No Hillary fingerprints, DNA at Potsdam murder scene, state police investigator testifies
Prosecutors St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain, right, and Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick confer on Day 7 of the murder trial of Oral ‘Nick’ Hillary. Pool photo by Brit Hanson, NCPR
By ANDY GARDNERCANTON -- A state police forensic investigator testified that fingerprints taken from the Garrett Phillips murder scene did not match the man on trial for the killing, Oral "Nick" Hillary. Also, a friend testified that Hillary did not have a limp the day after the murder.
BCI Senior Inv. Ricky Adragna took the witness stand late Monday morning in Hillary's second-degree murder trial and talked about the evidence they recovered.
He told the court they found Phillips's DNA on the apartment's door, his blood on a wall and four sets of fingerprints on a window police believe the perpetrator jumped out of to escape.
Two of the sets belonged to Phillips's mother, Tandy Cyrus Collins, Adragna said.
Police have compared the other two to about 40 people who had access to the apartment in the month leading up to the murder, to no avail.
“Was he (Hillary) excluded as the source of those fingerprints?” prosecutor William Fitzpatrick asked Adragna.
“Yes he was,” the investigator replied.
The fingerprints were taken from the lower part of the vertical portions of the window casing and from near the window's two locks.
“Did you find anything in that apartment that was connected to Mr. Hillary?" defense attorney Earl Ward asked under cross-examination.
“No I did not," Adragna answered.
“And that was three days of intense, thorough crime scene investigation?” Ward asked.
“Yes,” the forensic investigator replied.
Adragana said he analyzed the scene outside around the window and found signs that someone had jumped from the window.
He said they found a divot in the ground that appeared fresh and what looked like freshly shattered tile on the roof of a shed below the window. He said they measured and found there is a nine-foot drop from the window to the shed and 17 feet from the window to the ground.
He said they found two hairs, one of which belonged to Cyrus Collins and a second that could not be matched to anyone.
“There was no rootball, so it wasn’t identified to anybody," Adragna said.
Along with that, they found a small piece of fabric that he said is commonly found in athletic wear.
Adragna said they noticed a scuffmark on the wall outside the window near the shed, which he said could have come from the perpetrator's shoe rubbing against the red-painted brick wall.
Adragna testified that he was at the Potsdam Police Department when they photographed Hillary's entire body and collected his clothes from the day Phillips died, and didn't notice any red on his shoes.
“I don’t recall noting any red marks," Adragna said.
The prosecution entered a picture of Hillary's ankle taken three days after the murder that showed a small scrape on the anklebone, less than an inch across.
"I saw on the right ankle what appeared to be in injury," Adragna said, referring to what he saw on Hillary that day at the Potsdam Police Department.
Following the forensic investigator's testimony, Jeff James took the stand. He said he had known Hillary for several years when the murder took place and notified him that he had heard something happened to one of Cyrus Collins's children.
“I told him … that he may want to get ahold of Tandy, that something had happened to one of her children and I think the kid may be dead and that he may want to get ahold of her," James said. “He seemed genuinely surprised, like ‘what do you mean,’ and that was it.”
“Did you ever identify, which child?” Fitzpatrick asked.
“No,” James answered.
“Did Mr. Hillary ever ask?” Fitzpatrick questioned.
“No he did not,” James said.
James, who runs a screen printing shop, also said Hillary stopped by his place of business the day after the Oct. 24, 2011 killing and said he appeared to walk normally.
“Did you notice if he was limping?” Ward asked him under cross-examination.
“I did not,” James said.
“His gait was fine, right?” Ward asked.
“Yes,” James answered.