As I mentioned yesterday, five-year-old Jeremiah Oliver was last seen at his home in Fitchburg, Massachusetts in September--but no one reported him missing until earlier this month. His mother, Elsa, and her boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, were brought up on numerous felonies related to his disappearance. Earlier today, they had their first appearance in the form of a "dangerousness hearing"--a hearing at which prosecutors can argue a defendant should be kept in jail prior to trial on the grounds that he or she is too dangerous to be released on bail. A judge found Sierra was dangerous and ordered him held without bail. While Elsa Oliver was ordered held on $100,000 bail, she won't be getting out any time soon even if she makes bail.
Fitchburg District Court Judge Margaret Guzman said that, upon reviewing the documents submitted by prosecutors, she found "overwhelming evidence" that Sierra is dangerous and ordered him held without bail for 90 days, the maximum amount of time possible.Elsa is charged with reckless endangerment and being an accessory after the fact of an assault with a dangerous weapon, while Sierra faces charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and assault on a child causing bodily injury. Elsa has been in custody since last Monday, when a juvenile judge ordered her to produce Jeremiah within 72 hours and she didn't do so. The way I'm reading this, even if she makes bail on the charges she faced today, she won't be released unless she either produces Jeremiah or tells where he is. Her own lawyer says that it's very hard to talk to her; she has a "flat affect" and doesn't understand the seriousness of the issue.
In reviewing the same evidence, Guzman said she found it "clear there is a disparity in the sense of the role of each individual," and did not find Oliver to be dangerous.
While Oliver was granted bail, Guzman said even if she can pay the bail amount, she must resolve a contempt charge in juvenile court and mental health issues before she could be released. If released, Oliver must wear a GPS for monitoring, would only have windows for medical and legal appointments and must have daily contact with the probation department.
Guzman also extended Oliver's ongoing mental health evaluation for an additional 20 days, and ordered all of the documents used in determining the dangerousness of the defendants to be impounded for 30 days, because of the ongoing investigation.
Jeremiah was last seen on September 14, but nobody knew he was missing until December 2, when his sister told school counselors that Sierra had abused her. When authorities came to remove his sister and brother from Elsa's house, Jeremiah wasn't there.
The fact that Elsa was granted bail at all doesn't sit well with Jeremiah's relatives, who are especially upset that she and Sierra weren't made to tell where Jeremiah was. It's hard not to blame them. According to WCVB-TV in Boston, prosecutors have evidence that Elsa was grossly derelict in caring for her three kids. She never got them medical attention or any sort of help. Additionally, they have evidence that Sierra is a member of the Latin Kings, one of the largest and most dangerous street gangs in the nation. Indeed, police think Sierra may have killed Jeremiah, but don't have enough definitive proof to rack him up for murder.
These two aren't the only ones who should be up before a judge. The social worker who was working with Elsa and her kids was supposed to check on them regularly, but last saw them in May and never followed up on Elsa's claim that Jeremiah was now in Florida. She and her supervisor were both fired, and no less an authority than Governor Deval Patrick thinks that this may also be a case of gross systemic dysfunction. Hopefully Jeremiah can be found safe and sound, if he's still alive--and everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, responsible for this ends up doing jail time.