Man arrested for Canandaigua homicide, arson investigation
Canandaigua, N.Y. (WHAM) - An Ontario County courtroom erupted in applause Monday morning as a suspect in a murder from September was identified and ordered help without bail.
Police say the 18 year old suspect identified as Robert Clegg killed a Canandaigua man September 30, then set a fire to cover it up. At the time, that teenager had already been charged and convicted of another burglary. Now he faces first-degree murder charges.
The indictment unsealed against Clegg Monday morning in court alleges he broke into an apartment in Canandaigua's Camelot Square in order to steal drugs and other items. Once he was inside, Clegg allegedly confronted 21 year old Nicholas Bice and threatened him with a weapon described as a bat light-style flashlight.
Bice died from his injuries; his body was found by firefighters in the burning apartment. Clegg is accused of setting the fire to cover up the crime.
The indictment does not describe what was stolen, but attorneys say the two men knew each other. "We're talking about drugs here," said defense attorney Robert Zimmerman. "I suspect that is the common denominator between the alleged victim and my client."
The very next day, Clegg was taken into custody for possessing marijuana. He's been in jail for the last 2 1/2 months. Yet prosecutors allege in the short gap between the murder and the arrest Clegg was able to destroy evidence and also conducted Internet searches with plans to flee.
"We executed a search warrant on his phone," said Ontario County District Attorney-elect Jim Ritts. "Some of the research we identified in open court relates to other countries without extradition treaties."
Zimmerman calls it nonsense.
"It makes for a good story when you're standing in front of a judge and you have people behind you in the gallery," said Zimmerman. "But he's not a flight risk. He's never been a flight risk."
More than two dozen of the victim's family and friends crowded the courtroom, many of them teenagers who broke into applause when bail was not set.
"This is an emotional time for them. This is the next step in a horrifying journey," said Ritts.
Clegg was charged with murder 1st, two counts of burglary 1st, two counts of robbery 1st, arson 2nd, criminal possession of a weapon 3rd, and criminal possession of marijuana 4th. Police say he was a suspect almost immediately but it's taken all these weeks for crime lab tests which link him to the scene. All of that time he has been in jail on the marijuana charge and for violating the conditions of his burglary conviction from May.
A small group of people who appeared in the courtroom on Clegg's behalf declined to comment.