Mother of missing boy is arraigned; Defendent says she wants to represent herself at trial.
WORCESTER -- A seemingly confused Elsa Oliver appeared for her arraignment in Worcester Superior Court Friday morning on new charges including kidnapping, assault and reckless endangerment.
She was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail.
Ms. Oliver underwent a mental health evaluation in December after her 5-year-old son Jeremiah Oliver was reported missing, and she has been held in connection with his disappearance since. The Worcester District Attorney's office is handling the case as a homicide.
Before Ms. Oliver entered the courtroom Friday, Probation Officer Marie M. Mercurio told Judge James R. Lemire that Ms. Oliver was not providing much information and had refused to answer questions during her intake meeting. Ms. Mercurio said Ms. Oliver refused to sign the form that allows the court to determine if she qualifies for a court-appointed lawyer.
Ms. Oliver said she did not want to provide the court with financial information and questioned why they needed it. She said she did not want to provide the information in open court or with a probation officer present.
Her lawyer, James Reardon Jr., later said he "firmly believed (Ms. Oliver) to be indigent'' after Ms. Oliver would not answer if she was receiving money in jail from anyone.
Before the arraignment started, Judge James R. Lemire had to repeat himself when asking Ms. Oliver how she wanted to proceed regarding legal representation.
At one point, Ms. Oliver told the judge she wanted to represent herself and said she no longer wanted Mr. Reardon to defend her.
She told the judge she was capable of responding to the court and understood the proceedings.
"I have an attorney, but I want to represent myself as well,'' she said. "... I will keep him (Mr. Reardon) as my attorney until further notice and look for a new one ... considering he has been my attorney the whole time. ... I don't have any other attorney.''
When the judge asked, again, if she wanted to continue with Mr. Reardon, she said, "Technically, no.''
"I would prefer 'yes' or 'no,' '' Judge Lemire said. "I want to assure myself you understand what you are getting into,'' in regard to her representing herself.
The judge then asked if she felt she could file all the necessary paperwork in her case.
"Actually, I would not be able to,'' she said.
Judge Lemire said he would appoint Mr. Reardon until and unless another motion was filed.
Once the attorney issue was settled, Ms. Oliver's arraignment began.
She looked directly at the clerk as each charge was read against her, responding "not guilty'' to each one.
After the arraignment, Mr. Reardon said he continues to believe Ms. Oliver has emotional and mental health issues. He said he has retained a forensic psychologist to re-evaluate her.
"I continue to doubt that she is competent to stand trial,'' he said.
Interactions with Ms. Oliver, he said, continue to be "scattered and inconsistent,'' and she is unable to process more than a few sentences at a time. Ms. Oliver, he said, is confused and paranoid, and has a 15- to 20-second attention span and cannot effectively assist a lawyer to defend her, never mind represent herself.
If Ms. Oliver had insisted on defending herself in court, he said, he would have protested.
"She needs a lawyer,'' he said. "The fact that she thinks she doesn't is of great concern to me. Clearly, she should have a lawyer.''
Ms. Oliver is charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a belt), three counts each of assault and battery and reckless endangerment of a child, kidnapping of a child and permitting an assault and battery on a child causing bodily injury.
Jeremiah, who was last seen by relatives Sept. 14 and whose disappearance is being handled as a homicide investigation, is listed as the victim for some of the charges, including those alleging kidnapping of a child and permitting an assault and battery on a child causing bodily injury. Two of his siblings are listed as victims on other charges.
Ms. Oliver's boyfriend, Alberto L. Sierra, was arraigned Thursday in Worcester Superior Court and was ordered held on $250,000 cash bail.
A Worcester County grand jury indicted the pair last week.
Mr. Sierra was arraigned on charges of kidnapping of a child, four counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (belt or knife), two counts of assault and battery, three counts of reckless endangerment of a child, and single counts of indecent assault and battery on a child and assault and battery on a child causing bodily injury. All the charges, except the one charging indecent assault and battery on a child, one count of assault and battery and one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (knife), list either Jeremiah or one of his siblings as the alleged victim.
Elsa Oliver is listed as the victim in one of the assault and battery charges and one of the assault and battery with a dangerous weapon charges. The alleged victim of the indecent assault and battery on a child is not named in the charges.
Ms. Oliver, 28, of 276 Kimball St., Fitchburg, and Mr. Sierra, 23, of 164 Meadowbrook Lane, Fitchburg, were previously charged in Fitchburg District Court. Ms. Oliver was facing two counts each of reckless endangerment of a child and being an accessory, after the fact, to assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in the district court.
Mr. Sierra was charged with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and two counts of assault and battery on a child causing bodily injury.
The cases of three others charged with interfering with a criminal investigation and misleading police are pending in the Fitchburg court.
Ms. Oliver is due back in court April 28, and Mr. Sierra is due back in court May 1.
Contact Paula Owen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @PaulaOwenTG.
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|Author:||Owen, Paula J.|
|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Mar 29, 2014|
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