In the classic American cinematic production Citizen Kane, Charles Kane boldly declares as head of the mythical media empire he created:

“You provide the pictures, I’ll provide the war!”

This may be an overly dramatic illustration.

Nonetheless, it is a glimpse into the artificial nature of modern media, creating false perceptions again and again, until the lines between reality and fantasy are no longer distinguishable.

When engaged with journalistic pursuits, it is always best to support one’s premise with empirical facts. The following may be shocking to some. However, it is clear, not only may the big networks lie to the public on a regular basis, it may be more shocking still, to discover one’s local periodical doing the same.

So it was with the story of ‘Colleen Ritzer’, the story of the young teacher allegedly murdered by one of her own students on October 22, 2013. Upon further investigation, one has discovered even more curious anomalies with regard to this alleged story. Not only did local officials, police, and certain members of the community working for the YMCA collude to create this curious piece of reality television, but it was broadcast to millions across the nation, and apparently believed.


I grew up reading this newspaper, and like most, implicitly took the stories printed on its pages as absolute gospel. Of course, years later, perhaps due to my inherent penchant to question everything, one has learned to take Samuel Clemens perceptive adage to heart: “Don’t believe everything you hear, and less of what you read!”

So it was with the story of ‘Colleen Ritzer’.  As it turns out, nothing about this story, in the wake of the event, made sense, the details in the published accounts riddled with contradictions. For one, the Salem News claimed the alleged assailant, Jim Chism, aged fourteen, was suffering from mental illness. And yet, at the same time, it was claimed he carried out the alleged murder in a premeditated fashion, like some criminal mastermind. Last I checked, folks, most suffering from acute mental illness are incapable of carrying out anything in a premeditated fashion, much less planning and executing a murder. Keep in mind, the Salem News claimed the time of the murder was mid-afternoon, and committed on campus, simultaneous with hundreds of students and staff, still present on campus. And yet, it is alleged, Chism, lured the victim to a student bathroom, committed first sexual assault, then murder, then somehow found a janitor’s trash dolly to wheel the body out to the nearby woods, and out across a parking lot filled with tens, if not hundreds of witnesses. And yet, it is claimed, there were no apparent witnesses, this mentally incapacitated teenager miraculously more stealthy than some military trained assassin.

Lo and behold, though stealthy enough in avoiding detection while carrying out a ‘premeditated’ crime during the hectic rush of a school day, the perpetrator in question conveniently left behind important clues, like a pair of jeans soaked in the victims blood. Strangely though, when removed from the scene, the victim’s body was noticeably absent of all traces of blood, the sheet wrapping the cadaver completely white and pristine.


In addition, subsequent to having committed the alleged crime, the assailant appropriated the victim’s cell phone and credit cards, and went across town to the local Wendy’s, then to the local cinema to watch a Woody Allen movie, entitled Blue Jasmine. All of this rings highly improbable, for the following reasons. Hasn’t everyone, in this modern day and age, even a callow fourteen-year-old, watched enough crime drama on television, to know after having committed a murder, one needs to abscond from the area immediately, in order to more completely escape detection by police? As for the victim’s credit cards and cell phone, is it not possible, the assailant realized the police were capable of ‘pinging’ the phone in order to discover his immediate whereabouts? Or, is it much more likely, this was part of a scripted scenario, in order to facilitate communication between participants taking part in a Homeland Security preparedness drill? In light of these deductions, it is noteworthy the local police chief later testified in court, to the fact the responding officers were in fact not using normal police radios on the night in question.

Rather, they had been communicating via cell phone!

Furthermore, is it not possible, even if the alleged murderer managed, by virtue of providential miracle, to escape detection for a time, the purchases he made with the victim’s credit card would be electronically traced like a trail of bread crumbs? Additionally, what teenage male would be even remotely interested in a Woody Allen romantic comedy? Curiously, the Salem News changed this detail in subsequent accounts, claiming the movie in question viewed by the alleged assailant was in fact ‘Gravity’, starring Sandra Bullock. Of course, no one questioned these anomalies, apparently having swallowed them like mother’s milk!

All except, that is, one inquisitive independent novelist and blogger!

In addition, this event had all the earmarks of a HSLEEP drill, or Homeland Security emergency preparedness drill. The telltale signs of this, were the multi-jurisdictional responses, and the lack of any customary or protracted investigation before releasing the suspects name to the public, as well the efforts of the Salem News going well out of their way to accentuate the most melodramatic, if not gory of details. Moreover, the racial disparity between the assailant and the victim was repeated to a curious degree, the former having been described as a vicious, mentally unbalanced African-American, the latter as an angelic Caucasian twenty-four-year old teacher. Representing, all the earmarks of a classic psychological operation.

In this case, it is fair to say even William Randolph Hearst could not have concocted more slanderous yellow journalism.

But wait, folks, it gets even better!

Until this day, not only is there no record of any prisoner by the name of Jim Chism currently listed in the Massachusetts registrar of prisons, but when I inquired via telephone for an explanation as to this glaring anomaly, the response was curious, if not comical.

The person on the other end of the line, seemed shocked, if not personally offended someone possessed the temerity to even bother to verify the information in the first place. After being given the run around by several more administrators, I was summarily transferred to the Essex county corrections spokesperson. Although they confirmed there was no record of any Jim Chism housed in any of their prisons, either local or statutory, the spokesperson informed Chism had been transferred to a mental health facility in Dorchester, twenty-six miles away.

This is when things got strange indeed!

Upon checking for verification at the facility in question, I discovered although there were no inmates fitting the description of the alleged assailant, there was, however, a listing for a Jim Chism, aged sixty-five, a Vietnam war veteran, suffering from and being treated for severe post-traumatic stress.  If that wasn’t odd enough, I checked the man’s birth date. Are you ready for this folks:


Stay tuned for part III, because this gets more weird as we go along. Indeed, the story of the alleged murder of one Colleen Ritzer, turns out to be one deep rabbit hole, with no bottom in sight!


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