WORCESTER, Mass. The mother of a missing 5-year-old Fitchburg boy who hasn’t been seen in months and is feared dead pleaded not guilty Friday to additional charges in the case.
Elsa Oliver, 28, was ordered held on $100,000 bail at her Worcester Superior Court arraignment on charges including kidnapping, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and reckless endangerment. That’s the same bail she’s been detained on since her Fitchburg District Court arraignment in December.
Her son, Jeremiah Oliver, was last seen by relatives in September but wasn’t reported missing until December. The family was being monitored by state social workers at the time.
Oliver indicated at one point Friday that she wanted to represent herself in court proceedings, but the judge talked her out of it after questioning her about her legal training.
Oliver has emotional and mental health issues, her court-appointed attorney said after the hearing.
“I continue to doubt that she is competent to stand trial,” attorney James Reardon Jr. said.
Oliver, he said, appears “scattered and inconsistent,” has a short attention span, and is unable to process more than a few sentences at a time.
He said he has retained a forensic psychologist to evaluate her.
Oliver’s boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, 23, was arraigned Thursday on similar charges and was ordered held on $250,000 bail. His lawyer declined to comment.
A Worcester County grand jury indicted the pair last week. Three other people are charged with interfering with a criminal investigation and misleading police.
The case led to scrutiny of the state Department of Children and families, which was handling the family’s case. Three DCF workers were fired and a fourth was disciplined in connection with the boy’s disappearance.
An internal investigation found that staff missed multiple opportunities to engage with the family through home visits and sometimes went months between visits to the home. Several outside reviews of the agency have found deep problems, which have led to reforms.
Oliver’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 28. Sierra is due back in court on May 1.
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- State Auditor: DCF Did Not Meet Basic Requirements
- Preliminary DCF Report Calls For More Staff Supervision
- DCF Commissioner Discusses Agency’s Challenges, Struggles
- Requests To Remove Children From Troubled Mass. Homes Rise Sharply
- Report: Social Worker In Fitchburg Case Failed To Visit 8 Other Families
- After Fitchburg Case, Scrutiny Turns To Social Worker Caseloads