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Colleen Ritzer’s Family Sues Town 3 Years After She Was Raped and Murdered at School

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The family of Colleen Ritzer, the Massachusetts high school math teacher who was raped and murdered by one of her students in 2013, filed a wrongful death lawsuit this week against the town where she was killed, PEOPLE confirms.

Despite a conviction in her slaying, the Ritzer family says it is still looking for more information.

“The plaintiffs seek answers to many questions that have arisen as a result of the horrific events culminating in the death of Colleen on Oct. 22, 2013,” the suit, filed Wednesday and obtained by the Eagle-Tribune, states.

Ritzer was 24 when she was raped and strangled by Philip Chism, a 14-year-old student at Danvers High School. Chism was convicted in December, and he will serve at least 40 years because his sentences in the rape and murder will run concurrently.

Ritzer’s family questions in the suit, which was also obtained by PEOPLE, how Chism was able to commit such heinous acts on campus in the afternoon without anyone noticing. Their suit alleges wrongful death and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Ritzer was attacked in a women’s restroom before being dragged into the woods. A Danvers High School maintenance worker was allegedly told to clean up the blood in the restroom, according to the suit, but police were not called.

“As a result, the fact that Colleen had been brutally attacked and had likely lost her life was not known to authorities or the plaintiffs for hours after the occurrence,” the suit alleges.

The cleaning company that staffed the school is also named as a defendant. They could not immediately be reached for comment.

Courtesy of Dale Webster via the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune/AP
Courtesy of Dale Webster via the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune/AP

If the Ritzers are awarded compensation, they say in the lawsuit that the funds will be used to “enhance school safety programs and to contribute to the legacy of Colleen Ritzer through third-party nonprofit organizations. The plaintiffs seek no personal benefit by way of personal financial compensation from this lawsuit.”

Reached by PEOPLE, a spokesperson for the city had no comment.

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During his trial, the defense acknowledged that Chism committed the murder but said he had severe mental illness and that he has suffered from a psychotic disorder since he was 10.

However, he was tried as an adult after being deemed fit to stand trial.

One expert defense witness testified that when he raped and killed Ritzer, Chism “was not a kind, smart 14-year-old boy. He was responding to the terrible command of the hallucinations in his head.”

But prosecutor Kate MacDougal told the judge that Chism was a danger to society and women, saying, “This case, and these crimes, go far beyond heartbreaking and horrifying.”

She added, “These are crimes that make one’s soul ache.”