EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

September 19, 2013

'He's fighting for his life'

Girlfriend: Beating victim unresponsive after 3 brain surgeries

HAVERHILL — A landscaping worker who was savagely beaten in broad daylight is unresponsive, despite three surgeries on his brain, his girlfriend said.

Melissa Merrill said she visits her boyfriend, Jesse Downs, 31, almost daily in the intensive care unit of a Boston hospital. His eyes are open, but he does not respond in any way, she said.

“All we have is hope,” Merrill said. “All we can do is pray.

“He’s fighting for his life,” she said. “They had to remove half his skull to relieve swelling.”

Police said Downs apparently was the target of an unprovoked attack Aug. 30 about 2 p.m. on a sidewalk on the north side of Winter Street. The location is near the railing of a small bridge that crosses Little River next to Lafayette Square.

The two men charged in the attack, Rodney McCray, 21, of Haverhill and Roberto Hilerio, 21, of Boston, continue to be held without bail.

Carrie Kimball-Monahan, a spokeswoman for Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, said yesterday she could not comment on any possible motive for the assault. She said no statements have been made in court by the District Attorney’s Office as to reasons for the attack and that evidence is being presented to a grand jury.

Merrill said she has had a relationship with Downs for seven years and that he’s a good caretaker for her three children and her 7-year-old brother, who she is also raising. She said Downs is the family’s primary income earner.

Merrill, who works at a cafe at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, said it was by coincidence that she was driving on Winter Street the day of the attack when she saw her boyfriend sitting on the sidewalk near Little River. He was covered in blood and talking to police and emergency medical personnel. She pulled her car over and ran to him.

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