WALPOLE, Mass. — A man serving a life sentence for beating his 7-year-old son to death on Father’s Day 2009 died in prison Friday in an apparent suicide, a Massachusetts state prisons spokesman said.

Leslie Schuler, 41, was found hanging in his cell at MCI-Cedar Junction in Walpole at about 4:30 a.m., Department of Correction spokesman Darren Duarte said.

The inmate was taken to Norwood Hospital and pronounced dead about 5:50 a.m., Duarte said.

Schuler had faced a first-degree murder charge in the death of Nathaniel Turner in 2009, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

But just as testimony was about to start in his trial, he pleaded guilty on May 6 in Worcester Superior Court to second-degree murder, which meant he had a chance at parole after 15 years.

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

Schuler beat Nathaniel on June 21, 2009, and the boy died at a hospital two days later, prosecutors said. An autopsy determined that he suffered blunt force trauma to the head, torso and extremities.

Schuler’s trial attorney said he had intended to present an expert witness who would testify that the boy appeared to have been physically maltreated in the past by someone other than Schuler.

Schuler’s girlfriend at the time was charged with not doing anything to stop the abuse.