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Clarkson soccer coach arrested in Garrett Phillips murder (VIDEO)

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POTSDAM — Oral “Nick” Hillary was arrested Thursday under a sealed indictment and charged with the murder of Garrett J. Phillips, the 12-year-old Potsdam boy found murdered in his home Oct. 24, 2011.

The indictment, carrying a charge of second-degree murder, came down about 1:45 p.m. after a report was delivered to St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards by District Attorney Mary E. Rain and the grand jury foreperson.

Hillary was the head coach of the Clarkson University men’s soccer team before the arrest; however, Kelly O. Chezum, Clarkson’s vice president for external relations, said that after the college received the news of Hillary’s arrest, he was placed on administrative leave.

“Our Associate Athletic Director Laurel Kane will be working with student athletes at this time,” Ms. Chezum said.

The indictment alleges that between 4:56 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on the day of Garrett’s death at his home at 100 Market St., Apt. 4, Hillary murdered him by suffocation and strangulation.

Garrett was found unconscious at his home after neighbors heard screams and cries for help. He was pronounced dead that evening at Canton-Potsdam Hospital.

Ms. Rain said her office had reached out to Hillary’s attorney, Christopher Renfroe, to give Hillary an opportunity to turn himself in to village police. After waiting 45 minutes at the station, police picked Hillary up at his home on Leroy Street about 3 p.m.

Led into the station by Potsdam Police Lt. Mark R. Murray, he repeated that he was “100 percent innocent.”

Hillary was arraigned without counsel in St. Lawrence County Court, Canton; Judge Richards entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.

Ms. Rain said that since Hillary has Jamaican citizenship and is facing a potential life sentence and since she has “extensive evidence” proving his guilt, he was a flight risk and should be sent to St. Lawrence County jail. She said his contract as the head coach of the Clarkson University men’s soccer team ends this month.

Ms. Chezum said, “All employees will get a letter next month that says our salary for the next fiscal year is ‘x.’ I don’t believe that we have a contract for employees.”

Judge Richards issued five orders of protection in favor of future witnesses at trial, all members of Garrett’s family, including his mother, Tandy L. Collins, and uncle Brian A. Phillips.

Hillary was sent to jail without bail pending a rearraignment and bail hearing at 10 a.m. Friday.

Following arraignment, Mr. Phillips, who started the Justice for Garrett reward fund, said this was a huge moment for the family.

Mr. Phillips cleared his throat and wiped his eyes as he thanked all of the agencies and people involved in the investigation over the last two and a half years.

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for their hard work and dedication, but this is just one more level that we had to get to to get to the end. What we want is a conviction for someone that took Garrett’s life,” Mr. Phillips said. “I’ve been confident for two and a half years, and today I am just a little more confident. It’s a good day.”

“Nick Hillary has finally been brought to court to answer for these charges and I think there will be a little sense of relief for them, but there won’t be a great sense of accomplishment until he is actually convicted.”

Village Police Chief Kevin M. Bates credited the lead investigators in the case, Lt. Murray and state police Investigator Ted Levinson, for their dedication and hard work.

“This has been a very long and difficult investigation for our department and the state police and the district attorney’s office,” Mr. Bates said. “State police have been working side by side with us since day one of this investigation and have devoted an enormous amount of resources to this investigation to help us bring justice to Garrett and his family.”

Ms. Rain said the change in administration and the “significant body of evidence” helped in the grand jury’s ability to indict Hillary after two and a half years.

“We worked vigorously to develop that evidence,” Ms. Rain said.

She said Thomas J. Mortati, the attorney defending village police against a defamation lawsuit brought by Hillary, gathered information during a deposition in the civil matter that helped assist in the continuation of the investigation.



Video of Hillary’s arrest can be seen at http://wdt.me/hillary-arrest.




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