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Georgia man gets life sentence in murder of retired Riverhead police officer

06/18/2019 6:54 AM |

A Georgia man convicted of killing retired Riverhead police officer Timothy Buckley and dumping his body in a wooded area in Myrtle Beach, S.C. will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

A jury found Johnathan Hillary, 32, guilty of murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and possession of a weapon following a four-day trial that ended Monday, according to the Horry County Solicitor’s Office.

Horry County Circuit Court Judge William McKinnon sentenced Mr. Hillary to life in prison without the possibility of parole on the murder charge plus 65 years on the remaining counts.

Prosecutors said Mr. Hillary killed Mr. Buckley after he and co-defendant Bernithia Young, desperate for money, sought out someone to rob on Sept. 29, 2016. They spotted Mr. Buckley drinking at a bar and targeted him, according to a report on Myrtle Beach Online.

Ms. Young, 36, who was charged with felony accessory after the fact, could face upgraded charges as she awaits trial, prosecutors said.

Johnathan Hillary in his police mug shot. (Credit: Horry County Police)

The remains of Mr. Buckley, a 51-year-old Army veteran, were found in November 2016, more than a month after he disappeared not far from where he was living in South Carolina. He was shot in the back of the head and a bullet hole in the back of his shirt tested positive for gunshot residue, prosecutors said.

His truck was later found at an apartment complex about seven miles from where his remains were located, prosecutors said. At trial, prosecutors said Mr. Hillary drove Mr. Buckley’s vehicle away from where he dumped the body.

A cellphone expert also testified that Mr. Buckley’s phone pinged from the same cell towers at Mr. Hillary and Ms. Young’s phones, prosecutors said.

A Wading River native, Mr. Buckley joined the Riverhead Town Police Department in 1989 and was its Officer of the Year in 2005, according to previous News-Review reports. He served two years on the Riverhead Town Board before resigning in 2009 to help care for his ill wife, who died not long after his death.

His daughter Kaitlin was among the witnesses to testify at the trial last week, according to reports.

Top Caption: Mr. Buckley as a candidate for Riverhead Town Board. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

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