FITCHBURG — A courtroom exploded into chaos today when the uncle of missing 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver cried out in anguish moments after the boy’s mother had been declared mentally competent to stand trial.
Sandrino Oliver shrugged off efforts by relatives and friends to silence him in Fitchburg District Court and shouted out after was led from the courtroom.
“Where’s my nephew? What happened to my nephew?” screamed Sandrino Oliver.
Court officers wrestled Sandrino Oliver out of the courtroom as relatives tried to protect him. Outside, he briefly broke away from a cluster of people that included police, relatives, and friends. He ran down the street, stopped, and began to weep. Court officials convinced him to return to the courthouse.
The outburst came after a brief hearing before Judge Margaret Guzman during which the judge concluded that Elsa Oliver was competent to stand trial. The judge’s ruling came after the 28-year-old woman had been examined by mental health professionals.
Oliver’s defense attorney, James Reardon Jr., said outside the courthouse that he was not convinced she was capable of communicating with him, despite the judge’s finding.
Reardon also said he was willing to consider a request by Jeremiah Oliver’s biological father, Jose Oliver, to meet with his estranged wife and ask her what had happened to his youngest son.
Jose Oliver told reporters that his sister-in-law had spoken with Elsa Oliver recently. Elsa Oliver asked about Jeremiah, but without any obvious emotion and at one point during the conversation, she asked, “Is it the Rapture?”
Jose Oliver, however, said he did not believe his estranged wife was mentally ill.
Elsa Oliver is being held on high bail after pleading not guilty to charges that she allegedly allowed her boyfriend, Alberto L. Sierra, Jr., 22, to abuse Jeremiah Oliver. Sierra has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. has said he fears Jeremiah Oliver is a homicide victim. Authorities learned he was missing last month when the boy’s sister told Fitchburg school officials she and her siblings were being abused and that when she last saw Jeremiah his hand was bleeding and their mother was worried that he would die from the wound.
The Department of Children and Families has come under fire for not protecting the Oliver children after the agency acknowledged that the social worker assigned to the family did not visit their home as required. DCF has fired the social worker and two supervisors.
The Office of Child Advocate concluded in a report made public Thursday that DCF failed to perform home visits in nearly 1 out of 5 cases.
After Sandrino Oliver returned to the courthouse, he was taken into custody by court officers, who handcuffed him, to face a contempt of court charge.
He appeared before Guzman, who dismissed the charge after he promised not to repeat his behavior in the future.
He and his relatives got into their cars and drove away.Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.