FITCHBURG — The pastor of a church near the home of missing 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver vowed on Thursday night that the search for the child will continue.
“We’re going to keep looking,” said the Rev. Thomas Hughes, pastor of New Creation Community Church. “We’re going to turn over every rock, we’re going to turn over every stone, we’re going to knock on every door until Jeremiah comes home.”
Hughes spoke during a service at his church that was held for the boy. About 20 people attended, including a handful of Jeremiah’s relatives. Despite his family being under the supervision of state child welfare officials, Jeremiah went missing in September, and authorities fear he is now dead.
Hughes also offered prayers for Jeremiah’s mother, Elsa Oliver, 28, and her boyfriend, Alberto L. Sierra, 23, who are being held on criminal charges in connection with the boy’s disappearance.
Hughes prayed that the couple would tell authorities what they know about Jeremiah’s whereabouts.
‘One child in the community who is lost is too many.And we do care, because we all have children.’Douglas Dyer, New Creation Community Church
“Take out the heart of stone and give her a heart of flesh,” Hughes prayed. “Help her to be cooperative with investigators. . . . Soften his heart, so he will be able to speak to the right people, so we can bring Jeremiah home.”
Police Chief Robert A. DeMoura said at the service that authorities are not seeking anyone else in connection with the case. He said police have pursued tips leading them to Florida and parts of Fitchburg, but he could not elaborate because the investigation is active.
“We continuously work hard, each and every second of this case,” DeMoura said.
Relatives of Jeremiah who attended declined to comment afterward. An uncle, Sandrino Oliver, was overcome with emotion and collapsed onto a chair, surrounded by family and supporters who prayed with him.
Mayor Lisa Wong also addressed the congregation and urged the public to come forward with any information that might help the search.
“We need to live in a world where we can come together and speak up,” Wong said.
She said people across the city have approached her with one question since the case came to light: “Where is Jeremiah?”
He was last seen on Sept. 14, according to officials; that same month, the social worker supervising the Olivers recommended that the state end its involvement with the family. But no one from the social services agency noticed that the child was missing until Dec. 2. That was when his older sister told staff at her school that Sierra had been beating her, her mother, and two brothers, authorities have said.
The social worker for the state’s child welfare agency was fired for not making mandatory monthly visits to the home, and her supervisor was ousted.
At Thursday night’s service, church members sang; at Hughes’s urging, they shouted Jeremiah’s name in a gesture of hope that he would be found safe.
“Leave here with hope,” Hughes told the congregation.
Paul Jarvey, a spokesman for the Worcester district attorney’s office, said there was no update on Jeremiah’s whereabouts or whether prosecutors will bring more charges against his mother or Sierra.
Sierra is charged with two counts each of assaulting a child and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Elsa Oliver is facing accessory and reckless endangerment charges.
“Any additional charges will depend on what the investigation produces as we move forward,” Jarvey said.
Minister Reginald Smith, an assistant at the church, described the service as “a time when we, as a community, can come together.”
His colleague, minister Douglas Dyer, agreed.
“One child in the community who is lost is too many,” Dyer said. “And we do care, because we all have children.”