the original three charges.

I do not believe his lawyers will succeed in preventing the juvenile court from declining jurisdiction and transferring the new rape charge to adult court.

The Daily Mail, which tends to highlight the lurid aspect of violent crimes, is reporting that investigators in Clarksville, TN, where Chism lived with his mother before they moved to Massachusetts last fall, are investigating a rumor that he tortured cats and set them on fire.

Since motive is not an element of the charges against him, the prosecution could not introduce that evidence at trial, assuming it exists.

It might, however, be admissible at a sentencing hearing.

Finally, the Boston Herald is reporting today that Cellebrite has completed its effort to recover video and photographs stored on Chism’s smashed cell phone that police recovered in the woods near Ritzer’s body.

The Boston Herald states,

What if any disturbing evidence investigators recovered from accused teen killer Philip Chism’s smashed Samsung smartphone to bolster their charges he raped and murdered Danvers High math teacher Colleen Ritzer — and possibly memorialized the horror in pictures — may not be disclosed until the case goes to trial.

The results of that testing have been filed under seal.

I doubt they would have filed the results under seal, if Cellebrite did not find anything.

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