WORCESTER — Elsa Oliver, the Fitchburg woman accused of playing a role in the disappearance of her 5-year-old son, Jeremiah, today told a Superior Court judge that she may want to represent herself in court, where she faces nine charges, including reckless endangerment of a child.
Speaking in a flat tone, Oliver described her thinking in brief comments she made to Superior Court Judge James Lemire, who presided over her arraignment today on the nine indictments returned against her earlier this month.
From the bench, Lemire asked Oliver if she believed that she had the educational background to confront the complex legal challenge that comes with being charged with kidnapping, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and three counts of reckless endangerment of a child.
“No,’’ replied Oliver, a high school graduate. “I wouldn’t.’’
Oliver’s statement that she was considering serving as her own lawyer did not completely surprise James Gavin Reardon Jr., the attorney who has served as Oliver’s court-appointed attorney since her arrest in December.
“I don’t know what to expect from Elsa from one day to the next,’’ he said as he left the hearing. He said Oliver has been generally uncooperative with his efforts to build a legal defense strategy for her.
A court-appointed mental health expert has previously found Oliver competent to stand trial.
Lemire ordered Reardon to continue representing Oliver for the time being. Lemire also kept bail at $100,000 cash for Oliver, an amount she has not been able to post since being taken into custody when the investigation into her son’s disappearance got underway in December.
Oliver also balked at completing a standard form required by the court to demonstrate that she is indigent and is entitled to have a court-appointed attorney represent her. She told the judge she did not want to answer the questions contained on the form.
“I’d rather write it on my own,’’ she said.
Oliver, 28, and her boyfriend, Alberto L. Sierra, 23, are being investigated for allegedly physically abusing Jeremiah Oliver, who has not been seen since last fall and is feared by Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. to have been murdered.
Sierra’s brother, Christian Sierra, 21, and two other people are facing charges of misleading police and interfering with a criminal investigation. Court records indicate that one of the three suspects made an unspecified threat to Oliver in December.
The shocking case erupted in December, when Jeremiah’s 7-year-old sister told counselors at Reingold Elementary School in Fitchburg that she and her two brothers were being abused in their home and that she had not seen Jeremiah recently.
School officials alerted the Department of Children and Families, which has since fired several people who were supposed to conduct home visits with Elsa Oliver, but didn’t do so even though they reported that they had.
Alberto Sierra was arraigned in the same courthouse earlier where he pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, assault, and reckless endangerment of a child. Bail was set at $250,000 cash.Patricia Wen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.