03/02/08 — Man pleads guilty to second-degree murder

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Man pleads guilty to second-degree murder

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on March 2, 2008 2:00 AM

A Mount Olive man has pleaded guilty to killing a former Goldsboro resident in a plea deal with prosecutors that allowed him avoid two charges in sentencing.

Robert "Bobby" Leach, 36, will serve at least 20 years for the murder of Russell Lee Nickel-son, 32.

Author-ities found Nickelson's body at the corner of Church and Kornegay streets, police reported in May 2005.

Leach will get credit for 927 days he has already spent in jail, making his sentence about more than two years shorter, according to court records.

Leach's lawyer Glenn Barfield struck a deal with Assistant District Attorney Matt Delbridge to plead guilty to second-degree murder, court records show.

Three other people already pleaded guilty to involvement in the death and are awaiting prayer for judgment. Those defendants, each facing a charge of conspiracy to commit assault inflicting serious injury, are Clifton Leach, Jeffrey Leach and Fennell Seaberry.

Delbridge filed a motion last September to combine the cases, but the motion was not answered in Leach's case file.

Nickelson had served two six-month prison terms in 1998 and 2000, according to state corrections records, along with supervision and sentences for other charges.

Leach, formerly of East Williamson Street, avoided two counts of conspiracy to commit assault inflicting serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

The plea deal also permitted him to avoid a charge of being a habitual felon.

Leach's attorney Glenn Barfield of Goldsboro was not available for comment.

Former Mount Olive police Chief Emmett Ballree handled inquiries into the case at the time of Nickelson's death.

Current police Chief Ralph Schroeder was not available for comment.