“Anybody is capable of snapping under stressful situations.” So began Diana Chism’s statement when she was first approached by police in October 2013 and told her son Philip had been arrested and charged with the aggravated rape and murder of his teacher. An audio of her entire statement was played at a pretrial hearing Friday in Essex (Mass.) Superior Court at the behest of her son’s attorneys, who are moving to have the teen’s police confession suppressed.
That they are facing up an uphill battle is an understatement. Police testifying at the hearing yesterday revealed having found in Chism’s backpack the bloody box cutter he used to slash 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer’s throat along with her underwear. Earlier, investigators had reported finding the teen’s blood-soaked clothes in his possession along with Ritzer’s credit card, which he had used after murdering her to charge a ticket to the movies and a meal at a fast food restaurant.
The Associated Press noted (via Yahoo News) that Chism’s lawyers are arguing that police coerced him into waiving his Miranda rights and making detailed statements about the murder the night he was taken into custody. But prosecutors maintain that Chism and his mother never absolutely invoked the need for a lawyer.
They say Chism’s mother considered it but ultimately left her son to decide if he wanted to speak with law enforcement. The officers testifying Friday said Chism did.
“Do I need an attorney?” Diana Chism asks in audio played in court. “I don’t have anything to hide. This is just really odd to me.”
A surveillance video from Oct. 22, 2013, played at the pretrial hearing, showed Chism following Ritzer into a school bathroom, wearing gloves and a hood, then later walking out of the bathroom alone. A short time later, the same video showed Chism pulling a recycling barrel through the school and outside. Ritzer’s body was found in nearby woods, naked from the waist down, with her throat slit. They also found a note that read, “I hate you all.” Forensic evidence revealed Ritzer had been sexually assaulted with a stick.
Chism, who is being tried as an adult, has also pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and other charges stemming from an assault on a Department of Youth Services worker while in custody for Ritzer’s murder.