- Created on 04 December 2013
Police discovered high school teacher Colleen Ritzer's body in a wooded area near the school, covered with leaves and debris.
(CNN) -- Philip Chism, 14, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder, aggravated rape and robbery charges in connection with the killing of his high school math teacher, Colleen Ritzer.
The Massachusetts teenager is accused of killing Ritzer, 24, on October 22 in the girls' bathroom of Danvers High School with a box cutter he had taken to school.
In Wednesday's Superior Court hearing, Chism -- wearing khakis, a blue sweater, a white shirt and tie -- was ordered held without bail; his next court date was set for 2 p.m. on January 30. During the 11-minute hearing, he sat quietly, his hands cuffed in front of him.
According to a police affidavit unsealed last month, a ninth-grade student told investigators that Chism became visibly upset when Ritzer spoke after class on the day of the crime about his home state of Tennessee.
Philip Chism, 14, has pleaded not guilty to murder, aggravated rape and robbery charges.
When Ritzer noticed that Chism was upset, she changed the subject, said the unidentified student, who described Chism as "talking to himself."
Denise Regan, Chism's public defender, has declined to comment.
The affidavit includes testimony from witnesses as well as a school video surveillance timeline showing Chism and Ritzer in the same area of the school during the teacher's final moments.
In the video, Ritzer appears to enter a second-floor girls' restroom -- apparently a faculty restroom was occupied -- and Chism, wearing gloves and red sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head, appears to enter the restroom about a minute later, according to the affidavit.
Shortly after, a female student enters the bathroom and then quickly walks out, according to the court papers. She told investigators she saw the back of a person who appeared to be changing clothes; the person's rear was exposed, with clothes piled on the floor.
The video shows Chism leaving the restroom, returning later with a recycling barrel, and again leaving the restroom pulling the barrel -- this time with a black mask on his forehead, the court papers say. He pulls the barrel outside the building and toward the student parking lot. Investigators said the video shows what appear to be blood stains near the bathroom and on Chism's pants.
After Chism was reported missing by his mother on the evening of October 22, police had his cellular phone company "ping" the location of his phone. The phone was found to be in the vicinity of the Hollywood Hits Theater, where investigators learned the teen had purchased a movie ticket and then left.
The affidavit said that, when Chism was spotted by a police officer the next day, he was carrying a knife; a search of his backpack turned up a bloodstained box cutter. Asked where the blood came from, Chism allegedly responded: "The girl." He was also allegedly carrying credit cards and driver's licenses belonging to Ritzer, as well as a pair of woman's underwear.
The armed robbery indictment alleges that Chism robbed Ritzer of credit cards, an iPhone and her underwear.
Police discovered Ritzer's body in a wooded area near the school, covered with leaves and debris in an apparent attempt to conceal it, the court papers said. Her throat was slit.
The green recycling bin seen in the surveillance video was found 20 yards from the body. Clothing and other belongings were scattered near the body, along with the blood-soaked gloves Chism appeared to have been wearing in the video. The handwritten "I hate you all" note was folded near her body, according to the documents.
Investigators used the affidavit to secure a warrant to search Chism's home.
Chism's mother, Diana, told investigators that she had recently moved to Massachusetts from Tennessee amid a "stressful divorce" from the teen's father.
Documents filed 12 years ago in a Tennessee court shed light on a troubled relationship. The court papers showed that Chism's father agreed during a separation from his mother to have restricted time with his son, who was then 2, because of "prior physical and emotional abuse as well as alcohol abuse."
Chism's uncle, Terrence Chism Blaine, told CNN that the boy's parents are separated and that the father -- a former military man -- lives in Florida.
On the aggravated rape and armed robbery indictments, Chism was charged as a youthful offender, but prosecutors said they would move to join those charges with the murder case in Superior Court.
- Created on 04 December 2013
Hillary Clinton (pictured) has regained her popularity among Black Democratic voters in a recent poll with the Huffington Post and YouGov. Forty-eight percent of Blacks who took the poll said they would support Clinton in the 2016 election. Is it truly what she needs to win the primary? Does she need to have an opponent?
"She would be better for the general election if she had a contestant primary," Leila McDowell said. "Any candidate would."
Listen to the entire panel discussion with McDowell, Ronald Langston, and Corey Dade on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin discussing whether Hillary Clinton needs an opponent to win, here.
- Created on 03 December 2013
Engineer was 'in a daze' before crash
(CNN) -- Results from alcohol breath tests for the train engineer of the New York commuter train that derailed Sunday morning were negative, and both the brake and signal systems in the deadly Metro-North accident appeared to be working, National Transportation Safety Board representatives said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, while two law enforcement sources told CNN that engineer William Rockefeller reported being in a "daze" before the crash.
In a brief conversation with investigators, Rockefeller said that moments before the derailment of the Metro-North Hudson Line train in the Bronx he was "going along and I'm in a daze. I don't know what happened," according to a law enforcement official familiar with that conversation.
Asked by investigators what he was thinking when he said he was dazed, the engineer said he couldn't say. Rockefeller spoke to Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York Police detectives at the crash site before he was taken to the hospital Sunday.
NTSB member Earl Weener told a news conference that Rockefeller would have had a chance to get the necessary sleep prior to his 5 a.m. shift the day of Sunday's accident, which killed four people and injured 67 others.
Weener also reported that while breath tests for Rockefeller were negative, other toxicology results have not yet come back.
Weener told reporters that the train was equipped with a "dead man's pedal," designed to stop the train if the engineer become incapacitated. But it was unclear whether that emergency system was activated.
"We don't know what that sequence was at this point," Weener said. "It's too early to comment on that. But yes, there was a dead man's pedal."
