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Families of homicide victims, including Colleen Ritzer’s parents, split over parole for offenders

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Families of homicide victims, including Colleen Ritzer’s parents, split over parole for offenders

Family members of homicide victims in some of the state’s most infamous murder cases were somewhat divided over whether parole should be offered for those who ended the lives of their loved ones.

“This is not a liberal issue or conservative issue — this is an issue that must be focused on justice for victims who are no longer with us,” said Peggy Ritzer, whose daughter Colleen Ritzer was murdered in 2013. “Those who intentionally take an innocent life should not have an opportunity for parole. It is that simple.”

Throughout a tearful Joint Committee on the Judiciary hearing Tuesday, several family members of those who had been murdered opposed a bill that would make prisoners serving life without parole, including for first-degree murders, eligible for it after 25 years.

Colleen Ritzer was a 24-year-old math teacher at Danvers High School when she was raped and killed after school by a 14-year-old student, who discarded her body in the woods. He then used her stolen credit cards to watch a movie at Hollywood Hits and buy a burger, Peggy Ritzer said through tears.

“We understand that no single hearing or trial will fill the immeasurable void of our loss, yet as long as there are hearings in our future that permit the possibility of release of the evil that took Colleen’s life, or reduction in his sentence, we cannot be at peace,” she said.

Kathleen Koonz, whose paraplegic elderly mother and stepfather were murdered in Orange in 2016 during a break-in, vehemently opposed the legislation. “Unlike the victims, the murderers are not being deprived of life experiences, albeit in prison. They’re given opportunities to take courses, to read books, write, paint and more,” she said. “Family murder victims can’t have any of this.”

But not all family members agreed. Kirsten Engel, whose father “brutally murdered” her mother in 1999, supported the proposed legislation because “my sadness and my loss are no way mitigated by the fact that her alleged perpetrator, my father, has been in jail for over 20 years. His never-ending punishment does not lessen my pain … it will never bring my mother back.”

State Rep. Liz Miranda, D-Boston, filed the bill, informed by her own experience losing her brother to murder outside a Boston nightclub in 2017. “That is not a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card,’” she said. “No one here advocates for the release of serial killers and others who we deem are the worst of the worst offenders.”

She added that it only gives offenders the option of parole review, which she said would be especially impactful for those who were juveniles when they committed their crimes.

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Netflix stock plunges as subscriber growth worries deepen

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Netflix stock plunges as subscriber growth worries deepen

Netflix delivered its latest quarter of disappointing subscriber growth during the final three months of last year, a trend that management foresees continuing into the new year as tougher competition is undercutting the video streaming leader.

The Los Gatos, Calif., company added 8.3 million worldwide subscribers during the October-December period, about 200,000 fewer than management had forecast. Besides releasing its fourth-quarter results Thursday, Netflix also projected an increase of 2.5 million subscribers during the first three months of this year, well below analysts’ expectations for a gain of 4 million, according to FactSet Research.

The disappointing news caused Netflix’s stock price to plunge by about 20% in extended trading after the numbers came out, deepening a steep decline during the past two months.

It capped a challenging year for Netflix after it reveled in eye-popping gains during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 that drove homebound people to its service.

Netflix picked up 18.2 million worldwide subscribers during 2021, its slowest pace of annual growth in five years. It came after Netflix gained more than 36 million subscribers during 2020. The service now boasts nearly 222 million worldwide subscribers worldwide, more than any other video streaming leader.

But other services backed by deep-pocketed rivals such as Walt Disney Co. and Apple have been making inroads in recent years, and a bevy of other networks also are wading into video streaming in an attempt to grab eyeballs and a piece of household budgets. The escalating competition is one reason Netflix decided to expand into video games last year.

“The 2022 backdrop for Netflix seems to have been set with a theme of competition abound,” said Third Bridge analyst Joe McCormack.

While acknowledging the competition is having a “marginal” effects on its growth in its quarterly shareholder letter, Netflix emphasized its service is still thriving in every country where it’s available.

In a Thursday conference call, Netflix executives also said uncertainty caused by the ebb and flow of the pandemic during the past year has made it more difficult to gauge future growth.

COVID “has created a lot of bumpiness,” co-CEO Ted Sarandos said. The company’s other co-CEO, Reed Hastings, also expressed some frustration before adding, “For now, we’re just like staying calm and trying to figure (it) out.”

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Full schedule of concerts planned for Tanglewood this summer

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Full schedule of concerts planned for Tanglewood this summer

The Boston Symphony Orchestra announced Thursday that its summer home in Tanglewood will host a full schedule of concerts this year for the first time since 2019.

The 2022 season that runs from June 17 through Sept. 4 will include a 90th birthday celebration for John Williams with conductor Ken-David Masur leading the orchestra and featuring guest artists including Yo-Yo Ma and Branford Marsalis; a Boston Pops tribute to Stephen Sondheim; James Taylor’s traditional July Fourth show; and the popular artists series that includes Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, Brandi Carlile, Judy Collins and Earth, Wind & Fire.

The lineup includes eight world and American premieres and 28 works by living composers, as well as 21 artists in their Tanglewood or BSO debuts.

Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director Andris Nelsons will lead nine programs, including the July 8-10 Opening Night program of Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2 with piano soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.”

“The 2022 Tanglewood season is filled with so many wonderful styles of composition, performed by the most extraordinary musicians working today, among them our very own Boston Symphony Orchestra,” Nelsons said in a statement.

Tanglewood, located in the towns of Lenox and Stockbridge in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937.

The 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and last year’s schedule was shortened.

Ozawa Hall and the Linde Center for Music and Learning, which were both closed in 2020 and 2021, will reopen this year for smaller audiences to take in recitals, chamber music and guest ensemble performances.

Given the ongoing pandemic, the BSO said it would announce updated health and safety measures closer to start of the summer season.

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Ticker: Sale of Table Talk Pie headquarters final; Home sales fall, available properties at record low

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Ticker: Sale of Table Talk Pie headquarters final; Home sales fall, available properties at record low

A former Worcester bakery building that made its last pie earlier this month has been sold for more than $4.5 million to a developer planning to build housing and retail space at the site.

The deal to sell the 3.9-acre site in Worcester that had served as Table Talk Pies headquarters since 1924 to Boston Capital Development LLC was first announced months ago, but was finalized on Wednesday, The Telegram & Gazette reported.

The developers are planning a new building at the site that will include about 350 units of both affordable and market-rate housing and street level retail, according to a statement from NAI Glickman Kovago & Jacobs.

Table Talk Pies, meanwhile, has moved to new headquarters in the city that will also serve as a bakery, distribution facility, and for research and development. The company bakes more than 250 million pies annually, according to its website.

Home sales fall with available properties at a record low

Sales of previously occupied homes fell in December for the first time in four months as available houses fell to the lowest level in more than two decades.

Existing home sales dropped 4.6% last month from November, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of nearly 6.2 million, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.

Demand remains healthy, the group said, with median prices jumping nearly 16% from a year ago to $358,000. The number of houses for sale slumped to just 910,000 in December, the fewest since records began in 1999.

“It’s very hard for sales to meaningfully grow when there’s just not that much available to buy,” said Kwame Donaldson, senior economist for real estate website Zillow.

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