CANTON, N.Y. (AP) — Surveillance videos show that a former college soccer coach stalked his ex-girlfriend's 12-year-old son just before the boy was killed in 2011, a prosecutor told a judge Monday.
Oral "Nick" Hillary "hunted" Garrett Phillips in the half hour before the boy was strangled in the apartment Phillips shared with his mother, Tandy Cyrus, according to Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick.
Though Hillary's supporters have accused authorities in this largely white community of unjustly prosecuting a black man, Fitzpatrick said during his opening statement in Hillary's second-degree murder trial that the evidence against the Jamaica-born ex-coach is conclusive.
"I want you to label him for exactly what he is: the murderer of a helpless 12-year-old boy, because he couldn't stand that fact that he caused the breakup with Tandy," said Fitzpatrick, who is helping his counterpart in St. Lawrence County with the prosecution.
Defense attorney Norman Siegel argued that the prosecution lacks physical evidence. Siegel, the former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said Hillary was home with his daughter when the boy was killed.
"You can't be in two places at the same time," Siegel said.
Hillary was the head soccer coach at Clarkson University at the time of the killing. He and his teenage daughter had lived with Cyrus and her two sons until the relationship ended in summer 2011. When the boy was killed, Hillary was living elsewhere in Potsdam, a college town near the Canadian border.
Police quickly focused on Hillary after the boy was strangled on Oct. 24, 2011. But it took nearly five years for the case to come to trial.
The district attorney at the time of the killing never bought charges. Her successor as St. Lawrence County district attorney, Mary Rain, campaigned on the case. The first murder indictment Rain secured was dismissed by a judge. She was able to get the current indictment last year.
As recently as this month, prosecutors were still trying to introduce high-tech DNA evidence. The trial judge rejected that motion.
Hillary, who has consistently said he is innocent, last week opted to have his case heard by a judge instead of a jury. The trial is expected to last several weeks.