To friends of suspect in teacher murder, charge doesn't add up - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

To friends of suspect in teacher murder, charge doesn't add up

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By Tom Watkins

(CNN) -- To many of those who know the suspect in the Tuesday killing of his high school math teacher in Danvers, Massachusetts, the accusation just doesn't add up.

"Great soccer player -- probably the main reason we won the league championship last year," Jando Herrera told CNN affiliate WZTV about Philip Chism, whom he coached in soccer for two seasons at Rossview Middle School in Clarksville, Tennessee.

"I'm sure any of his teammates would say the same thing: that he was just the nicest kid on the team, probably. ... It's completely out of character; it's not something that I would ever imagine Philip ever, you know, doing or anything like that ... always the most respectful kid that I've, you know, had around -- 'yes sir, no sir.' "

Even after Chism moved last spring to a town of 26,000 people in a suburb north of Boston, he provoked little concern among his classmates at Danvers High School.

"He's quiet, just kept to himself -- probably because he's new to the society but, I mean, he's a good kid," said Kyle Cahill, a junior at the school.

A member of Chism's English class, Ariana Edwards, said he had friends, but chose them carefully. "He wasn't, like, too friendly though," she said. "He, like, only had certain friends. He wasn't, like, outgoing to everyone ... in classes he would only talk to, like, a select few people. And he was new too, so, like, he didn't have, like, the, like, amount of friends as everyone else."

Still, she said, he "seemed quiet and reserved, but he just seemed normal."

Chism didn't drink or do drugs, and he came from a good family, one of his friends said. He described Chism as a good athlete who was shy at first but eventually warmed up to people, adding that he hadn't been acting strangely lately.

This friend and others got their first hint that something had gone awry when Chism didn't show up for soccer practice Tuesday. The team set out to look for him after seeing texts that he was missing.

"We didn't know whether he was like kidnapped or if he was hurt somewhere, so we went around looking for him because we cared about him," said a teammate. "Obviously, he was on the team and we liked him."

As they and police were looking for him -- and after teacher Colleen Ritzer, 24, was killed -- Chism went to the movies, a source with knowledge of the investigation said.

A few hours later, the lanky young man with closely cut hair was charged with murder.

Chism's uncle, who still lives in Clarksville, told CNN affiliate WKRN in Nashville that something may have provoked his nephew. "Might could have been upset," Terrence Chism Blaine said Wednesday. "You know -- teenagers go through that. He's 14, he's growing up still. That's the only thing that I can imagine. I can't imagine anything else because he's like a storybook kid -- a perfect family."

"I think it's insane," classmate Andre Poland told CNN affiliate WCVB in Boston. "I'm completely shocked. I don't think Philip would be the type of person to do this."

Herrera said he was reserving judgment about the former player on his soccer team. "I want to see what else there is, you know," he said. "I want the whole story to kind of come out before people really cast a lot of judgment on the kid."

The-CNN-Wire
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