WORCESTER — The lawyer for the mother of Jeremiah Oliver, the 5-year-old Fitchburg boy whose body was found earlier this month in a duffel bag near a highway, said Monday that his client’s psychological issues make it difficult to have “meaningful conversations” with her.
“She is substantially unable to participate in her own defense,’’ James Reardon Jr. said after a brief status hearing for Elsa Oliver in Worcester Superior Court.
Oliver, 28, and her boyfriend, Alberto Sierra Jr., 23, have been charged with assault and child endangerment in connection with the boy’s disappearance last fall. No one has been charged with the boy’s death.
“There are no new charges against her,” Reardon said.
Oliver, who has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail, did not appear at the hearing.
Authorities have not released the cause of death for Jeremiah, whose disappearance while under the supervision of the state’s child welfare agency has sparked an outcry. Officials only learned of his disappearance when his sister told school staff she and her older brother had been abused.
Reardon said it was “certainly possible” that prosecutors would file murder charges against Oliver. But determining how the boy died could take months. “It’s a careful, painstaking process,” he said.
Reardon said he had arranged for an independent forensic review of the boy’s body. He hoped his remains would be released for burial soon.
Jeremiah’s body was found April 18 off Interstate 190 in Sterling. Reardon said he does not believe Elsa Oliver gave any information to the police about the location of the body.
Authorities have not said how the body ended up in that location or how they were able to find it.
On Monday, the boy’s uncle, Sandrino Oliver, left the courtroom abruptly before the hearing. In the hallway, he caused a disturbance when he cried out Jeremiah again and again. His wife rushed to comfort him and took him from the courthouse.
The next hearing in Oliver’s case is slated for May 28.Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.