Mom called unconcerned about son

Date: 2002-08-16
Source: ledger.com

Mom called unconcerned about son

Braintree woman pleads innocent to manslaughter in death of newly adopted child

DENNIS TATZ
The Patriot Ledger)

QUINCY - When police arrived to arrest her, Natalia Higier appeared more concerned about her dog and returning to her job in a jewelry store than about her 2-year-old son, who lay dying at Children's Hospital, a prosecutor said.

Higier, 47, pleaded innocent to manslaughter and assault charges yesterday in Quincy District Court, five hours after her adopted son,
Zachary, died of massive internal head injuries.

''Doctors have said that the skull fractures were consistent with a fall from a multi-story building,'' prosecutor Robert Nelson told the judge.

The Norfolk County District Attorney's office is investigating, but spokesman David Traub said the evidence so far does not support a murder
charge.

Zachary was born in Russia on May 24, 2000. The Higiers, who have no other children, adopted him eight months ago. A babysitter told police she had seen injuries on the baby previously, but
the state Department of Social Services said the family had no record.

Police were called to the couple's house on May 2 and 3, 1995. Natalia Higier took out a restraining order accusing her husband of slapping her and punching her, leaving bruises, but she dropped it after one day. She also
said he had hit her on April 27 and called her ''fat'' and ''poor.''

Louis Higier also took out a restraining order against his wife in Nofolk Probate and Family Court, but no further information was available.
On Wednesday, Higier told authorities she thought her son was asleep when she found him lying motionless on the kitchen floor at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Two hours later, she took him to a Quincy pediatrician. The baby was transferred to Quincy Medical Center, then to Children's Hospital.
Doctors found brain injuries, including swelling, that they believe occurred several hours earlier than Higier told authorities, Nelson said.

He said Higier left her son alone in his crib when she drove her husband, Louis Higier, to the Quincy Adams MBTA stop early in the morning.

Higier told authorities Zachary appeared fine when he woke at 8 a.m., and ate Froot Loops cereal following her return to the family's home at 100 Beech St., said Nelson.

State and Braintree police began investigating Higier's story after doctors described Zachary's injuries. Higier was arrested Wednesday
afternoon at the hospital.

''While police were driving her to the station she said she was a good person and sometimes things just happen,'' Nelson said. The prosecutor said a babysitter who watched Zachary on Fridays told investigators she had seen injuries on him in the past, and that Higier told her she would become ''pissed off when Zachary doesn't eat his food.''

Judge Mark Coven ordered Higier held in lieu of $100,000 cash bail. Outside the courthouse, Nelson said it appears the boy's head had been
slammed against a flat surface, such as a wall.

''The injuries were not consistent with a fall,'' said Nelson, who had asked for Higier to be held on $250,000 cash bail. The prosecutor said Higier's husband refused to cooperate with hospital nurses or investigators.

''His reaction is not what you would expect from a parent whose 2-year-old had been injured,'' said Nelson. Court-appointed defense attorney William Sullivan of Quincy, who argued for
$10,000 bail, said his client cooperated with police and gave them a key to her home so they could search it.

''It's clear this is a tragic incident,'' Sullivan said. ''There are a lot of facts we don't know at this point. We don't know of any prior attempts to harm the child.'' Sullivan disputed the prosecutor's comments about his client caring more about her dog or job than her son. ''She is very upset,'' he said.

In addition to manslaughter, Higier is charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery while causing serious injury to a person younger than 14. She is due return to Quincy District Court Sept. 6.

The prosecutor said he plans to seek indictments from a Norfolk County grand jury.

Dennis Tatz may be reached at dtatz@ledger.com.

Copyright 2002 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Friday, August 16, 2002

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