SPRINGFIELD -- A 12-year-old Springfield boy was arraigned in juvenile court yesterday on charges of rape and murder in the death of a 3-year-old family friend, making him one of the youngest accused killers in state history. Later yesterday, prosecutors charged his mother with murder and reckless endangerment of a child.
The 12-year-old boy is being held without bail and has not been identified, because he is a juvenile. Prosecutors said he raped Jeremy Rosario Milan at least twice during a seven-day period last month and beat him repeatedly. Jeremy died on Dec. 19 of blunt trauma to the brain, two days after he was hospitalized in critical condition at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, according to an autopsy report.
The woman charged with murder is Marisol Alverio, 28, who relatives of the victim and state child protection agency officials say is the juvenile's mother.
Hampden District Attorney William Bennett declined to comment on how Alverio is related to the juvenile, her role in Jeremy's death, or how the boy died.
He told the Associated Press, ''The evidence gathered indicates that Marisol Alverio acted with malice in failing to protect the victim from someone [who] she knew was abusing Jeremy and in failing to seek medical attention for an obviously injured 3-year-old child," Bennett said.
The attacks on the toddler occurred while his parents were visiting Puerto Rico for a family matter. The couple had placed their children in the care of an informal network of relatives and friends.
The victim, the youngest of five children, has been buried in Puerto Rico, where his parents and his siblings plan to return permanently after the tragedy.
''He was only 3 years old; this was our baby," said Sandra Rivera, an aunt of the victim who joined other distraught relatives at the courthouse yesterday. ''There's no more Jeremy in the family."
The 12-year-old will be tried as a juvenile because state law prohibits children under 14 from being tried as an adult for murder.
Josh Dohan, director of the Youth Advocacy Project in the state's public defender system, said the state regards preteens as too young to understand the full consequences of their actions. ''Massachusetts has never sent 12-year-olds to adult court," he said.
Denise Monteiro, spokeswoman for the state Department of Social Services, said records show that the juvenile was raised by parents who have history of child abuse and neglect charges going back to the juvenile's early days. She said Jeremy's parents do not have any record of child maltreatment.
It remains unclear if Jeremy's parents, Alejandro Gautier and Maria Milan, knew their child would be placed in Alverio's home. Some relatives said that Jeremy was originally placed with an aunt, but that he somehow ended up staying with Alverio and the 12-year-old. Relatives attending the arraignment said Jeremy's mother knew and trusted Alverio.
Prosecutors say that the boy raped and beat Jeremy from Dec. 11 to Dec. 17. On Dec. 17, a neighbor called 911 after hearing that a child was being hurt at a three-decker on Suffolk Street, according to the relatives.
Emergency medical technicians found Jeremy suffering from severe head trauma. While he was hospitalized, the Department of Social Services took temporary custody of Jeremy's four siblings, living in various nearby homes, to ensure that they would not be in danger, officials said.
When Jeremy's parents learned about his injuries, they flew back to Massachusetts just before the child died on Dec. 19. The following day, the 12-year-old boy was charged with rape and murder.
Jeremy's parents, who had moved to the Springfield area from Puerto Rico less than a year ago, have told state officials they plan to move back to the island.
When the 12-year-old was questioned by police about the toddler's injuries, he behaved oddly, said Rivera, Jeremy's aunt.
Rivera and other relatives were at the Springfield police station when the juvenile was being questioned, and said they saw him laughing and smiling. Alverio was there at the time and said the boy had said, ''The devil made me do it," Rivera said.
The 12-year-old had been a student at Chestnut Accelerated Middle School, neighbors said, which serves gifted, regular, and special-needs students. Neighbors described him as a troubled child who refused to attend school for weeks at a time. His family's home is in a neighborhood just a few blocks from Springfield College.
Albalinda Claudio, 28, who lives in an apartment below Alverio's, said the juvenile never respected Alverio's authority. ''He's a handful," she said in an interview on her porch. ''She had a lot of problems with the neighbors because of him."
The juvenile's lawyer, Alan Black, did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.
Few children as young as the 12-year-old have been charged with murder in Massachusetts. In 1999, a 10-year-old Lynn boy was accused of killing a 5-week-old infant and putting the body in a backpack in a closet. Two years ago, a 12-year-old Springfield boy admitted fatally stabbing another boy outside a movie theater.
John Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was also used.