Mother mourns loss of slain young son

LEWISTON — Jamie Merrill could hear from her bedroom the heels of the two state police officers coming up the steps early Thursday morning.

Jose Leiva - Sun Journal

A memorial is placed at the home of 10-year-old Jesse Ryan of Lewiston, who was found stabbed to death at a home in Amity on Wednesday night.

Jose Leiva - Sun Journal

Jamie Merrill of Lewiston talks about her 10-year-old son, Jesse Ryan, who was found stabbed to death at a home in Amity on Wednesday night.

Jose Leiva - Sun Journal

Ten-year-old Jesse Ryan of Lewiston was found stabbed to death at a home in Amity on Wednesday night.

“'There's no easy way for me to tell you this,'” the woman officer said once inside the house, Merrill said.

“Is it my son, or what?” Merrill asked.

“'Jesse's dead,'” she said the officer told her about her 10-year-old son.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Merrill said she asked. Though she'd just said it, she hadn't imagined the worst. She thought maybe something had happened to her ex-husband, Jesse's father.

He'd been a prescription drug addict, buying and selling the pills, Merrill said.

Jeff Ryan, 55, had picked up Jesse in Lewiston on Saturday to take him to his home in Amity for Father's Day where they could go fishing and spend some time together. Ryan hadn't seen his son since the end of February, when Jesse had moved out of the Amity home and into his mother's house on Drew Street in Lewiston.

According to Shannon Ryan, who lives in Texas and is Jeff Ryan's son, said his father had sole custody of Jesse but agreed to let Jesse move to Lewiston in February because he missed his mother.

Jesse had just finished the fourth grade at Martel Elementary School, earning honors in his class, his mother said.

Merrill had left Ryan after seven years of marriage. She sought refuge from his abuse in a string of shelters for battered women before settling in Lewiston about three years ago.

When the officer told Merrill about her son Thursday, she ran out of the house. The two officers found her and she asked where Ryan was.

“'He's dead too,'” she said they told her.

She asked what happened to them, but the officers wouldn't say. She thought maybe there had been a car accident.

They said they couldn't release any information. She asked whether somebody had done something to her son and ex-husband. The two officers looked at her, but said nothing, she said.

She learned more details about their deaths by searching online.

“I didn't even know my son was stabbed,” she said.

Police told her to “'sit tight,'” she said. “If that was your son who died in the worst possible way you could imagine, would you want to sit there and sit tight?”

She couldn't believe the person responsible hadn't been caught.

“This is ridiculous,” she said. “It doesn't make sense.”

The last time she talked to Jesse had been at 8:34 on Tuesday night. She tried all day Wednesday to reach him by Jesse's father's phone, but it just rang and rang. She thought maybe they had gone fishing.

That was unusual. She had talked to Jesse at least once every day. He also would send text messages to her.

After the police left, Merrill had put a picture of her son near his room. Her fiance, Dwayne Lebrecque, had lit a candle for him. They were both crying. Then Merrill collapsed. Six-months pregnant, she was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Merrill's obstetrician met her there and examined her, checking the fetal heartbeat.

Jesse had guessed correctly that his sibling-to-be was a boy. He was excited about having a baby brother. He was anxious about leaving, afraid the baby wouldn't recognize his voice when he returned.

Jeff Ryan, a Vietnam-era veteran, had been threatened by “quite a few people” over the years, Merrill said.

Shortly before picking up Jesse, Jeff Ryan had called to say he would have to delay the trip. He didn't explain why.

Lebrecque said Ryan must have known his assailant. Merrill said there must have been more than one person.

“I know in my heart he never would have let anybody hurt Jesse,” she said. “If he could stop it, there's no way.”

A hunter, Ryan had several guns in the house, Merrill said.

“They need to catch the people who did this,” she said. “I just don't know how somebody can do this to a kid and walk around with a conscience.”

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