Lawrence man charged in connection with death of Haverhill girl

Police have arrested a Lawrence man in connection with the death of a 11-year-old Haverhill girl who was stricken last month at a rooming house and died days later at a Boston hospital.

The Essex district attorney’s office announced charges against Miguel Rivera, 58, on Saturday morning. He is accused of permitting substantial bodily injury to a child and misleading a police investigation in the death of Precious Wallaces, who died Dec. 17 at Tufts Medical Center.

After Wallaces died, prosecutors said investigators were working to determine whether she was exposed to a toxic substance, possibly the synthetic drug fentanyl, a leading cause of overdose deaths.

An autopsy was performed on Wallaces, who was a sixth-grader at Dr. Albert B. Consentino Middle School in Haverhill, but the medical examiner has yet to determine a cause or manner of death, the district attorney’s office said Saturday.

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Rivera is listed in the girl’s obituary as Wallaces’s uncle. He was taken into custody Friday night after speaking with investigators at the Lawrence Police Department, said Carrie Kimball, a spokeswoman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett.

She didn’t have further details about the allegations facing Rivera, but said the investigation is ongoing and more charges could be filed.

Rivera is being held on $1 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Lawrence District Court. It was unclear whether he has a lawyer.

The same day Wallaces died, a State Police detective secured a search warrant for the Jackson Street rooming house where Rivera lived, court records show. A district judge later sealed the warrant, writing writing that making the details public could potentially jeopardize a grand jury investigation.

Emergency medical responders were called to the rooming house on Dec. 15 at about 3:30 a.m. after Wallaces suddenly became sick and lost consciousness, authorities have said.

Rescuers took her to Lawrence General Hospital and she was later flown to Tufts Medical Center by medical helicopter.

Documents filed in Lawrence District Court show Rivera, a native of Puerto Rico, has a criminal record dating back to 1990, including cases in which he was sentenced to state prison.

In 1992, Rivera was ordered to serve five to six years in state prison after Middlesex County prosecutors charged him firearm and drug offenses for cocaine and heroin, records show. It was unclear Saturday when he finished that prison term.

In 1996, he was sentenced to serve five years to five years and a day in prison for a subsequent offense involving Class A drugs, the records show.

Details about the cases weren’t available Saturday.

In the past decade, court records show Rivera has been prosecuted for offenses including assault with a dangerous weapon, firearms violations, drug possession, and larceny. His driving record includes violations going back to 1990.

On Wallaces’s death certificate, her full name is listed as Precious-D’Armanie Ivettelyz Wallaces Rivera. She was born in Lawrence in August 2007.

“She loved attending the after school activities at Youth Empowerment House in Haverhill, enjoying all the after school activities and making new acquaintances,” her obituary said.

The obituary described Wallaces as a “bright, beautiful, healthy, athletic girl” who loved fashion, “the art of make-up,” dressing, accessorizing, and experimenting with different hairstyles.

“Precious was very adept with electronic devices and also had a gift for drawing,” the obituary said. “On first encounters she had a definite shy side, but once she opened up, all she wanted to do was put a smile on everyone’s face.”

A GoFundMe page launched after Wallaces’s death raised $7,628 to pay for funeral expenses.

“A bright light has been extinguished from the lives of everyone she touched, but the Gift of her Life, the beauty of her spirit, will continue to live in the hearts of all who knew her,” her obituary said.

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.

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