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Blind Chester man remains upbeat despite being beaten and robbed

Union Leader Correspondent

October 31. 2013 10:08PM

CHESTER — Joe was upstairs at his Chester home planning activities for a Braille club he plans to start at Epping Elementary School when he heard people talking downstairs.

The 22-year-old who is legally blind was alone and went downstairs to investigate the voices and his dogs' barking.

"I came down and this guy approached me. I had no idea who he was. He was standing there with what I thought was a lunch box, but I'm guessing now it was my mom's jewelry box. He came to me acting a little sketchy and said, 'Some guy let me in down there' and I said, 'Who?' From that moment on I blanked out. I was knocked out cold," Joe recalled Thursday morning.

Police Chief William Burke said he believes Joe was attacked by two burglars who broke into his family's Great Oak Drive home just before 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Joe, who asked that his last name not be used, was unable to get a detailed description of the burglars because of his visual impairment, known as optic nerve glioma.

His vision loss began when he was a young child and suffered a brain tumor that damaged his optic nerve. He has no vision in his left eye, and his right eye allows him to see objects within four to six feet in front of him.

It appears one of the burglars punched Joe in the area of his left eye and nose, which were bruised. He also suffered a chipped tooth and injuries to his back when he was struck by a large object, possibly a long pipe.

"I'm happy to say they're not as bad as they could have been," he said of his injuries.

After being knocked to the floor, Joe said he regained consciousness a short time later.

"The scary part for me was I woke up and my sight went totally black. I couldn't see anything for about three to four minutes. One of the dogs was on me, but I couldn't tell who it was or what it was," he said.

Joe also wasn't able to see if the burglars had a vehicle.

His only description of the burglar who approached him was that he had light brown hair and was wearing a T-shirt.

Joe said the burglars entered the house by busting through a basement door that was secured with a dead bolt, damaging siding on the house in the process.

They stole cash and jewelry valued in the thousands, said Joe's mother, Tina, who was the first person Joe called after he awoke before dialing 911.

Joe was treated for his injuries at Parkland Medical Center in Derry, but he is receiving follow-up care from his doctor and will be seen by a neurologist.

His mother said she's worried he may have suffered some brain damage.

While he was shaken by the attack, Joe refuses to let it stop him from living. He's still making plans to launch the Braille club in Epping to educate students about the tactile writing system used by the visually impaired and how it has changed many lives.

Joe's condition forced him to learn how to read Braille when he was young.

A lifelong Chester resident, Joe graduated from Pinkerton Academy and remained active throughout his childhood, attending camps for the blind and participating in Special Olympics during high school.

"The greatest part for me was being there and helping others who were less fortunate," he said.

Chief Burke has known Joe since he was a child.

"He's a real good kid," he said.

Meanwhile, Joe plans to continue his search for a job. He took the six-week WorkReadyNH program at Great Bay Community College to help him get a job, but so far hasn't had any luck.

Joe said he would like to find a job working with young children, maybe even running a paid program like the Braille club.

"I love working with kids," he said.

Anyone with information on the burglary and assault is asked to call the Chester Police Department at 887-2080.

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