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Potsdam community emotional over Hillary arrest in Garrett Phillips murder


POTSDAM — The arrest of Oral “Nick” Hillary, the man accused of murdering 12-year-old Garrett J. Phillips in October 2011, has rekindled the Potsdam community’s passion over the case and whether Hillary should have been sent to jail on higher bail.

“When I heard the news today I was mad,” Kambree Lynn White said. “It’s not fair. I was expecting no bail.”

Miss White, 15, was a close friend of Garrett’s for nearly three years before his death. She said the past two days have stirred a lot of emotions in her and in her twin sister, Kelsey.

Hillary is being held in St. Lawrence County jail, Canton, on $75,000 cash or $150,000 bond after he pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder Friday.

“We felt very upset and kept going back and forth with my feelings,” Miss White said. “The past two days have brought everything back, except Garrett.”

Tessa M. Fields, 35, said the news of Hillary’s bail brought on a “horrible roller coaster ride.”

“When emotions are involved it makes the ride even more unbelievable. I think the whole case is ... disappointing,” Mrs. Fields said after a pause, searching for the right word. “Happiness surrounded the community yesterday and left us in disbelief today. I’m not happy with bail, but I’m glad there was an arrest made; Garrett and his family deserve justice.”

While emotions ran high for some, a number of people have expressed skepticism over whether there is enough evidence to try Hillary and wonder if he is even the right man.

Standing in line at the Roxy Theatre, Geniveve L. Hopkins, 18, and her mother, Fiona L., 40, both of Canton, said people seem to be condemning the man before the evidence is brought to light.

“It’s brought up a lot and most people, their reactions are, ‘he probably is guilty,’ but we don’t actually know because none of us hear the case,” Geniveve Hopkins said. “None of us were sitting in there.”

She said she went to school with Hillary’s daughter, Shanna K., 17, who was called to testify in grand jury proceedings last week that resulted in her father’s indictment.

“I don’t know what the evidence is because it has been so secretive and why did this take so long?” Fiona Hopkins said. “That bothers me. This is a long time. This should have been done. Something isn’t right that it took this long to get done. What evidence came to light that was there before?”

Anna M. Jodice, 28, of Potsdam, said while it was “somewhat comforting” to have an arrest in the case, she hoped that Hillary’s indictment and arrest wasn’t a mistake in an attempt to bring closure to a long investigation and to a family that has suffered the loss of a child.

“I hope that the family finds justice and I hope that this is the man, that it isn’t someone grasping at straws and he is the guy who gets picked,” Ms. Jodice said. “I hope we find whoever might be out there who killed a child, you know? That is a scary, scary thing.”

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