CANTON A Clarkson University head soccer coach accused of murdering a 12-year-old Potsdam boy was returned to St. Lawrence County jail Friday on $75,000 cash bail or $150,000 bond.
Oral Nick Hillary, 39, of 131 Leroy St., Potsdam, head coach of Clarksons mens soccer team, was indicted Thursday by a grand jury on a second-degree murder charge in the death of Garrett J. Phillips, who was found suffocated and strangled to death in his home in 2011.
Hillary was placed on administrative leave, according to Kelly O. Chezum, university vice president for external relations. Associate Athletic Director Laurel Kane is currently filling the position.
During his re-arraignment and bail hearing Friday with his attorney, Christopher Renfroe, Hillary pleaded not guilty.
The indictment charges that between 4:56 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2011, Hillary murdered Garrett in the second-floor apartment of North County Manor, 100 Market St., where the boy lived with his mother. Garrett was found unconscious after neighbors heard screams and cries for help, and he died that night.
Before Garretts death, Hillary had dated the boys mother, Tandy L. Cyrus, now Collins.
Mrs. Collins and other members of Garretts family filled the gallery in St. Lawrence County Court on Friday morning. Hillarys family and his supporters from St. Lawrence Universitys athletic community were also there. Hillary graduated from St. Lawrence University in 1999 and earned regional Defensive Player of the Year in soccer and National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American honors.
County District Attorney Mary E. Rain recommended that Judge Richards hold Hillary without bail. Ms. Rain said Hillary was a flight risk because of his Jamaican citizenship, family ties locally and in New York City, a potential life sentence if convicted, extensive evidence proving his guilt and because his contract with Clarkson University was up at the end of the month. Ms. Chezum said employees at the university dont have contracts, only faculty members do.
Mr. Renfroe told County Judge Jerome J. Richards that Hillary has maintained his innocence from the moment authorities began to interrogate him after Garretts death. He said a reasonable bail amount should be set.
This is a serious charge, and Mr. Hillary plans to fight this charge, Mr. Renfroe said. This has been a cloud over his head. He has been looking forward to this day and he plans on staying in this community. Mr. Renfroe argued that Hillarys long history in the county and desire to remain in the Potsdam community are reason enough to set bail.
Hillary has an 18-year history in the county, from his days at SLU to his most recent employment at Clarkson, where he has worked for the last seven years, Mr. Renfroe said. He said Hillary has a fiancée and three children in the area.
He has left the country to visit his family in Jamaica and has come back, Mr. Renfroe told Judge Richards. Any day you require him to appear, he will be here.
Following Judge Richards decision to set bail at $75,000 cash or $150,000 bond, Ms. Rain expressed disappointment. I believe that not only was remand appropriate, but if a bail had been set it should be set at a significantly higher rate because of the seriousness of the crime, Ms. Rain said.