Convicted killer expected to appeal

ELLSWORTH — The man found guilty last week in the murder of a Trenton accountant is expected to appeal the jury’s decision, according to his attorneys.

William Morse, 45, of Fishkill, N.Y., and Otis was found guilty Friday in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court of the willful and intentional murder of 61-year-old Richard Bellittieri. Jurors deliberated for 90 minutes before returning with the verdict.

A date has not been set for Morse’s sentencing. Murder charges in Maine are punishable by prison terms of between 25 years and life.

During an interview after the verdict was delivered, Jeffrey Toothaker, who along with David Bate defended Morse during the trial, said Morse most likely would appeal his conviction to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Toothaker conceded that some of the evidence presented was problematic to their defense.

Bellittieri hired Morse in the spring of 2012 to help work on a duplex he was building on the Goose Cove Road in Trenton. State police found the victim’s remains buried behind the duplex in July 2013.

During the trial, which began with jury selection on April 6, prosecutors introduced evidence that Morse shot and killed his employer on July 17, 2012, using his girlfriend’s .40-caliber handgun and then posed as the victim, draining around $170,000 from Bellittieri’s bank and investment accounts.

Morse’s attorneys did not dispute the allegation their client took the money from Bellittieri. Instead, they argued that the evidence presented by the state was circumstantial and there was no evidence to prove Morse intentionally murdered Bellittieri.

Morse opted not to testify during the proceedings.

In closing arguments Friday, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who, along with Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber, prosecuted the case, reviewed evidence introduced in the trial, evidence that she said clearly shows that Morse killed Bellittieri in July 2012 and posed as the victim, raiding Bellittieri’s bank and investment accounts and using the money to buy vehicles, a boat, a hot tub and other items.

“These are the brazen acts of a man who knew the victim was not coming back,” Marchese told the jury.

Marchese reminded jurors of testimony from one of Bellittieri’s accounting clients stating the victim told him he was planning to fire Morse because of his poor work ethic. She also reviewed text messages Morse sent to a friend shortly before Bellittieri was last seen. In these messages, Morse referred to the victim as a “nut” and a “buzz killer.”

“The only thing that makes sense here,” she said, “is that William Morse killed Richard Bellittieri.”

In his closing, Toothaker argued that the murder case presented by the prosecution raised more questions than it provided answers. The prosecution cannot show that it was Morse who shot Bellittieri, he said.

“When they’re asking you to guess, they’re basically saying they have no evidence,” Toothaker said.

Toothaker suggested to the jury that there are others who could have killed Bellittieri. He alleged Bellittieri was involved in growing large amounts of marijuana and therefore associated with criminal elements. He implied that an abusive ex-boyfriend of the woman who owned the gun also should be suspect.

“Has the state proven when he died, where he died and who pulled the trigger?” Toothaker asked jurors. “How do they know this was intentional? How do they know there wasn’t a struggle over the gun?”

In her rebuttal, Marchese attempted to poke holes in Toothaker’s assertions, saying Bellittieri had earned his money legally and referred to the testimony of two witnesses who confirmed it was Morse and not Bellittieri who was growing marijuana on the Trenton property in 2012 and again in 2013.

Marchese accused Toothaker of playing loose with the facts during his closing remarks and told jurors that, despite the circumstantial evidence, there logically is no other conclusion than that Morse killed Bellittieri.

“He was executed,” Marchese said of the victim. “Self-defense? Mr. Toothaker has to be a little more careful with his remarks.”

Morse was arrested Aug. 1, 2013, on the murder charge. Police became aware of Bellittieri’s disappearance after Bar Harbor police found documents belonging to the victim in a vehicle driven by Morse during his July 2013 arrest on a charge of operating while under the influence. After failing to locate Bellittieri, Bar Harbor police turned the case over to state police detectives.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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