HBO’s new docuseries, Who Killed Garrett Phillips?, dives into the 2011 murder case of Garrett Phillips, a 12-year-old boy attacked and strangled in his Potsdam, New York apartment. Phillips’ mother’s ex-boyfriend, Nick Hillary, was arrested and charged with the murder, but was acquitted by a judge in 2016. After seeing things from his perspective in the documentary, many are wondering where Nick Hillary is now.
As reported by The New York Times, It’s been nearly three years since Oral Nicholas aka “Nick” Hillary was found not guilty of murder. But unfortunately, he’s still dealing with emotional, social, and financial repercussions. In a recent interview with Build, Hillary and Who Killed Garrett Phillips? filmmaker Liz Garbus talked about what his life’s been like since he was accused of killing his ex-girlfriend’s son. “For 20 years I’ve spent building my entire legacy up until that point, and within 20 minutes, they have destroyed it,” said Hillary. “To a point where in which now I’m trying to clear the rubble, in the process of hoping to rebuild.”
Garbus pointed out that Hillary was an all-American soccer champion, a graduate from St. Lawrence University, the coach of a championship-winning soccer team at Clarkson University, and a U.S. military veteran, who lost the successful life he built. “Nick doesn’t have any of that right now,” Garbus told Build. “His career is gone. His family has suffered extreme trauma. Nick’s financial situation is not what it was before. I mean, it’s not a happy ending.”
So, how did an upstanding citizen of the community become the main suspect in Phillips’ murder? According to an ABC News report, Hillary — who was one of the few black people living in Potsdam at the time — had recently broken up with Phillips’ mother, Tandy Cyrus, so police honed in on him as a prime suspect with very little evidence. When talking to Variety, Garbus noted that her docuseries follows some questionable details of the investigation, including how race may have been a factor in Hillary’s arrest.
“From the police’s point of view, they thought they had the best suspect — the most they could put together on someone,” she explained. “But you can’t take race out of the picture — the way in which white Americans are just more likely to look at Black people as capable of committing crimes. The issues around race and policing and prosecutorial misconduct have been huge issues across our nation. And that was the tunnel vision.”
Garbus also told the outlet she felt both Phillips family and Hillary were wronged in this case, and she hopes to expose the pain and injustice they faced. “The Phillips family was victims of prosecutorial misconduct, as well as Nick,” said Garbus. “Whatever you might say about the film and how it portrays the justice system and Nick Hillary, my hope is that it also reflects the pain of the loss of this family and the gaping hole it left in their lives.”
With the release of the new docuseries, I truly hope that the case is reopened and the real killer is found. After so many years of suffering, all parties involved deserve the chance to move forward and live their lives with dignity and peace.
Who Killed Garrett Phillips? premieres Tuesday, Jul. 23 at 8 p.m. on HBO.