By Michael Hartwell
FITCHBURG — An hour into Saturday’s search for his missing 5-year-old nephew, Sandrino Oliver pushed his forehead against the chainlink fence on the railroad bridge and cried.
“I’m trying to keep it together,” he said before walking back to his family.
More than 100 people showed up for an informal search party to scour the neighborhood for any sign of Jeremiah Oliver, who was last seen three months ago. State police had previously searched the house for signs of the boy, including a search with K-9 units at 7 a.m. that morning, but community members said they wanted to at least try.
It was an emotional day for members of the boy’s family, especially Sandrino Oliver, who cried out in anguish right at the start and had to be led away by supporters. His brother, Jose Oliver of Worcester, Jeremiah’s biological father, led volunteers as they searched along the railroad tracks, on the edges of factory buildings, in culverts and along the Nashua River.
Jose Oliver said he hasn’t seen his son in two years because of a restraining order filed by the boy’s mother, Elsa Oliver. She is in custody and has not answered questions from authorities about the boy’s location. Also in custody is her boyfriend, Alberto Sierra.
“I know that they didn’t have a car, and if they did do something to him, he’d be somewhere around here,” said Jose Oliver.
Police had expressed concern that the amateur search party could accidentally destroy or damage evidence, but still allowed it to continue in the neighborhood surrounding the mother’s home.