Over Five Years Later, No Murder Charges in Jeremiah Oliver’s Death
By Jordan Graham
FITCHBURG -- More than five years after little 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver was last seen alive, a woman who admitted to lying to investigators about the Fitchburg boy’s disappearance was sentenced to only probation -- prompting a child-welfare advocate to lament that the state’s youngest victims often “don’t have a voice.”
Oliver’s remains were found in a suitcase on the side of Interstate 190 in Sterling in April 2014, months after he was reported missing. He was last seen alive by relatives in September 2013, but was not reported gone until that December. The child’s killer still has not been publicly identified or charged.
“At the end of the day, we have a little boy who is dead, and hopefully there is some kind of resolution for him,” said Tammy Mello, executive director of the Children’s League of Massachusetts. “People want to feel like someone is held accountable for doing it to him. That’s in any criminal case you see. Victims want vindication. We’re talking about a young child that no longer has a voice.”
Cailey Thibault, a friend of the boy’s mother Elsa Oliver, was sentenced Friday to one year of probation after she pleaded guilty to misleading and lying to investigators about her interactions with Elsa Oliver, according to the Worcester County District Attorney’s office. Court documents signed by a State Police trooper said phone records show she committed perjury in front of the grand jury.
Christian Sierra, Thibault’s ex-boyfriend, pleaded guilty to the same charges over the summer.
Prosecutors had previously charged Elsa Oliver’s boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, with abusing her and Jeremiah, along with the boy’s two siblings.
During a vigil held for Jeremiah a couple months after his disappearance, a neighbor of the boy’s Meadowbrook Lane home said she could hear screaming coming from the home more than once.
“I heard a lot of screaming, especially from the mother,” said Mary Santos, who lived right below Jeremiah’s apartment. “It’s just heartbreaking for me to know something like this is going on. I have my own grandchildren. It’s devastating.”
One of Oliver’s children had disclosed on May 10, 2013, to school staff at Reingold that before he went to school, his mother struck him with a belt on the back, leg and feet. He was looked at by a school nurse, who documented slight “pinkness” on his back, according to court documents.
Authorities were not alerted to the boy’s disappearance until December 2013, after Jeremiah’s sister disclosed to a guidance counselor at Reingold Elementary School that she had been abused by Alberto Sierra. As a result of those statements, the children were taken from the home and placed into protective custody, according to court documents.
Prosecutors dropped the charges associated with Jeremiah, saying they did not want to make any moves that would rule out possible homicide charges against Alberto Sierra because of double jeopardy.
Alberto Sierra was sentenced to as many as seven years in prison after he pleaded guilty to abusing Jeremiah’s siblings and mother. Elsa Oliver pleaded guilty to endangering the boy’s siblings, and abusing one of them, and was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.
Still, even the guilty pleas from Thibault and Christian Sierra are not directly connected to Jeremiah’s death. They reportedly center on attempts to hide communication between Jeremiah’s mother and Alberto Sierra months after Jeremiah was last seen.
The boy’s death sparked a major review of the state’s Department of Children and Families, which eventually underwent an overhaul. Several of the DCF workers assigned to Oliver’s case were fired after it was revealed they had missed visits and appointments.
Mello said prosecutors appear to be moving cautiously, likely in an attempt to bolster their case against a suspect. There is no statute of limitations for murder in Massachusetts.
“Of course we want justice for any victim, but we’re talking about a 5-year-old little boy,” said Mello. “For him and all other young people who don’t have that voice, we yearn for answers for them.”