WORCESTER -- The mother of a missing Fitchburg 5-year-old found dead on the side of a highway in Sterling did not appear in Worcester Superior Court on Monday.

The pretrial conference was Elsa Oliver's first court date since the body of her son, Jeremiah, was found wrapped in a blanket inside a suitcase in a wooded area just off Interstate 190 south the morning of April 18.

Her attorney, James Gavin Reardon Jr., said he had "recent contact" with Oliver, but that he does not "get into attorney-client conferences or communications."

He said he is certain, however, that given the amount of attention the discovery of Jeremiah's body has received, she has been made aware that her son's body has been found, but does not know whether she is in a mental condition to understand it.

"As I've consistently said, I don't believe she really understands what's occurring, so I can't speak to what she knows, but I'm sure she's been provided with the information," Reardon said.

He said Oliver was not required to attend Monday's court date, which he described as a routine "housekeeping-type conference between the judge and the attorney."

By order of Framingham State Prison, Oliver was transferred to the Worcester Treatment and Recovery Center on April 2 for further mental-health evaluation, Reardon said. He said a report on the findings of that evaluation is due Friday and should be made available to him before Oliver's next court date, a status and discovery conference scheduled for May 28.

"In the interim, I expect the commonwealth will provide me with what additional information they have regarding the underlying charges," Reardon said.

Jeremiah's uncle, Sandrino Oliver of Worcester, reportedly had an emotional outburst in the court hallway just before the brief hearing, and was escorted away by other family members.

Judge James Lemire ordered last week that Jeremiah's body would not be released by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner until this morning.

Lemire's order came as the result of a request made by the defense to conduct an independent review of Jeremiah's remains by a forensic pathologist that Reardon retained with the permission of the court.

Reardon said he made the request because no cause of death had been made available, "and the body has presumably been out in the elements for some period of time."

"And we wanted the medical examiner to be able to release the body to the family," he said. "Obviously, it's a tragic case, and we want them to have the ability to have the appropriate rites. But once the body is released, we have no opportunity to review it or obtain our own evidence."

Reardon declined to comment on the results of the independent review performed by his retained forensic pathologist, listed in court documents as Dr. Jonathan L. Arden.

As of Monday, no new charges had been filed against Oliver or her boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, also charged in Jeremiah's disappearance.

Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. spokesman Tim Connolly said the case remains under investigation.

Sierra will next be in court Thursday.

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