POTSDAM, N.Y. (AP) A judge dismissed a murder charge Thursday against a former college soccer coach accused of strangling and smothering his ex-girlfriend’s 12-year-old son in northern New York.
Oral ”Nick” Hillary, former head soccer coach at Clarkson University, was arrested in May and charged with killing Garrett Phillips in the boy’s home Oct. 24, 2011. The boy was found strangled and smothered with a pillow after neighbors reported hearing screams and cries for help.
In dismissing the indictment, St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome Richards cited what he called ”circumstantial evidence,” improper questions and other criticisms of District Attorney Mary Rain’s handling of the case.
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Rain did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
”It is particularly troubling to the court that in this serious case, which is so heavily dependent on circumstantial evidence, the prosecutor’s improper questions, direct and indirect expression of opinion, and use of numerous exhibits without proper foundation may have impaired the integrity of the proceeding,” Richards wrote in a decision reported by the Watertown Daily Times (http://bit.ly/1CrxIia).
Richards left the district attorney’s office the opportunity to present the case to a different grand jury.
Hillary and his teenage daughter had lived with the boy’s mother, Tandy Collins, and her two sons until she broke off the relationship in August 2011. When the boy was killed, Hillary was living elsewhere in Potsdam, a college town about 20 miles south of the Canadian border.
A native of Jamaica, Hillary was a soccer star at rival St. Lawrence University in nearby Canton, graduating in 2000 after leading the Saints to a 22-0-0 record and the Division III national championship in 1999.