Woman whose son was found in suitcase pleads guilty to abuse

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — The mother of a 5-year-old boy whose body was found in a suitcase by the side of a highway is no longer facing charges in his disappearance but was sentenced Tuesday to jail for abusing her other two children.

Elsa Oliver, 32, formerly of Fitchburg, was sentenced to 7½ years in prison after pleading guilty to assault and battery and reckless endangerment. Her defense team had reached an agreement with prosecutors for the plea.

Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said his office has dismissed kidnapping and other charges against Oliver in connection with the disappearance of her son Jeremiah Oliver.

Jeremiah was last seen alive by relatives in September 2013, but wasn’t reported missing to police until December 2013. His body was found off Interstate 190 in Sterling in April 2014.

No one has ever been charged with his death, which was ruled a homicide.

The death remains under investigation, and prosecutors retained the right to charge Oliver in the future.

“The current charges involving the defendant and Jeremiah Oliver were ended at this time to allow the death investigation to continue and to eliminate any possible double jeopardy claim in connection with his death,” Early said in a statement.

Oliver, who suffers from bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, wanted to plead guilty to spare her surviving children the trauma of going through a trial, her lawyer, Mark Wester, said in court. She did not speak in court other than to enter her plea.

The plea came a week after her former boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, 26, was sentenced to six to seven years in prison. He had pleaded guilty to assault and child endangerment for abusing Oliver and her other two children. Prosecutors also dismissed all charges Sierra had faced relating to Jeremiah.

Oliver and Sierra have been in custody since 2014, and were given credit for time already served while awaiting trial.

The family was under state Department of Children and Families monitoring at the time of Jeremiah’s disappearance. The case led to increased staffing and an overhaul of procedures at the state child welfare agency. Three employees were fired, a fourth was disciplined and the commissioner resigned under pressure from state lawmakers as a result of Jeremiah’s death.


This story has been corrected to show that Oliver was sentenced to jail, not prison