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Boyfriend ordered held in Mass. missing boy case

  • Article by: AMY CRAWFORD
  • Associated Press
  • December 24, 2013 - 11:20 AM

FITCHBURG, Mass. — A judge ordered a Massachusetts man held without bail Tuesday in the case of his girlfriend's missing 5-year-old son, who was last seen by relatives months ago.

The attorney for Alberto Sierra of Fitchburg did not contest prosecutors' request to hold him based on dangerousness. Documents related to the case have been impounded and prosecutors did not elaborate.

Judge Margaret Guzman did say the boy's mother, Elsa Oliver of Fitchburg, can be released if she can make $100,000 bail and meet other conditions, including wearing a monitoring bracelet, resolving a contempt case in juvenile court and dealing with mental health issues. Her attorney, Gavin Reardon, said he can't get useful information from her. A competency hearing is set for Jan. 10.

"She has a very flat affect," he said. "She doesn't seem to understand what's going on. I've been with her many hours and I can't have a conversation with her."

Oliver's son, Jeremiah, is feared dead. Relatives say they last saw him in September. Authorities learned about his disappearance only recently.

A state Department of Children and Families social worker and her supervisor were fired over their handling of the case, and Gov. Deval Patrick has asked the department's commissioner to investigate whether responsibility extends beyond them. He said the family was receiving exemplary care from another caseworker until the case was transferred at the end of last year.

The fired worked got a message from Jeremiah's day care in June indicating his mother has said he would be leaving for Florida to live with his grandmother, but she never confirmed the information or conducted required follow-up checks, officials said.

Police are contacting area tattoo parlors about a tattoo Oliver has of a butterfly and the date Sept. 25, 2013, the Telegram & Gazette reported. They want to know whether she told a tattoo artist why that date is significant.

Oliver is charged with reckless endangerment of a child and being an accessory after the fact. Sierra is charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery on a child. Both have pleaded not guilty. They watched the hearing from a separate room and did not appear in court.

About 30 people attended to support the family of Jeremiah's father, Jose Oliver of New Britain, Conn.

Edward Valcourt of Worcester, Jose Oliver's cousin, wore a sweatshirt with a picture of the boy, whom he last saw two years ago, and the words "Prayers for Jeremiah." He was upset that the judge set bail for Elsa Oliver over prosecutors' objections and that neither she nor Sierra appeared in court.

"He was a wonderful little boy, as happy as could be," Valcourt said. "It's just awful thinking of him lying somewhere."

A hearing will be held in juvenile court Dec. 31 on Jose Oliver's bid for custody of his other two children with Elsa Oliver. Meanwhile, family members and friends are hoping to organize another search for Jeremiah.

"We're going to keep doing the search until we find him" said Jackie Serrano of Fitchburg, whose 5-year-old son was in Jeremiah's class. "That boy doesn't deserve to be like this. That boy deserves to be with his dad for Christmas."

© 2014 Star Tribune