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Family of Colleen Ritzer, Danvers teacher murdered in 2013, resolve civil suit against school architecture firm

The civil case that followed the criminal one that put the rapist and killer of Danvers teacher Colleen Ritzer in state prison for life with the possibility of parole in 40 years has come to a close.

Student and killer Philip Chism, at 14 years old and recently relocated from Tennessee, stalked math teacher Ritzer, 24, through the halls of a newly refurbished Danvers High School wing on Oct. 23, 2013, before raping her and then slashing her to death with a boxcutter.

It was the newness and supposed state-of-the-art security of the wing that was at issue in the civil suit, which the Ritzer family filed against architecture firm DiNisco Design, Inc. in 2016. On Friday, that suit came to a close.

“This litigation was never about assessing blame on any civil Defendant. The only person to blame for the murder of Colleen is serving a life sentence in prison,” the Ritzer family and DiNisco design wrote in a joint statement Friday.

“Through the civil litigation, the Ritzers gained answers to questions related to school security at Danvers High School. DiNisco Design was helpful to the Ritzers’ pursuit of those answers,” the statement continues, adding, “DiNisco Design joins the Ritzers in honoring Colleen’s memory.”

“School security is of paramount importance to the Ritzers and through the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Foundation, they will continue to emphasize the importance of improving school security for students and teachers. DiNisco Design joins the Ritzers in honoring Colleen’s memory.”

The website for the Foundation,, was down Friday evening, but a cached version of the site describes its mission as fostering “a society of compassion with kindness as a motivating influence in all its endeavors. Renowned for her kindness, zeal for life, teaching, and love of family, the organization emulates Colleen’s compassion through scholarships, grants and other programs with kindness and education at their core.”

A phone call placed to the Andover-based Foundation was not answered Friday evening, but the voicemail message confirmed the number was for the office of Colleen’s mother, Peggie Ritzer.

On an affiliated Facebook page, the Foundation celebrated the works of the Foundation’s Inspire Kindness Scholarship 2020 recipient Hannah Finn — described as a 19-year-old student at UMass Amherst in the linked Salem News article about her — with her One Wish Project nonprofit.

The post just before that, on Aug. 11, recalled a tweet Colleen made on Aug. 11, 2013, just two months or so before she would be killed.

“No matter what happens in life, be good to people,” she wrote then. “Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”

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