WORCESTER — Nearly ten years after his death, justice may be coming closer for 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver.
A warrant out of Worcester Superior Court led to the arrest Wednesday of 32-year-old Alberto Sierra, Jr. He has been indicted by a grand jury for one charge of murder and another charge of disinterring a body, according to a statement released by Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.’s office.
Oliver, from Fitchburg, was last seen in September 2013 but was not reported missing until December 2013. His body was found in a suitcase on the side of Interstate 190 in Sterling five months later.
Oliver’s death caused statewide outcry for the grisly slaying and how the Department of Children and Families handled his case when he was alive. Oliver and his siblings were under state supervision and an investigation in 2014 after his death revealed that the social worker assigned to his case had missed eight mandatory monthly visits with Oliver. It led to operational changes for DCF as well as the firing of his social worker and two supervisors, and the resignation of the DCF Commissioner at the time.
Sierra — who was the boyfriend of Oliver’s mother — was not in custody at the time of his arrest, although he pleaded guilty to assaulting the mother and siblings in 2017 and was sentenced to six to seven years in state prison.
He had previously been charged with kidnapping and assaulting Oliver but prosecutors dropped those charges so “double jeopardy does not attach or prevent further possible prosecution for the homicide.”
Oliver’s mother Elsa plead guilty in 2017 to child assault and battery and reckless endangerment of a child due to abusing her other two living children, but prosecutors dropped charges that she was involved in his death, saying that they also wanted to keep the option of prosecuting her for his murder. She has not been arrested or charged with any further offenses.
Both adults were released from prison in 2020.
Oliver’s death was ruled a homicide in 2016. Sierra’s brother Christian was sentenced to prison for two and a half years in 2018 for misleading police, serving 135 days of the sentence. His girlfriend and a mutual friend were also investigated and charged for misleading police by lying about phone calls made at the time of Oliver’s disappearance.
Sierra was arraigned in Worcester Superior Court on Thursday and was ordered held without bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for May 25.
“Finally justice for that little boy,” said Judy Reardon, who was among many Fitchburg residents who came together to conduct searches and vigils for Jeremiah vowing to never forget. “Finally he can rest.”
Reardon, a grandmother, said it’s been an “emotional rollercoaster” and she’s “cried and prayed” all day.
Dina Hammad, also a Fitchburg volunteer who once searched for Jeremiah, told the Boston Herald Thursday night the arrest is “bittersweet.”
She added the entire city has been “waiting for this for a long time. Our hearts are heavy,” she added, “but we’re glad there may finally be justice for Jeremiah.”
The Boston Herald contributed to this report.