SJC Ruling Exhumes Gruesome Somerville Murder Case

Then 15 years old, Edward O'Brien, in 1995, stabbed Janet Downing 98 times in her Prospect Hill home. Recent court rulings mean O'Brien could now be paroled.

File photo
File photo
A recently posted online petition that has gathered more than 2,500 signatures seeks to prevent a former Somerville teenager who committed a gruesome murder from being paroled.

The petition asks the Massachusetts Parole Board and Gov. Deval Patrick not to grant parole to Edward O'Brien, who, as a 15-year-old, stabbed his friend's mother 98 times in the woman's own home. O'Brien's friend found his mother's dead body on the dining room floor of their Prospect Hill house.

That was in July of 1995. O'Brien was convicted of the murder in October of 1997 and sentenced to life without parole.

However, a 2012 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court and, more recently, a December, 2013, ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, means O'Brien could be up for parole.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruling determined that juveniles convicted of murder must be offered parole after 15 years in prison. The ruling follows in the footsteps of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, which prevents mandatory life sentences, without parole, for juveniles. Both rulings cited a growing body of knowledge about the development of the juvenile brain.

The Massachusetts court's ruling affects about 60 murder cases involving teenage perpetrators, according to Boston.com, but the Somerville case involving O'Brien is one of the most controversial due to the horrible nature of the murder.

The online petition was started by Erin Downing, daughter of the murder victim, Janet Downing, who was 42 years old when O'Brien murdered her.

It says, "With a brutal attack of 98 stab wounds, O'Brien ended the life of a woman loved by many. Sentenced to life without parole in 1997, a recent court decision has given O'Brien the chance of parole. Janet's loved ones will never have closure, but they can have justice. Please join us in the fight to STOP the parole of Edward O'Brien by signing this petition."

Comments on the petition include angry sentiments about O'Brien and the recent court decisions.

"This is absolutely disgusting to put the family and friends of this poor woman through this nightmare. Shameful!" one woman wrote.

"He is a killer and should stay in prison were he belongs. I believe he will kill again. He should not be paroled," another woman wrote.

Although the recent court decisions say teenagers convicted of murder must be offered parole, those convicted of murders are not guaranteed parole. The opportunity for parole, however, opens up old wounds for family members of victims.

Stephen Solimene, Janet Downing's brother, told Boston.com in 2012, "I thought it was over and done with ... I’m just as angry and upset as I was back then."
itsmarieee January 14, 2014 at 11:07 AM
I thought there might be a link to the online petition.....
Ray P January 14, 2014 at 12:38 PM
This kid should never get out of jail I remember this like it was yesterday where's the petition I'll sign it and I know a lot of others that will to.
Courtney O'Keefe January 14, 2014 at 01:05 PM
The link is embedded in "online petition" in the first sentence.
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