- Colleen Ritzer was found killed behind Danvers High School last week
- Her student, Philip Chism, has been arrested and faces murder charge
- 1,000 people attended her funeral on Monday - including 400 students
- At the service, Ritzer was remembered as a loving, selfless teacher who touched everyone she met
By Lydia Warren
The mother of a beloved math teacher who was allegedly killed by a 14-year-old student sobbed as she left her daughter's funeral on Monday, her face etched with agony.
Peggie Ritzer left St Augustine Church in Andover, Massachusetts supported by her son, Daniel, this morning as more than 1,000 mourners gathered to pay their respects to her daughter Colleen.
Ms Ritzer, 24, was found killed last Tuesday in a wooded area behind Danvers High School, where she had inspired students for two years and gained a glowing reputation.
Among the massive crowds outside her funeral today were around 400 students from the school.
They looked on somberly as Ritzer's family - including her father Tom and sister Laura - left the church behind the casket.
Pain: Peggie Ritzer breaks down in tears as she walks from her daughter's funeral service with her son, Daniel, on Monday. Her daughter Colleen was allegedly murdered by one of her students
Struggle: Laura Ritzer, the victim's sister, is accompanied by her father, Tom, right, as they leave the service
Saying goodbye: Colleen's cousins carried her casket on Monday as hundreds of mourners looked on
Silence: Students from Danvers High School pay their respects as the hearse carrying their teacher passes
In a eulogy at the funeral, one of her cousins, Gina McDaniel, described Ritzer's love for education.
'Colleen's passion in life was to be a teacher,' McDaniel said, the Boston Globe reported.
She was a 'bright light in our lives who just wanted to make this world a better place by focusing on the adults of the future.'
She spoke of how her cousin's inspiring energy and intelligence that touched everyone she met and that she made them feel 'loved, comforted and optimistic'.
'In such a short period of time, one person has made a world of difference,' she said, adding a summary of Ritzer's life: 'A heart so big, God couldn't let it live.'
At a visitation for the teacher on Sunday, Ritzer was remembered as a positive, uplifting influence as mourners embraced each other and wiped away tears.
'She was an inspiration to me to live my life to the fullest every single day,' her college roommate Caroline Rufo said at Andover's St. Augustine Church.
Victim: The 24-year-old math teacher was allegedly killed by a 14-year-old student at the school on Tuesday
Grieving: Mourners pay their respects as the casket bearing slain teacher Colleen Ritzer arrives at St. Augustine's Parish in Andover, Massachusetts on Monday morning
Heartbroken: A woman breaks down as the casket leaves the church following the emotional service
Pain: Mourners look on somberly as the casket is carried into the church, nearly a week after her murder
Crowd: School officials said as many as 400 students from Danvers High School were at the service
'There's going to be a void forever in our hearts. I don't know that anything can ever fill that.'
At the viewing on Sunday, Ritzer's very first teacher, Laura Fogarty, said that the murder and loss of the much-loved teacher and friend had shocked the community.
'This has rocked me to the core, because of how pure, innocent and beautiful she was, she just deserved the best the world had to offer and she got the worst,' Fogarty said.
Of meeting her for the first time, she said: 'I bonded and fell in love with her instantly. I was fresh out of college, it was my first teaching experience, and I fell in love with her. She was my Colleen.'
Fourteen-year-old Philip Chism has been charged with murder in her death and is being tried as an adult. He has pleaded not guilty.
Police said he killed her in a school bathroom after classes finished on Tuesday. She was reportedly punched in the face and slashed with a box cutter before Chism put her body in a recycling bin and took her to the woods.
Locked up: Philip Chism, 14, stands during his arraignment on Wednesday. Chism was held without bai;
Loved: People attend a prayerful reflection for Colleen Ritzer at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts on Friday. Ritzer was found murdered in the woods behind Danvers High School
Sadness: Students embrace at a makeshift memorial for Ritzer outside the high school where she taught
Authorities have not disclosed many details of Ritzer's death, including a alleged motive. But investigators are reportedly looking into whether he had a crush on her.
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.