When police officers and the manager of the apartment building entered the residence, they found the boy lying unconscious on the floor. He was taken to Canton-Potsdam Hospital, where he died around 7:20 p.m. Monday.
Rumors that his death was the result of an assault have circulated, but this morning, a spokesman at the Potsdam Police Department could neither confirm nor deny those reports. The department plans a press conference at 10. Nora Flaherty reports.
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Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, a bleary-eyed Potsdam Police Chief Edward Tischler said his department had been working through the night on the investigation.
The police are working with a state forensics unit, the county sheriff and state police.
Tischler called the death “tragic”, but said at this point the police aren’t calling it a homicide.
"At this time we’re conducting an investigation, gathering evidence, trying
to determine a cause of death. Obviously when we know more we’ll let other
At the red brick apartment building where Phillips died, a state forensics unit was focusing its energy on a second-floor window whose screen appears to have been pushed out of its frame.
Phillips was a student at AA Kingston middle school in Potsdam. Potsdam school superintendant Pat Brady learned of Phillips’ death Monday night:
"It was shocking. I knew Garret and the family and it’s difficult to get that kind of news as it is anytime you hear one of your students has died."
Parents of Phillips' schoolmates were notified of his death in an email from the school, which also hired a grief counselor from Hospice of St. Lawrence County to help students and teachers deal with the loss. Brady says the school is working hard to keep students and teachers informed—and to keep rumors to a minimum:
"Today’s technology with blogs and other venues there’s a lot of information out there. It certainly makes it more difficult to deal with from a school perspective because we have to counsel students to help them grieve…of course not knowing the cause makes it more of a challenge. But then dealing with widespread rumors among adolescents is even more of a challenge."
Police chief Tischler said the police are hoping to wrap up the investigation “shortly.”