Chism lawyers drop bid to have sex assault charge dropped

Phillip Chism and defense attorney Denise Regan during a 2014 hearing.
Phillip Chism and defense attorney Denise Regan during a 2014 hearing.

SALEM — Defense lawyers for a teenager accused of raping and murdering his Danvers High School math teacher have dropped their bid to have one of the two sexual assault charges against him thrown out.

The request from Philip D. Chism’s defense team to dismiss one of the aggravated rape charges was withdrawn Wednesday, according to the office of Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett.

Chism’s lawyers had made the request last week and a judge was scheduled to hear arguments on the petition Thursday afternoon in Essex Superior Court. Defense attorney Denise Regan declined to comment.


Prosecutors allege Chism killed Colleen Ritzer, 24, in a school bathroom the afternoon of Oct. 22, 2013, stabbing her in the neck and then putting her body in a recycling bin and dragging it into woods near the school. The medical examiner determined Ritzer suffered 16 stab wounds to her neck.

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Chism is also accused of sexually assaulting her.

Chism was 14 years old at the time of Ritzer’s death. He is now 16 and is being tried as an adult for Ritzer’s killing. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated rape, and armed robbery.

During a hearing Thursday, the prosecution asked for a court order to allow its mental health expert to speak with the counselor and others who worked with Chism after the state Department of Youth Services took custody of him in the wake of Ritzer’s murder.

Essex Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall said DYS will not provide prosecution psychologist Robert Kinscherff with contact information for a particular counselor without a court order. That counselor’s colleague was allegedly attacked by Chism in June 2014, MacDougall said.


Suffolk County prosecutors charged Chism in that attack and the case is pending.

“I am asking for Dr. Kinscherff to be able to have a conversation with the woman who was counseling the defendant in the immediate aftermath of this offense,” MacDougall said.

She said the counselor and other clinicians, teachers, and workers Chism has been in contact with since his arrest have been available to the defense expert and that this issue has come up because the teenager is being held at a DYS facility and not in a county jail.

Regan, the defense attorney, said she does not object to Kinscherff talking with the counselor and others as long as the conversations do not divulge privileged information about Chism.

“When there is a privilege involved, that’s the issue,” she said. “These are professionals who are licensed who should know what’s privileged and what’s not. This is part and parcel of their profession.”


The defense disclosed in July that it plans to offer evidence at trial about Chism’s mental state at the time of the attack. Chism’s lawyers have retained New York City psychiatrist Dr. Richard G. Dudley Jr. as an expert witness.

His trial is set to start Oct. 7.

Lowy said he must rule on whether Kinscherff is privy to privileged conversations Chism had with the counselor and others. He scheduled a hearing for Friday afternoon.

“A psychotherapist sees a client beating up somebody, their impression of what’s going on there is not privileged. Their observations aren’t privileged,” Lowy said. “As it relates to privileged conversations, I’ve got to make the decision.”

Chism did not attend the hearing. Ritzer’s parents listened to the arguments from the front row of the courtroom.

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.