Nick Hillary Murder Trial: Victim's Grandmother Collapses, Defendant's Sister Rushes to Help

Victim was found strangled to death in his home in Oct. 2011.

The dramatic episode happened while the victim's neighbor was testifying about the loud sound she heard next door the night of the murder. She was the one who called 911.

Garrett was found strangled to death in his home in Potsdam, New York, the afternoon of Oct. 24, 2011. The popular, friendly and athletic golden-haired boy had just begun the sixth grade when his mysterious murder shocked the small town.

From nearly Day 1, the spotlight of suspicion seemed focused on Oral "Nick" Hillary -- Garrett's mother's ex-boyfriend. Hillary, who has always insisted he is innocent, was charged with second-degree murder several years after Garrett's death.

Hillary waived his right to a jury last week and the case began this week as a bench trial.

Today marked the third day of testimony in the Canton, New York, courtroom, where Garrett's grandmother Patricia Phillips suddenly collapsed this afternoon.

Pauline Winters, an emergency room nurse and the older sister of Garrett's accused killer, rushed over to help. Phillips' son, St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain, court officers and other bystanders also hurried to her side. Patricia Phillips was taken away in an ambulance. Her condition was not immediately clear.

After the episode, testimony continued. Garrett's neighbor, Marissa Hall, testified that she heard a big crash the day Garrett died.

"It sounded like someone had fallen on a hardwood floor," she said. "I thought I heard possibly 'no' or 'ouch' and definitely 'help.'"

Hall's phone call to police, in which she relayed what she heard next door, was also played in court.

"I'm sorry if this is nothing," Hall told the dispatcher. "I just want to be sure."

It was Hall's call to police that led to officers finding Garrett unconscious and alone in his mother's apartment. When the responding officers walked around the apartment looking for evidence, they noticed a window screen appeared bent outward, as though someone had climbed out, according to police reports in the case.

Besides Hall and her husband, another neighbor of Garrett's, Andrew Caranza, also took the stand today. Caranza testified that he was changing a tire in the parking lot behind the apartment building during authorities' estimated time frame for the murder: between 5 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. Caranza said he could see the window to Garrett's apartment from where he was.

Caranza testified that he heard a scraping noise while dealing with his car, so he looked up. Caranza said he saw the window blinds to Garrett's apartment were pulled to the side.

"Someone was looking out, so the blinds were off to the side, someone was peeking out," Caranza told the court.

In cross-examination, Caranza told the court that after he fixed the tire on his car outside, he went upstairs to his apartment and looked out of his window, where he saw a parked police cruiser. Caranza added that he did not remember the exact time that he noticed the blinds at Garrett's apartment.