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AUBURN — A former Auburn Correctional Facility inmate refused to appear in Cayuga County Court Thursday to face a charge of first-degree murder because he says there is no victim.

Rupert Alberga, 36, currently in custody at Great Meadow Correctional Facility, according to the state's Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, was arraigned in September in connection with the death of Daniel Wingate, a convicted sex offender.

In July 2017, ACF corrections officers found Wingate unresponsive in his cell, covered in blood. Wingate was transported to Auburn Community Hospital and died days later due to complications from blunt force injuries to the head, the Cayuga County District Attorney's office previously reported.

Following an investigation, Alberga and fellow inmate Ashton Bellamy, 32, both faced charges. Alberga was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, class A felonies, while Bellamy was charged with first-degree manslaughter, a class B felony, and second-degree assault, a class D felony.

Although both inmates were scheduled to appear in Cayuga County Criminal Court before Judge Thomas Leone Thursday morning, Alberga was absent.

Leone said that Alberga "refused to leave his (prison) cell," and Alberga's defense attorney, Joseph Sapio, also said he was told that Alberga refused transport. Sapio said he met with Alberga on Oct. 18 and said that the defendant "refuses to acknowledge that there is a decedent in this matter."

"He hasn't been able to assist me in any form of defense," Sapio said. "He doesn't think there is a dead body."

Sapio said Alberga claims the autopsy results were fabricated.

Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann had offered to sentence Alberga to 15 years to life in prison. Alberga is currently serving a 24-year-to-life sentence — with earliest parole eligibility in 2035 — for his 2014 conviction of second-degree murder in Albany County Court.

Leone adjourned the case until Jan. 3 to allow for Sapio to either get an affidavit from Alberga allowing the court proceedings to move forward without his presence, and began the process of initiating a force order to make Alberga appear in court if he doesn't sign the affidavit.

Bellamy, previously convicted of assault in Nassau County, appeared in court Thursday and his defense attorney, Rome Canzano, said that Bellamy does not contest the death of Wingate.

Both Alberga and Bellamy have trial dates set to begin April 1.

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Staff writer Megan Ehrhart can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or megan.ehrhart@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @MeganEhrhart.

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Towns Reporter