Massachusetts man pleads not guilty to murder charge in 2013 death of boy, 5, found in suitcase

A Massachusetts man was arraigned Thursday on new charges in the death of a 5-year-old boy whose body was found in a suitcase near a highway in 2014, prosecutors announced.

A grand jury indicted Alberto L. Sierra Jr., 32, on charges of murder and disinterring of a body in connection with the killing of Jeremiah Oliver, the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

Sierra was in a relationship with Jeremiah’s mother, Elsa Oliver, at the time of the child’s disappearance in 2013, CNN previously reported.

Sierra, who pleaded not guilty to both charges Thursday, was held without bail and is expected to return to court on May 25, Worcester Superior Court Assistant Clerk Magistrate Matthew Lefebvre told CNN.

Jeremiah, who lived with his mother in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was last seen by family members in September 2013. Authorities first learned of and began investigating Jeremiah’s disappearance three months later.

His 8-year-old sister’s report of being abused by Sierra to her school counselors led authorities to take her and her other brother into protective custody in December 2013, according to a police affidavit. Authorities then realized Jeremiah was missing.

In April 2014, investigators found Jeremiah’s remains wrapped in a blanket and stuffed in a bag off of Interstate 190 in Sterling, about 50 miles west of Boston. The chief medical examiner’s office in Boston ruled Jeremiah’s death a homicide, according to the DA’s office release.

Massachusetts State Police stand along Interstate 190, where police said a child's body was found on April 18, 2014. - Tom Rettig/Worcester Telegram & Gazette/AP/FILE

“It haunts any parent when you see a case like this, anything that happens to a child just eats at your soul,” Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest Martineau, who investigated the case in 2013, said Thursday, CNN affiliate WCVB reported.

Two Massachusetts Department of Children and Families workers who had failed to conduct in-person monthly checks on Jeremiah’s family were fired in 2013.

In 2014, the department’s commissioner Olga Roche resigned amid calls for her to step down following the deaths of Jeremiah and two other children meant to be under the agency’s protection, CNN previously reported.

An attorney for Sierra did not immediately respond to CNN on Thursday. The DA’s office declined to comment on what led to Sierra’s arrest.

Previous charges against Sierra and Oliver were dropped

Sierra and Oliver were indicted on previous charges in connection with Jeremiah’s disappearance and alleged abuse one month before his body was found.

In August 2017, Sierra was sentenced to up to seven years in state prison on seven charges to which he pleaded guilty, including three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of assault and battery and two counts of reckless endangerment of a child, according to the DA’s office.

Elsa Oliver, Jeremiah's mother, seen in 2014 at a hearing. - Brett Crawford/Sentinel & Enterprise/AP/FILE

Oliver also pleaded guilty to assault and battery and two counts of reckless endangerment of a child and was sentenced to over seven years in prison.

Prosecutors dropped the previous charges against Sierra and Oliver in 2017 to “eliminate any possible double jeopardy claim” in connection with Jeremiah’s death as the investigation continued, an August 2017 news release stated.

CNN’s Kevin Conlon and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at