The mother of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, the missing Fitchburg boy who is feared dead, and her boyfriend are now charged with kidnapping the youth and other crimes in a case that has shocked the public and raised questions about the state’s child protection agency.
A Worcester County grand jury on Friday brought new charges in indictments against Elsa Oliver, 28, and Alberto Sierra, 23, District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.’s office said in a statement.
Oliver in December pleaded not guilty to two counts of reckless endangerment of a child and two accessory charges. Sierra had entered the same plea to two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a knife, and two counts of assault and battery on a child causing bodily injury.
On Friday, Sierra was indicted on a charge of indecent assault and battery on a child, and he and Oliver were each charged with kidnapping a child, as well as additional assault and battery counts.
Paul Jarvey, a spokesman for Early, said Jeremiah, who has two siblings, was the alleged kidnapping victim. He declined to say which child was the target of Sierra’s alleged indecent assault.
Both defendants are currently being held. An arraignment date has not been set for the new counts.
Officials did not detail exactly what led to the new charges.
Oliver’s lawyer, James Gavin Reardon Jr., said he did not know the basis for the new charges against her, since he had not received discovery evidence from prosecutors.
He added, however, that the indictments and recent charges brought against three other people, including Sierra’s brother, “appear to demonstrate that Elsa Oliver has also been threatened with regard to this situation.”
Sierra’s brother, Christian Sierra, 21, and two other people are facing charges of misleading police and interfering with a criminal investigation. Court records indicate that one of three suspects made an unspecified threat to Oliver in December.
On Friday, Jarvey said Oliver is the alleged victim in some of the new counts brought against Sierra. In addition, he said prosecutors now allege that Jeremiah and both siblings were harmed. Jarvey would not elaborate on what prompted the new charges, except to say they “developed [during] the investigation.”
Oliver is the mother of the three children. Sierra is not their father.
Jarvey would not comment on the status of the search for Jeremiah or say if a murder charge was imminent.
Sierra’s lawyer, Alan Black, could not be reached for comment Friday night.
The harrowing case erupted in December, when Jeremiah’s 7-year-old sister told counselors at Reingold Elementary School in Fitchburg that she and her two brothers were being abused in their home and that she had not seen her younger brother recently.
The state Department of Children and Families later acknowledged that a social worker had failed to make monthly visits to the home, and that the last time anyone from the agency saw the family was on May 20, when an investigator followed up on a report that Elsa Oliver was abusing her oldest son, who is 9.
Three DCF employees were fired in the aftermath of the revelations, and Commissioner Olga Roche has faced calls for her resignation.
Jeremiah’s aunt, Rose Valcourt, said Friday that she had just learned of the new charges from media reports.
“We’re just glad that something’s coming up,” she said. “We just hope now they tell us [where] is Jeremiah.”
Reardon, Oliver’s lawyer, would not say if she has indicated whether she has information about Jeremiah’s whereabouts, citing attorney-client privilege.