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Murder Victim's Daughter: 'I Feel Victimized All Over Again'

In this letter to the editor, Erin Downing, whose mother was brutally murdered in Somerville in 1995, says her family "will now have to relive this nightmare every five years at parole board hearings."

File photo
File photo

The following is a letter to the editor by Erin Downing, whose mother, in 1995, was brutally murdered in her own home on Prospect Hill. The killer, a 15-year-old, was sentenced to life in prison without parole. However, recent court rulings mean he could now face parole.

See: SJC Ruling Exhumes Gruesome Somerville Murder Case >>

Erin Downing has started a petition to oppose the parole of her mother's murderer. In this letter, she talks about the pain the matter has caused her. Here's the letter:

SJC ruling strikes at my family's hearts

19 years have passed since Edward O’Brien entered my home on a warm July night and brutally murdered my mother Janet Downing. I still remember my screams and uncontrollable tears that night. Thereafter, I endured a personal struggle to overcome the fear and loss of trust that followed and this lasted for years. I am in effect a "co-victim"—forced to live and deal with this trauma for the rest of my life.

Over the years, I have received partial solace in his sentence. Life without parole meant I was safe and society was safe. But then I heard the disturbing news on Christmas Eve from my brother Ryan. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that it’s unconstitutional for juvenile murderers to be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Worst of all, this decision was retroactive, meaning O’Brien would now have a chance at parole.

I feel victimized all over again by this ruling. My stomach has been in knots. That all-consuming fear I’ve worked so hard to suppress has come rushing back. I’ve experienced sleepless nights and anxiety that feels as though it could swallow me whole. Knowing that my family will now have to relive this nightmare every five years at parole board hearings is incredibly distressing. I am so utterly disappointed in the judges who made this ruling and in Governor Deval Patrick who has publicly celebrated it!

So I ask this question to the SJC and the Governor: Did you ever stop to consider the devastating impact your decision would have on the families of the murder victims or were we not even considered?

Erin Downing
karenrice January 20, 2014 at 07:12 AM
Maybe the ones in favor of this ruling could take this guy into their own homes. Might that proposal give them a second thought??
Da Ber January 20, 2014 at 10:48 AM
The killer was 15 at the time, now he would be 33. I personally think that he could have changed a lot over that time. Maybe not, which is why the parole process should also include some real analysis of the person before they go out on the street. But really? At 15 you think you know everything, but your mind is still very impressionable. This guy has (maybe) been sitting in jail for years thinking about his mistakes, and we are paying taxes for him to be there. If it's clear he would not be a threat at this point if he got parole, I'd rather see him get a job and start contributing something to society. I understand that it must be really hard to deal with losing someone this way, but is it really justice to lock that person up forever?? Especially when they are only a kid?? Just my personal opinion.
Nick January 20, 2014 at 12:27 PM
Da Ber, if it wasn't for this animal Janet Downing would still be contributing to society. This liberal point of view, where the CRIMINAL is somehow the victim, is destroying this state.
Justice! January 20, 2014 at 12:35 PM
@Da Ber: What about if you have this criminal leaving/working for you? I'm sure he'll be a good guest in your house!
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Ray P January 25, 2014 at 08:13 AM
This animal has destroyed plenty of life's and they want him to get paroled to destroy more families cause he will kill again The Downing family has been through enough haven't they please don't let this animal out of his cage

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