- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) - A Massachusetts man charged with beating his 7-year-old son on Father’s Day in 2009, leading to the boy’s death, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to second-degree murder just as his trial was scheduled to start.

Leslie Schuler, 41, severely beat Nathaniel Turner on June 21, 2009, and the boy died at a hospital two days later.

Schuler’s trial on a first-degree murder charge was scheduled to begin Tuesday in Worcester Superior Court, but instead he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge, meaning he could someday get out of prison, The Telegram & Gazette (https://bit.ly/1g5z6wp ) reported.

First-degree murder in Massachusetts carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no parole, while second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life with the possibility of parole after 15 years. Sentencing is scheduled for Thursday.

The boy lived with his grandmother in Eufaula, Alabama, but was spending the summer with his father.

Schuler had abused the boy for weeks after he arrived in Massachusetts when he felt the boy was being disrespectful, prosecutors said.

The trial had been delayed because of the unavailability of a defense expert who says the boy had been abused before arriving in Massachusetts.

Schuler’s lawyer, Alan Black, told a judge he expected conflicting testimony during the trial about the age of certain injuries suffered by Nathaniel.

Schuler’s fiancee at the time of the boy’s death is awaiting trial in the case. Tiffany Hyman faces several charges including permitting an assault and battery on a child causing substantial injury. She has pleaded not guilty, and her lawyer has said she played no role in the boy’s abuse.

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