By Bill Cantwell
---- — HAVERHILL — A grand jury has indicted the men charged in a brutal beating that left the victim needing three brain surgeries.
The indictment sends their case from Haverhill District Court to superior court. It also means Rodney McCray of Haverhill and Roberto Hilerio of Boston, if convicted, will be subject to more severe punishment than they could have received in the local court.
McCray, 21, of 13 Dudley St., was indicted by an Essex County Grand Jury on these charges: Assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and causing serious bodily injury, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, and witness intimidation, according to Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for the Essex District Attorney’s Office.
Hilerio, 21, was indicted on the same charges, Kimball Monahan said.
The two men are being held without bail. They are scheduled to appear in Haverhill District Court on Oct. 8 for a dangerousness hearing. A Superior Court arraignment date has not yet been scheduled, Kimball Monahan said.
Police said the unprovoked beating happened about 2 p.m. on Aug. 30 on Winter Street, close to the bridge that crosses Little River.
The victim — Jesse Downs, 31, a landscaping worker from Haverhill — is unresponsive in intensive care at a Boston hospital, according to family members. His girlfriend, Melissa Merrill, said she visits Downs almost daily in the hospital’s intensive care unit. His eyes are open, but he does not respond in any way, she said.
Kimball Monahan has said she cannot comment on any possible motive for the assault.
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.
She took Downs to Merrimack Valley Hospital. He was later taken by helicopter to a Boston hospital.
Merrill said Downs got out of work early the day of the attack because it was Labor Day weekend. She said he left his workplace on Hale Street and was on his way to a convenience store in Lafayette Square when he was jumped from behind.
A few hours after the attack, police arrested McCray. Several days later, police arrested Hilerio.