10 years later: 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver’s accused killer arraigned for his murder

WORCESTER, Mass. — It is a case that has long haunted the city of Fitchburg. In late 2013, five-year-old Jeremiah Oliver disappeared. Months later, in April 2014, his body was found in a suitcase tossed along Interstate 190 in Sterling. His killer has never been found -- until perhaps now.

Thursday, Alberto Sierra, Jr. was arraigned in Worcester Superior Court on a charge of First Degree Murder and Disinterment of a Body in connection with Oliver’s murder. He pleaded not guilty to both charges. The judge ordered Sierra held without bail. His next court appearance is later this month.

Sierra’s court appearance was brief -- but his involvement with the Oliver family is long and troubled. At the time Jeremiah disappeared, Sierra was the boyfriend of the child’s mother. In late 2013, Jeremiah’s seven-year-old sister alerted school authorities that she hadn’t seen her brother for weeks -- and that Sierra abused her and her two siblings.

In 2017, Sierra was convicted of assault on Oliver’s family members -- with the exception of Jeremiah. The DA left the murdered child out of that case to continue pursuing a homicide investigation without the possible risk of legal double jeopardy. Sierra was sentenced to 6 to 7 years in prison on those assault charges.

The Massachusetts Department of Corrections did not respond to Boston 25′s request regarding how long Sierra actually served -- but the DA’s office said he was not imprisoned at the time of this latest arrest.

Among those attending Sierra’s arraignment... Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest Martineau. He got the call Wednesday informing him of the arrest.

“That phone call I received meant the world to me because I knew what this case meant to our investigators,” Martineau said. Some of those investigators, he added, are now retired.

“The case rocked the conscience of the city of Fitchburg,” Martineau said. “We made a commitment 10 years ago that we would never give up. That we’d never forget. And that came to fruition yesterday.”

One reason the Jeremiah Oliver case was so troubling is that it might not have happened -- if a Department of Child and Family Services worker assigned to the Oliver’s visited them on a regular basis. But for months that worker failed to show up. DCF’s failures in the Oliver case led Gov. Deval Patrick to order an independent investigation of the agency.

Martineau is relieved a suspect is in custody. But there is nothing happy about this case.

“It haunts any parent when you see a case like this,” said Martineau. “Anything that happens to a child just eats at your soul.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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