Massachusetts woman whose son was found in suitcase on side of highway pleads guilty to abuse
The mother of a 5-year-old boy whose body was found in a suitcase lying on the side of a Massachusetts highway in 2014 pleaded guilty Tuesday to abusing her two other children.
Elsa Oliver, 32, formerly of Fitchburg, Mass., was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to assault and battery and reckless endangerment. Her defense team had reached an agreement with prosecutors for the plea.
Oliver had been facing charges in connection with the disappearance of her son Jeremiah Oliver, but those were dismissed.
Jeremiah was last seen alive by relatives in Sept. 2013, but he was not reported missing to police until Dec. 2013. His body was found off Interstate 190 in a suitcase in Sterling, Mass. in April 2014.
No one has ever been charged with his death, which was ruled a homicide.
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The death remains under investigation, and prosecutors retained the right to charge Oliver in the future.
"The current charges involving the defendant and Jeremiah Oliver were ended at this time to allow the death investigation to continue and to eliminate any possible double jeopardy claim in connection with his death," Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said in a statement.
Oliver, who suffers from bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, wanted to plead guilty to spare her surviving children the trauma of going through a trial, her lawyer, Mark Wester, said in court. She did not speak in court other than to enter her plea.
Oliver has been in prison since 2014 and was given credit for time already served while awaiting trial.
Oliver reportedly forced her children to kneel for long periods of time while taking cold showers, according to CBS Boston.
School officials also reported in Dec. 2012 that the children came to class dressed in filthy and ripped clothing, according to Mass Live.
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The family was under state Department of Children and Families monitoring at the time of Jeremiah’s disappearance. The case led to increased staffing and overhaul of procedures at the state child welfare agency. Three employees were fired, a fourth was disciplined and the commissioner resigned under pressure from state lawmakers as a result of Jeremiah’s death.
Oliver’s two other children are in the custody of the state.
Oliver’s former boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, 26, was sentenced last week to six to seven years in prison. He pleaded guilty to assault and child endangerment for abusing Oliver and her other two children. Prosecutors also dismissed all charges Sierra had faced relating to Jeremiah. Sierra has been in prison since 2014 and was also given credit for the time he has already served.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.