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Garrett Phillips remembered with balloon release


POTSDAM — A murdered boy deserves justice, and as nearly 400 blue and orange balloons drifted into a darkening Potsdam sky Thursday, family and friends of Garrett J. Phillips delivered that message.

It’s been two years since the 12-year-old Potsdam boy was killed. There has been no arrest.

On Thursday night, members of his family and community gathered at Garrett Phillips Student Memorial Park at Potsdam Central School to remember Garrett and celebrate his life.

Standing beside the monument in Garrett’s memory, his uncle Brian A. Phillips addressed the friends and relatives who gathered.

“One thing I would like to stress is that we can’t stay quiet. This boy needs justice,” Mr. Phillips said. “We need to stay loud for that one thing.”

Mr. Phillips said every day has been a struggle since the murder of his nephew; however, the family remains optimistic that justice will prevail.

“I’m very optimistic that an arrest will be made down the road,” Mr. Phillips said. “The case is being worked on daily. This is not a cold case.”

Both Mr. Phillips and Garrett’s mother, Tandy L. Cyrus, said the feeling of support that came over them from the turnout for the balloon release just shows that they live in a community that is not unlike a large family.

Ms. Cyrus, who stood quiet in the crowd while her brother-in-law addressed it, wiped tears from her eyes afterward as she talked about the time that has passed since her son’s murder.

“Every day feels like day one all over again,” Ms. Cyrus said about getting up some mornings. “Everybody here, remembering who he was, what a happy kid he was, is great. He would do anything for anybody and he loved his family and friends.”

After two years, she said, it can be frustrating not seeing someone charged for the murder; however, she agreed with Mr. Phillips and said she believes justice will be served.

Garrett was found unconscious on Oct. 24, 2011, at North Country Manor Apartments, 100 Market St., after neighbors heard screams and cries for help. He was pronounced dead that evening at Canton-Potsdam Hospital.

Potsdam Police Chief Kevin M. Bates said he was unable to comment on the investigation into Garrett’s murder except to say it is an ongoing investigation.

St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole M. Duve said, in a phone interview, that her office keeps in regular contact with the many law enforcement agencies working on the case along with the Potsdam police.

“There are a lot of people in law enforcement involved and they are working on this diligently,” Ms. Duve said. “It is very much on everybody’s radar.”

Sometimes evidence has not been found, requiring a longer investigation, but it doesn’t mean people stop looking, she said.

“If there was sufficient evidence at this point, someone would be charged,” she said.

Ms. Duve, a resident of Potsdam, said she gets questioned about the case by members of that community, even in her own home by her daughter, who is friends with members of Garrett’s family.

“My youngest is most deeply affected, and I do my best to assure her that the police are working very hard on it,” Ms. Duve said. “She has been exposed to what they are going through, so it has affected her, as well.”

Standing in the crowd of those remembering Garrett, Tessa M. Fields said her daughter, Alexa E., 14, was very close with a lot of Garrett’s friends.

“She is a strong supporter of the Justice for Garrett campaign. Her walls are covered with pictures and memories from all the events,” Mrs. Fields said. “She wears many of his T-shirts proudly. It fills these kids with a daily sadness and with there being no justice. They are very confused.”

Ms. Fields said while the story is a sad one, the love and light that were shown by those who turned out make her believe there will be justice soon.

“I hope with all my heart this family and the community get the closure they deserve,” Mrs. Fields said.

The money raised from the sale of the balloons will go toward the Potsdam Mentoring Program, of which Garrett was a part.

Program Coordinator Lynn M. Tharrett said the program operates with the ideology that when students make a lasting connection with at least one caring adult, academic and personal outcomes improve.

Garrett’s grandmother Patricia J. Phillips said her grandson benefited greatly from the program, of which he was a part in fifth grade.

“It does a lot for the school and students,” Mrs. Phillips said. “If I can do something every year to help the program, I will, in memory of him.”

Mrs. Phillips said she that understands the investigation into her grandson’s murder takes some time and that Ms. Duve was doing a fine job; however, it hasn’t made the pain of his death any easier.

“Two years is killing us, and every day we think of him,” Mrs. Phillips said.

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