Nineteen-year-old will be sentenced to 35 years in prison after admitting to manslaughter and arson

CANANDAIGUA — Robert J. Clegg, 19, has pleaded guilty to fatally beating a man and then setting fire to the victim in an attempted coverup. The crime killed 21-year-old Nicholas Bice on Sept. 30, 2017, in Bice’s residence at Camelot Square Apartments.

Clegg pleaded guilty in Ontario County Court to first-degree manslaughter and second-degree arson. Ontario County District Attorney Jim Ritts said Clegg will be sentenced Oct. 17 to 35 years in prison. The sentences of 25 years for manslaughter and 10 years for arson will be served consecutively. The agreed-upon sentence includes five years post-release supervision, restitution to be determined, and orders of protection for the family and the residents at the apartment.

“Most important, he waived his right to appeal the conviction and sentence,” Ritts said. “This provides some sense of closure from the criminal perspective for the friends and family.”

Ritts said Clegg admitted he went into the victim’s apartment armed with a modified, bat-type steel flashlight that had been taped around the handle so it could be held. Clegg admitted striking the victim once in the temporal region, when the light broke, and then continuing to beat him striking him on the top and back of his head, intending to cause serious physical injury and resulting in Bice’s death.

Clegg admitted wrapping the victim and starting a fire in an attempt to cover up the death, and starting the fire in the apartment when other people were present. Clegg admitted to wrapping the victim’s head in a bed sheet and setting the fire by lighting paper and other flammable items on top of the bed and victim, according to Ritts. It is not clear how many people were present when Clegg started the fire, as the building is a multi-unit apartment/condo and people occupied other units.

Ritts said Clegg and Bice knew each other. The crime was linked to money and drugs: Clegg was alleged to have stolen about $2,200 and one-quarter pound of marijuana, although he did not admit to that, according to Ritts.

Bice’s body was discovered by firefighters after they put out the blaze the morning of Sept. 30.

The investigation into the crime involved an aggressive, multi-agency response. Bice was identified by Canandaigua City Police Chief Stephen Hedworth as the victim of a homicide. The cause of the fire at Bice’s Camelot Square Apartments residence had been ruled arson.

Clegg was indicted on felony charges of first-degree murder; first-degree robbery; first-degree burglary; second-degree arson; and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

Bice was a 2014 graduate of Canandaigua Academy. At the time of his death, he was a second-year student in the business administration degree program at Finger Lakes Community College.

Bice’s mother was killed when he was a toddler in a crime his father, Rodney Bice, was accused of committing, serving three years in prison after reaching a plea agreement with Florida prosecutors. Rodney Bice was released from prison in the spring of 2016 and expected to return to his Phoenix Street home in Canandaigua.