Date: 2002-08-17


August 17, 2002
Megan Tench
The Boston Globe

Two-year-old Zachary Higier, the Braintree boy whose mother was charged with beating him to death, died from blunt force trauma to the head, an autopsy revealed yesterday, bolstering Norfolk County prosecutors' case that the toddler's death was not an accident.

Meanwhile, state officials sharply criticized neighbors who, after the boy's death, came forward to say they saw bruises on the toddler and suspected he was being abused, but did nothing to stop it.

Natalia Higier, 47, pleaded not guilty in Quincy District Court Thursday to charges of manslaughter and assault and battery.

Higier, who prosecutors said also goes by the name Natasha, is being held on $100000 cash bail.

She said she left her son for a few minutes on Tuesday morning while he was playing and returned to find him lying on the kitchen floor, his arms and legs barely moving.

Zachary, who was born May 24, 2000, in Russia, was adopted by the Higiers last December, prosecutors said.

Before and after the adoption, counselors interviewed the Higiers and reviewed their family life without finding anything amiss, her defense attorney, William Sullivan, said after the arraignment Thursday.

Louis Higier, the toddler's adoptive father, who was not home when Zachary was injured, initially said he believed his wife's version of the boy's death.

But late yesterday Higier issued a more equivocal statement: "I am absolutely devastated by the tragic death of my beloved son Zachary and the shocking charges against my wife.

Louis Higier also said he is cooperating with authorities and that his extended family is coming to Boston to help plan a funeral and burial for Zachary as as soon as they are permitted to.

After Higier discovered her son's injuries, she told police, she took the 2-year-old to his pediatrician that afternoon.

The pediatrician rushed him to Quincy Medical Center where tests showed that his skull had been fractured and pools of blood were in his brain.

Zachary was then rushed to Boston Children's Hospital, where he died two days later.

Although DSS officials said they had no contact with Higier and did not have any indication that Zachary was being abused, Assistant District Attorney Robert Nelson said a neighbor who babysat for Zachary on Fridays noticed signs of injuries on the boy.

Neighbors who observe injuries on children and have reason to suspect abuse should report it immediately to the DSS hot line at 800-792-5200.


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