Father arraigned on charge of murder in death of boy, 7

Leslie G. Schuler appeared in Worcester Central District Court with attorney Alan J. Black (left) yesterday. Leslie G. Schuler appeared in Worcester Central District Court with attorney Alan J. Black (left) yesterday. (Rick Cinclair/ Worcester Telegram & Gazette)
By Steven H. Foskett Jr. and Scott J. Croteau
Worcester Telegram & Gazette / July 1, 2009
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WORCESTER - Leslie G. Schuler, the man accused of beating to death his son, 7-year-old Nathaniel D. Turner, was arraigned yesterday in Worcester Central District Court amid emotional outbursts from the boy’s relatives.

Schuler, now charged with murder, was ordered held without bail by Judge Steven A. Thomas. Schuler will return to court July 29.

During the brief arraignment, relatives of Nathaniel - including his mother, Alicia Turner - sat in the front row. The relatives, most of whom have silently sat and listened at each hearing related to the case, sobbed and mouthed words. Turner rocked back and forth in her seat as Schuler was brought into court.

A relative sitting next to Turner launched an expletive-laden tirade against Schuler and had to be led out of the courtroom. Family members tried to calm her, but she became louder and continued to yell as she was led out.

“He better not get on his knees,’’ the unidentified woman said.

Later in the arraignment, Turner also started yelling and swearing at Schuler, but calmed down and was allowed to stay. Turner, who wore dark sunglasses before the arraignment, said “my baby’’ as the proceeding started. Family members hushed her as she clutched a child-sized blue dress shirt.

Schuler, 36, who appeared in an orange jumpsuit, did not speak and stared at the floor. He was initially charged June 22 with beating Nathaniel. The boy was declared brain dead June 23 and was taken off a ventilator over the weekend.

Schuler’s attorney, Alan J. Black, did not oppose Assistant District Attorney Paula Frasso’s request that Schuler be held without bail. A plea of not guilty was entered on Schuler’s behalf.

Nathaniel’s family members declined comment yesterday, but Nathaniel’s maternal grandmother, Christine Taylor, told New England Cable News that her grandson was a beautiful, cheerful child proficient at multiplication and able to recite the Bible. She said she had no qualms about Nathaniel living with his father.

“I don’t know what went wrong in the process,’’ Taylor said. “That’s all I want to find out is why, because he had this tremendous kid in his hands. He had heaven and earth and love.’’

District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. called the case a horrible tragedy. He said an autopsy was performed Saturday on Nathaniel and the manner of death was determined to be a homicide. He said the chief medical examiner’s office will have an exact cause of death in several weeks.

Early declined to discuss further details and said there were no changes to the charges against Schuler’s fiancée, Tiffany Hyman. Police have alleged that Hyman could have intervened to stop the abuse.

Schuler’s arraignment was the latest turn in a case that began more than eight weeks ago when Nathaniel came to Worcester to stay with his father.

Police alleged that for at least that period of time, the boy had been physically and mentally abused, allegedly by Schuler. The alleged assaults ended June 21 with an attack that left the boy hospitalized in grave condition. Schuler and Hyman were arrested June 22.

Schuler was charged with two counts of assault and battery on a child causing serious bodily injuries, five counts of assault and battery on a child with injuries, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, and one count of assault with intent to murder.

Hyman was charged with two counts of assault and battery on a child causing serious bodily injuries. She was held on $50,000 cash bail.

Over the weekend, doctors removed Nathaniel from the machines keeping his heart pumping and his lungs functioning, and his organs were harvested for donation.

Nathaniel’s funeral will be held at noon Friday at Triumphant Life Church.