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Prosecutor says mother failed child in Fitchburg case

No effort to protect missing 5-year-old, judge is told

FITCHBURG — Prosecutors on Tuesday said the mother of missing 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver “did nothing” to protect him and his siblings from abuse and had expressed frustration with state involvement with her family.

Two years of records from the state’s child welfare agency showed a “consistent, repeat pattern of neglect and abuse of the children in this case,” prosecutor Cheryl Riddle told a judge at a court hearing.

Elsa Oliver, who faces charges in connection with disappearance of Jeremiah, who is feared dead, had allowed her boyfriend, Alberto L. Sierra Jr., to abuse the children over at least the past six months, she said.


“She did nothing to protect the children,” she said. “Nothing to seek medical attention or get them help of any kind.”

The comments were made in a private sidebar, but Judge Margaret Guzman ruled that a transcript of the discussion be made public, shedding light on the high-profile case.

Alberto Sierra was led from court Tuesday after a judge ruled he was too dangerous to release on bail.RICK CINCLAIR/WORCESTER TELEGRAM & GAZETTE

Guzman ordered that Sierra be held without bail, citing “overwhelming evidence” that he was too dangerous to be released.

“There are no conditions that could assure that Mr. Sierra would not pose a risk to himself or others,” she said.

Sierra is charged with two counts of assaulting a child, alleged abuse that led investigators to search for Jeremiah, who has been missing since September.

Investigators are treating the case as a potential homicide. A social worker for the state’s child welfare agency was fired for not making mandatory monthly visits to the home, and her supervisor was fired as well.

In September, the social worker recommended that the state end its involvement with the family.

According to Riddle, Oliver said over the summer that she was taking Jeremiah out of school because she was “sick of DCF.”

Sierra has indicated he is a member of the Latin Kings gang, she said.


During Tuesday’s proceedings, Riddle requested a sidebar with the judge to contest Guzman’s decision to grant $100,000 cash bail for Oliver.

Guzman said she was not convinced that Oliver posed as high a risk as Sierra.

“After a review of the same records, the court cannot say that it has been convinced on the issue of dangerousness,” Guzman said. “It is clear that there is a disparity in the sense of the role of each individual.”

“Holding people without bail pending trial is an extraordinary action,” she added.

Oliver, 28, is charged with being an accessory after the fact to the attacks on her children, and with two counts of reckless endangerment of a child.

Oliver is already being held without bail on a contempt charge in juvenile court, where she has been ordered to produce her son.

“There’s no release for her on that, until she resolves the contempt issues,” Guzman said.

Guzman ordered Oliver — if she posts bail — to wear a GPS monitoring device and have daily contact with probation officers.

Oliver’s two other young children have been placed in state custody. The children’s father, Jose Oliver, said he will seek custody. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 31.

After the hearing, Jose Oliver praised the police for “doing a good job,” in searching for Jeremiah. He said family and friends were planning to resume their search this weekend.

“I just want to find my son,” he said.

Outside the courthouse, other family members pleaded with the imprisoned couple to help authorities find Jeremiah.


“If he’s alive or he’s deceased, we need to know,” Edward Valcourt, the boy’s cousin, said from the courthouse steps. “Why can’t they just say where he is?”

Relatives expressed frustration at the court hearing, where little information emerged about the case.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers submitted their arguments in writing, and Guzman impounded the documents for 30 days in light of the “ongoing nature of the circumstances in this case.”

There are a number of “third-party protective interests” in the documents, she said.

Peter Schworm can be reached at