The locomotive and all seven coaches jumped the tracks while barreling into a curve at 82 mph, nearly three times the 30 mph-limit for the curve, according to the NTSB.
Fatigue is a factor being investigated, according to a separate New York law enforcement source. But Rockefeller also told investigators on site that the brakes had failed, as CNN reported previously. Speaking at a news conference on Monday, officials noted the train had been able to stop nine times at stations ahead of the crash.
Steven Harrod, a University of Dayton professor and expert on railway operations, said the early hour of the derailment, along with the decreased rail traffic on the post-Thanksgiving weekend, also could have played a role in Rockefeller's "daze."
Harrod called it a "twilight" of inattention or distraction common in transport crews on late-night and early-morning shifts.
"If he was dead, dead asleep, his hands would have come off the controls and ... some of the 'dead man' stuff would have come into play," said Harrod, referring to "dead man" mechanisms that automatically stop trains when the engineer is incapacitated. "But if it was kind of that twilight where you're just there and still kind of gently holding onto to things but not quite really aware, which in my mind is still sleeping. That's still sleeping."
In the culture of railroad workers, Harrod said, admitting to falling asleep at the controls was almost as bad as admitting to being drunk or on drugs.
"It's very realistic that he, in fact, really did fall asleep," he said. "Falling asleep at the controls of a locomotive is a horrible evil. You're not supposed to do that. He really doesn't want to come out and say, 'I fell asleep.' It's emotionally embarrassing. It's not just a rules violation. There's a psychological component. If you come out and say, 'I fell asleep,' it's just purely beyond embarrassing. It's a violation of the sacred understanding of what a train crew should do."
Rockefeller is not working or getting paid, according to Meredith Daniels, MTA spokeswoman.
"He is out of service. This is an unpaid status," said Daniels, adding that Rockefeller is presumed innocent until disciplinary procedures are completed.
NTSB officials would not comment on Rockefeller's reported comments, but they have said fatigue is routinely investigated as a possible cause in such cases.
"We don't have the work history at the moment," Weener told Wolf Blitzer Monday on CNN's Situation Room.
"We will be developing what we call a 72-hour timeline, so that we have a good understanding of what sort of activities preceded this accident. That's part of our normal investigation."
Harrod said the rail and signal hardware date to World War II and, if Rockefeller was dazed or momentarily distracted, there was no system in place to alert him that he was traveling at 82 mph.
"It's a perfect-storm kind of thing," he said. "You can look back in the history books of railroad accidents and there are plenty more where this came from. Events and things that happen that in and of themselves are not supposed to be bad but they turn into bad things."
Railroad safety officials have long pushed for a system known as positive train control technology, which combines GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor trains and stop them from colliding or derailing. But the railroad industry has opposed the technology because of the high cost.
Harrod said the transportation safety board has urged railroads to install PTC in some form since 1970. In 2008, Congress ordered rail lines to adopt the technology by December 2015.
"PTC would have sounded an alarm as soon as the train exceeded the speed limit," said Harrod. "Technology will help. PTC will help. But there will be some other thing in the future, other ways that somebody will find to defeat the system or screw up."
The train was about 10 miles short of its destination, Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal, when it derailed on the approach to the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx.
The NTSB's interview Monday with Rockefeller was cut short because of his emotional state, Weener told CNN. The interview was expected to resume Tuesday and Wednesday. "I think it was basically emotional issues with the engineer," Weener said. The crash, which took four lives, was "a very traumatic experience for him." Weener said Rockefeller was cooperative but was "not up to it."
NTSB officials said it is not unusual for those who have survived fatal accidents to be emotional during interviews. Nor is it unusual for the board to allow participants additional time to complete the interview.
The union representing Rockefeller would not comment on reports about the engineer being dazed but its general chairman, Anthony Botallico, said Rockefeller is cooperating.
"There's a lot of quotes coming from him, but when you're in a crash like this, anything you say in the beginning has to be taken with a grain of salt," Botallico said. "Bill is very distraught. I've been with him, and he really hasn't had a lot of sleep and he's just crushed by everything. I know how sincere he is and he'll be very forthcoming very shortly."
"Billy is fully cooperating with the NTSB," Botallico added. "He needed to get some rest. He's very traumatized by the loss of life. It's best that it comes from him what happened. He's a quality human being. I know him personally. I've been a conductor and representative, and I'd be proud to have him as my engineer."
Botallico said Rockefeller started out as a janitor at Grand Central and "worked his way up."
"He's been in operations for quite a while," he said. "He used to change the time of the trains in Grand Central. He was volunteer fireman. He's just a guy who's always gone out of his way for everyone else. It brings me to tears because the loss of life is something that -- it's the hardest thing to deal with. When you lose life it's difficult for all."
Said Harrod: "This engineer, I'm sure, as the evidence comes out, I think we're really looking at a sad, really basic kind of inattentiveness. Nothing fancy: No alcohol, no drugs, maybe not even a cell phone. Just plain vanilla inattentiveness."
- Created on 03 December 2013
Photo by Bettmann/Corbis
At home, the story is the same -- but abroad, the landscape is shifting.
According to the latest results of a comprehensive set of international exams released Tuesday, America's teens have remained mid-pack among their peers worldwide and utterly stagnant in reading, math and science over the last 10 years.
But as America's 15-year-olds failed to improve on the Programme for International Student Assessment and East Asian countries maintained their top slots, other countries not generally known for their academic prowess -- many of whom have diverse and poor populations -- have become breakout stars of a sort. Poland, Germany and Ireland showed tremendous growth, and Vietnam, which administered the exam for the first time in 2012, wound up among the top-performing countries, eclipsing the U.S. in math and science. Results like these herald Sputnik era-type fears, leading some officials to believe the U.S. is losing its competitive edge.
To read the rest of the story, click here.