A prosecutor raised concerns about the safety of people around a 15-year-old Danvers boy accused of raping and killing his high school math teacher in newly released court documents that provide more detail about his alleged assault of a female counselor at a juvenile detention facility.
Essex County prosecutors asked a judge to recommend that Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital impose strict security precautions for Philip Chism while he undergoes a mental health evaluation there, according to court papers made public Thursday.
But Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead ruled after a hearing June 10 that the request from prosecutors was beyond the court’s authority.
In making the argument, lead prosecutor Kate Berrigan MacDougall described how Chism allegedly followed a female counselor June 2 into a staff bathroom at a Department of Youth Services facility in Boston where he was being held and attacked her.
“In order to do so, he took steps to elude other staff that were believed to be observing him . . . creeping along a common hallway crouched down out of view of observers,” MacDougall wrote in an affidavit filed June 10 in Salem Superior Court. She also wrote that she told a DYS official on Nov. 20 that she had concerns about about him being alone with female staff.
Chism has pleaded not guilty to charges that he raped and murdered 24-year-old Danvers High School math teacher Colleen Ritzer on Oct. 22. He was awaiting trial in DYS custody, but two days after the alleged attack on the counselor, he was ordered by Whitehead to undergo a 30-day evaluation at Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital. The order expires July 4.
During the assault, Chism choked and beat the counselor around the head and face before being restrained by staff, MacDougall wrote. She added that Chism was armed with a pencil.
The incident is being investigated by State Police assigned to Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said his spokesman, Jake Wark.
“We do expect that the matter will be charged,” he said.
DYS spokesman Alec Loftus said in a statement that the safety and well-being of its staff is a primary concern.
“A full review of this incident will be conducted to identify any necessary security enhancements at the facility,” he said.
Chism’s defense attorney, Denise Regan, declined to comment. A spokesman for Ritzer’s family referred questions to prosecutors.
Whitehead made the court filings public Thursday in response to a request made by The Salem News.
The court papers also show MacDougall asked a judge to recommend that Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital not let Chism go anywhere in the facility or on its grounds that is not secure and locked; prohibit him from being left alone with female patients or staff; and not allow him to be located anywhere he might gain access to female staff.
She also asked the judge to recommend the hospital not let Chism leave the facility unless there is a court order in place and the Essex County Sheriff’s Department is notified.
MacDougall cited concerns from prosecutors about the level of supervision at the facility for criminal defendants there who were detained under the state’s dangerousness law. She gave an example of one such defendant who was given a day pass to leave hospital grounds without prosecutors or the court being notified.
In another case involving a defendant being prosecuted in Middlesex County, MacDougall wrote that the person was allowed to attend a parent’s funeral without prosecutors or the court being notified. She wrote it was also unclear whether sheriff’s department staff escorted him, or whether hospital staff brought him there.
“This defendant was alleged to have committed a series of increasingly violent sexual attacks on women in public places,” MacDougall said.
The hospital is operated by the state Department of Mental Health. Spokeswoman Anna Chinappi said it was a new, state-of-the-art, locked mental health treatment facility with controlled perimeter security and units that are monitored around the clock by staff.
“Patients admitted for court-ordered evaluations are limited to certain areas and never allowed independent access to any part of the facility,” she said.