DANVERS, Mass. - A teacher who was allegedly killed by one of her students had asked him to stay after school the day she was killed, a classmate said, as students met with grief counsellors and tried to come to grips with the slaying of the popular teacher.
Philip Chism, 14, was charged with murder in the death of Colleen Ritzer, a 24-year-old math teacher at Danvers High School.
Rania Rhaddaoui sat two seats away from Chism in Ritzer's Algebra I class, the final class of the school day. She said Chism was drawing in a notebook rather than taking notes Tuesday.
"She came over and said, 'I didn't know you draw,' and he said, 'yes,' then later on, she said, 'Can you stay after with me?'" Rhaddaoui said. "Obviously, he stayed after because when I was leaving, he was still at his desk."
She said Thursday that Ritzer had scheduled a test for Friday, but she was unsure why exactly Ritzer asked Chism to stay after school.
Ritzer never returned home that day. Blood in a second-floor bathroom helped lead investigators to her body, which was dumped in the woods behind the school in a close-knit community about 20 miles (30 kilometres) north of Boston.
Chism was picked up by police in the early morning hours Wednesday, walking along the highway in neighbouring Topsfield. His attorney declined to comment outside court Wednesday and did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.
The high school remained closed for classes Thursday, but grief counsellors were on hand to offer comfort to students.
Classes were expected to resume Friday.
Authorities offered no clues Thursday on Chism's alleged motive. They also would not say how Ritzer was killed.
Carrie Kimball-Monahan, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, said the case was still being investigated.
Chism had moved to Massachusetts from Tennessee before the start of the school year and was a top scorer on the school's junior varsity soccer team.
Jean McCartin, a Danvers School Committee member, said the school has extensive programs to help ease the transition for new students who may have problems but there was no information about Chism that would have presented any red flags.
The manager of Hollywood Hits Theatres in Danvers said Chism went to the theatre late Tuesday afternoon and bought a ticket to see Woody Allen's new movie, "Blue Jasmine."
"He didn't stand out in any way," Przybycien said. "There was no reason for any business to be concerned. He looked like a normal, everyday customer coming in to watch a movie."
Chism appeared briefly in court Wednesday for arraignment on a murder charge and was ordered held without bail.
Ritzer was the second teacher allegedly killed by a student in the U.S. this week. A Sparks, Nevada, middle school teacher was shot Monday, allegedly by a 12-year-old student.
Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie in Boston and Travis Loller in Clarksville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
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