A Georgia man was convicted yesterday of the September 2016 murder of former Riverhead Town councilman and ex-cop Timothy Buckley.

Johnathan Lamar Hillary, 32, was found guilty on charges of of murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and weapon possession at the conclusion of a four-day trial in Horry County, South Carolina. A judge sentenced Hillary to the maximum sentences allowed by law on all charges — life imprisonment without parole on the murder charge, 30 years on each of the armed robbery and kidnapping charges and five years for possession of a weapon.

Hillary’s alleged accomplice, Bernithia Young, 36, faces a pending felony charge of accessory after the fact to the murder.

Prosecutors said Hillary and Young targeted Buckley when they encountered him in a Myrtle Beach bar.

“They were in desperate need of some money and they were looking for that vulnerable victim that happened to be a 51-year-old man of a smaller stature that had a few drinks that night,” Assistant Solicitor Jonathan Miles said in his opening statement at the trial, according to a report in Myrtle Beach online.

Hillary shot Buckley in the middle of the back and in the back of his head, according to prosecutors. Then he put Buckley’s body in Buckley’s own truck and drove it to a wooded area. It took 40 days for his remains to be discovered. Buckley’s Ford pickup truck was later found in Myrtle Beach.

Hillary and Young returned to Georgia, where they committed another robbery, according to prosecutors.

Buckley had been a Wading River resident before moving with his family to South Carolina. He was appointed to the Riverhead Police Department in November 1988. He was the department’s officer of the year in 2005 and retired in August 2007 to run for a seat on the Riverhead Town Board that November. Buckley won the election and took office in January 2008, but resigned from the post in February 2009, citing personal reasons due to his wife’s illness. Ruth Ann Buckley died in November 2018.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.