ANDOVER, Mass. (AP) — A 24-year-old Massachusetts high school teacher allegedly killed by one of her students was an ever-positive, uplifting influence on all who knew her, a former roommate recalled Sunday as hundreds of mourners turned out for the slain educator's viewing.
Mourners embraced each other and wiped away tears as they attended the visitation for Danvers High School math teacher Colleen Ritzer, whose body was found in the woods behind the school on Tuesday.
"She was an inspiration to me to live my life to the fullest every single day," said college roommate Caroline Rufo.
"There's going to be a void forever in our hearts," Rufo said at Andover's St. Augustine Church. "I don't know that anything can ever fill that."
Police said Ritzer was killed in a school bathroom after dismissal Tuesday. Fourteen-year-old Philip Chism is charged with murder in her death. He has pleaded not guilty.
Authorities have not disclosed many details of Ritzer's death, including how she was killed or any alleged motive.
A statement released by Chism's public defender said the teen's mother, Diana Chism, is heartbroken for Ritzer's family.
"She asks that you know that she cares for the world's hurt over this and greatly hopes for your prayers for the Ritzer family, the Danvers community, for her son, and all those affected by this tragedy," the statement said.
Philip Chism was arrested early Wednesday walking along a road in a nearby town.
Ritzer's family has established a memorial scholarship fund to benefit Andover High School graduates who also pursue teaching careers.
Ritzer's funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Monday.
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