Chism trial enters defense phase

Chism was at first outgoing when the school year started

Philip Chism
FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, file photo, Philip Chism, left, appears in Salem Superior Court where a judge declared the Massachusetts teenager charged with raping and killing his math teacher competent to stand trial, in Salem, Mass. Chism's lawyers plan to make opening statements Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. (Ken Yuszkus/The Salem News via AP, Pool, File)

(CNN) – Lawyers for a Massachusetts teenager accused of murder began their case in court Tuesday.

Defense attorneys claim 16-year-old Philip Chism was mentally ill when he raped and killed his high school math teacher.

Eduardo Barbieri, Chism’s grandfather, said, “The only thing I could say right now is he was quiet, very, very quiet, and a beautiful soul.”

A grandfather giving jurors a glimpse into Philip Chism as a child, saying the boy was well behaved and respectful. Barbieri also outlined how Chism’s grandmother and aunt both suffered from mental illness.

A family friend from Tennessee became emotional talking about the financial struggles of Chism family. Claudia Rodriguez testified they would stay with her family.

Philip was a normal kid, but got angry over the prospect of moving to Massachusetts. Rodriguez said, “When we spoke, I tried to get it out of him, but he didn’t respond. I was very upfront. I said, tell me how you feel about moving. He wouldn’t respond, but he was receptive.”

And several former Danvers high school classmates told the court the Chism was at first outgoing when the school year started, but became withdrawn in the weeks before math teacher Colleen Ritzer was killed. “I knew him as a very excited person. Very outgoing. Talking to us a lot. Getting to know us. And then all of a sudden he just got quiet and changed completely.”

Defense attorneys have acknowledged that Chism, who was 14 at the time, did kill Ritzer. They contend he has severe mental illness and is not criminally responsible for his actions.

Copyright 2015 CNN

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