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News / Nation & World

Man charged with killing 5-year-old who was found dead in a suitcase 9 years ago

By Associated Press
Published: May 18, 2023, 8:16am

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — Nine years after the body of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver was found in a suitcase beside a Massachusetts highway, the former boyfriend of the child’s mother will be arraigned Thursday on a murder charge in connection with the death, prosecutors said.

Alberto Sierra Jr., 32, is charged with murder and disinterring a body and will be arraigned in Worcester Superior Court, the office of Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said Wednesday. An email seeking comment was left with Sierra’s attorney.

Jeremiah’s body was found in April 2014 along Interstate 190 in Sterling, about an hour west of Boston. But the boy was last seen alive in September 2013, and was not reported missing until December of that year.

The family, which lived in Fitchburg at the time, was being supervised by the state Department of Children and Families. Even before the boy’s body was discovered, an investigation found that a social worker with the child welfare agency went months without visiting the family’s home — despite reports of abuse and neglect.

Ultimately, three agency employees were fired and the report led to changes at the agency.

The boy’s death was not ruled a homicide until February of 2016 when an autopsy by the state medical examiner said that he died of “homicidal violence of undetermined causes.”

Sierra was convicted in 2017 of assaulting Jeremiah’s mother and siblings and sentenced to up to seven years in prison. He was not incarcerated when he was arrested on Wednesday, the district attorney’s office said.

Jeremiah’s mother, Elsa Oliver, also pleaded guilty in 2017 to assault and battery and reckless endangerment in connection with her other two children and was sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

Prosecutors dropped charges against both of them in connection with Jeremiah’s disappearance and alleged abuse to avoid possible double jeopardy claims, prosecutors said at the time.

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