The mother of 12-year-old murder victim Garrett Phillips says she remembers her last moments with her son as if she was “living someone else’s life.”
Tandy Cyrus opened up to ABC’s 20/20 this week and talked about losing her son, adding that the aftermath of Garrett’s death was unbearable.
Cyrus met with ABC just two days before a judge found her former 42-year-old boyfriend and soccer coach Oral Nickolas Hillary not guilty of the crime.
According to an autopsy, Garrett Phillips died of strangulation. Soon after his death, Hillary became the main suspect, and several years later, he was arrested. Hillary was accused of strangling Garrett in a fit of rage over a broken romance with his mother. Hillary always maintained his innocence, and a judge found him not guilty on Wednesday, according to the New York Times.
— Matthew Valentinas (@MattValentinas) September 11, 2016
When Cyrus was called to the hospital in Potsdam, New York, in October of 2011, she had no idea what awaited her.
Thinking that her son had fallen, she was shocked to find Garrett unresponsive and in cardiac arrest at the hospital. The medical team was doing CPR when she came into the room.
“I was in complete shock. He had bruises on his face… marks on his neck. It felt like it was somebody else’s life. I felt like I was watching it happen to someone else.”
Cyrus said she heard the doctor’s words, but they didn’t sink in.
“The doctor was talking to me. And I just remember him looking down at me over the tops of his glasses, telling me that there was nothing else that they could do. He’s 12 years old. Healthy, athletic. They told me he fell,” she said. “And I get there, and they’re telling me he’s in cardiac arrest. And then they’re telling me that he’s gone. I had no idea what happened.”
Despite the jury’s acquittal, Cyrus firmly believes that Hillary blamed her son for their breakup and killed him in a fit of rage.
“He took my son. He took a big brother, a grandson, a cousin, a nephew. “[Garrett] was always happy and always willing to help other kids and other people. Never got to go to his sixth-grade graduation. Never got to have his driver’s license. No high school graduation. No girlfriend. No marriage. He took his whole life.”
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) September 28, 2016
Hillary told ABC News that despite what Cyrus believes, he did not kill the boy.
“I have absolutely nothing to do with what has happened to Garrett. Why would I even want to hurt a child, after having worked with kids for over two decades? It just blows my mind.”
— Casey Azatyan (@Casey_Azatyan) September 28, 2016
Judge Felix Catena in his ruling said the case against Hillary was purely circumstantial, according to NCPR News.
“This court has fully and fairly considered the evidence in this case pursuant to that standard, along with the other applicable and stipulated to criminal instructions. Accordingly, it is the judgment of this court that as to the charge of murder in the second degree as charged in the indictment, the defendant, Oral Nicolas Hillary, is found not guilty.”
The family responded to the ruling with shock and tears. Garrett Phillip’s cousin fainted as she left the courtroom.
Like Cyrus and the rest of Garrett Phillips’ family prosecutor William Fitzpatrick believed without a doubt that Nick Hillary was the killer of the 12-year-old boy.
“I’m just very disappointed. Hard to see a killer walk out of court but I have tremendous respect for Judge Catena. I know he deliberated fairly.”
[Featured Image by Brit Hanson/North Country Public Radio/Pool/AP Images]