The brother and sister of five-year-old Nathaniel "Nate" Upshaw told a Criminal Court jury on Tuesday that Nicholas Todd Hilt took them to a graveyard at night, then slammed Nathaniel against a wall and stomped him back at their apartment on Wilson Street.
Prosecutor Barry Steelman had told the jury in the courtroom of Judge Don Poole that on Jan. 6, 2003, Hilt savagely beat the child in addition to raping him.
The prosecutor told the jury Hilt first took the child to Lakewood Memory Gardens and beat him there, then went to his apartment where he had lived with the child's mother for over a year. He said Hilt brutally attacked the child there and he never regained consciousness.
Hilt is facing charges of premeditated first-degree murder, felony murder, child rape and aggravated child abuse.
He again told Judge Poole on Tuesday morning that he does not want to be in the courtroom, but wanted to go in the back and sleep. He was allowed to do so, though the judge said he preferred that he remain in court.
After lunch, Judge Poole had Hilt brought back in the courtroom and urged him to stay. But Hilt got up and walked out.
Defense attorney Lee Ortwein admitted that facts of the case are "terrible."
He said the defense will call witnesses regarding the sanity of Hilt, who has tried to get attorney Ortwein dismissed from the case.
Dr. Gregory Talbott, who treated Nate at the Erlanger emergency room, said it was "one of the worst cases I have ever seen."
He said the child had severe brain swelling that was fatal since the blood was cut off to the brain.
Dr. Talbott said Nate was declared dead 24 hours after he was brought into the hospital despite efforts to revive him.
He told the jury, "His brain injury was so severe that there was no reversing that. All tests showed no brain function whatsoever."
A nurse at the Children's Advocacy Center said there was tearing in the child's anal area, indicating he had been sexually assaulted.
She said, "There were numerous injuries to his head and forehead and eyes. There were so many it was hard to differentiate where one started and another ended."
Det. Bill Phillips told of going to the cemetery and finding duct tape. He said the older sister of Nate, Kia Fletcher, said Hilt had tied her up with tape at the graveyard.
He said there were green grass stains on Nate's pants. He said the stains were even brighter inside his pants and there was straw on the pants.
He said the children stated that Hilt had made Nate drop his pants and that the straw apparently came from a fresh grave.
Det. Phillips said while Hilt was being interviewed, he took a pen and stabbed himself. He said officers wrestled the pen from him.
He said Hilt's handcuffs were removed to treat scuffs the cuffs had made, and he used the opportunity to get his hand on one of the officer's guns.
The detective said he locked his hand over that of Hilt so he could not remove the gun. He said he and two other officers then wrestled him to the floor.
He said Hilt "was screaming at us," and he was taken to Erlanger to be checked out. He said it was found there that Hilt had broken off the end of the pen in his neck. It was surgically removed.
Wilbert Bunch, a social worker with the Fortwood Center, said he was called in to examine Hilt soon after the incident with the officers.
He said Hilt was extremely lucid, but seemed depressed. "He was very depressed, tearful and sad," the witness said.
He said Hilt told him, "I'm not sure I can handle all this."
The social worker said Hilt told him of being in the Navy and having to resign because of an injury. He said Hilt also told of later having to get cancer treatment at Vanderbilt.
He said Hilt was also upset about the end of his relationship with his girlfriend.
He said Hilt stated during the interview that he had been physically abused by his mother.
The social worker said Hilt told him that morning he was trying to study and the three children were being disruptive. He said he locked them out of the house for several hours.
He said Hilt told of taking the children to the cemetery at night to try to frighten them. He said he told of losing his temper with the five-year-old because he would not get dressed like he was told.
Charley Fletcher, who is now 14 years old, told the jury his mother left for work at 5 or 6 p.m. and Hilt loaded them up and took them to the graveyard. He said he was let out at a flagpole in the center.
He said he later heard his little brother screaming. He said he went down to where he was and found his pants had been pulled down. He said he led him back to the flagpole and Hilt picked them up.
He said back at the house, Hilt dragged Nate upstairs and was "screaming at him" to take a bath.
He told of seeing Hilt
"throw him up against the bathroom wall and stomp him in the stomach."
He said Hilt then carried the boy to the living room and put him on the couch.
The older brother said when his mother came home she asked what was wrong with Nate and Hilt "started laughing."
He said Hilt at one point put bleach on a paper towel and waved it under the boy's nose to try to revive him.
The brother said, "Mama kept screaming his name. He just moaned."
Kia Fletcher, the sister who is now 13, said at the graveyard, Hilt put duct tape over her mouth and used it to tape her hands behind her back. She said he left her, then came back for her.
She said back at Wilson street, Hilt told Nate to take a bath, but the boy said the water was too hot.
She told of seeing Hilt stomp the boy and slam him against the wall.
The sister said when her mother arrived, she saw that Nate was not responding. He said she tried to get help, but Hilt "snatched the phone from her" and grabbed a knife.
Brenda Langston, next-door neighbor, said she heard thumping on the wall and dogs barking that night. She said the thumping was so severe that she took her mirror down because she was afraid it was going to be knocked off.
She said, "I thought it was him and her fighting. I had heard it once before. I told her, 'Girl, I didn't know y'all fought like that.' She said, 'Honey, yes.' She acted like it was something that happened all the time."
She said after Hilt left to go get the mother, she could hear the children crying.
She said earlier she had seen Hilt leading Nate from the residence with a toboggan pulled all the way over his head. She said Hilt was pulling him by the shirt.
Ms. Langston said the next morning an ambulance came for the child. She said she was told he had fallen out of a bunk bed.
She said Hilt "seemed like a mannerable decent dude. He was always well dressed."
But she said after his cancer treatment, "he didn't want me around."
The mother, Altreasa Upshaw, said she was working for an inventory firm at the time and Hilt was working at the Downtown YMCA.
She said Hilt had great animosity against Nate's father, Nathaniel Upshaw. She said she believed it was because Hilt wanted to be Nate's father, but Nate "loved his father more."
She said when she called home for a ride, Charley told her "that I needed to get home."
She said she found Nate was lying still like he was asleep. She said Hilt told her he had "beat him up."
Ms. Upshaw said she tried to call for help, but Hilt took the phone from her. She said she did nothing further because "I was scared. He had a knife. He was talking real crazy."
She said Hilt was saying that "he wanted to be dead."
She said she tried to wake Nate up, but Hilt told her he "was in shock." She said he was breathing at the time.
She said, "We splashed some hot water on him and put some clothes on him. Then we proceeded to go to sleep."
Ms. Upshaw said the next morning the child was no longer breathing.
Ms. Upshaw faces charges of accessory after the fact of murder, aggravated child abuse and filing a false police report.