Accused murder William Morse looks back at the courtroom during the first day of his trial on Wednesday. PHOTO BY MARK GOOD

Prosecutor alleges murder suspect driven by greed

ELLSWORTH – The state’s claims that William Morse assumed the identity of the man he is accused of murdering, and raided the victim’s bank accounts to fund a high-roller lifestyle, was not challenged by defense attorneys during the first day of testimony in court here Wednesday.

But they did attempt to create doubt in the minds of jurors about who pulled the trigger, suggesting that someone else could have shot and killed Richard Bellittieri.

Morse, 45, whose addresses include Fishkill, N.Y. and Otis, is accused of murdering Bellittieri, 61, who hired Morse to help construct a duplex home on the Goose Cove Road in Trenton. A state police cadaver dog found Bellittieri’s skeletal remains in July 2013, covered in potting soil behind the house. State medical examiners believe Bellettieri was shot, including twice in the head, about one year before his body was discovered.

Prosecutors, led by assistant attorney general Donald Macomber, presented numerous documents and video clips to support their claim that Morse was representing himself as Bellittieri and siphoning money from the dead man’s accounts to support a lifestyle that earned him the nickname “Hundred Dollar Bill.”

Testimony from the owners of two Bar Harbor bars, a Bar Harbor police dispatcher and officer, a former Southwest Harbor police officer and two state police detectives was not challenged by Morse’s attorneys. It was only when former Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (MDEA) special agent Chris Thornton took the stand late that Jeffrey Toothaker, who, along with David Bate, represents Morse, began to cross-examine a witness.

Toothaker immediately asked Thornton about the 261 marijuana plants found on the Trenton property shortly before Morse’s Aug. 1, 2013 arrest. He asked the former agent about the money to be made on each plant if it were allowed to mature.

“About $500 to $1,000,” Thornton responded. The total profit, he said, would be $261,000.

Toothaker opined that the amount of money generated by each plant could even be higher. Either way, he acknowledged, the payoff would be a “significant amount.”

Toothaker also questioned Thornton on whether marijuana had been grown there in the years before Morse’s arrest. Thornton said he did not know.

Testimony is scheduled to continue today (Thursday) with the lead investigator, state police detective Tom Pickering, taking the stand. The trial is expected to end late next week.

Earlier in the day, in his opening statements, Macomber laid out the state’s case against Morse.

Bellittieri, an accountant, placed a Craigslist ad seeking the help of a carpenter. Morse applied and was hired.

“That proved to be a fatal mistake,” Macomber told the jury.

Morse wasn’t a model worker.

“Richard Bellittieri didn’t think much of Morse’s work ethic,” Macomber continued, adding that the accountant indicated to a friend that he was going to fire Morse.

According to Macomber, Morse went to a girlfriend’s home in Southwest Harbor, where he knew she kept a .40-caliber handgun. Morse used the handgun to shoot Bellittieri four times. Tests show a bullet recovered from the remains had been fired from that same handgun, Macomber said.

Within three weeks of Bellittieri’s death, Morse had maxed-out the victim’s credit cards and began to drain money from Bellittieri’s investment accounts. In the end, Macomber said, Morse stole $175,000 of Bellittieri’s money, using the funds to frequent bars, where he would leave $100 tips, and to buy cars, a motorcycle, boats and a hot tub, he added.

Macomber compared Morse’s motivations with those of the Gordon Gekko character in the movie “Wall Street.”

“Greed is good,” Macomber said quoting a line from the movie. “And, just like Gekko, his greed was his downfall.”

Toothaker, in his opening statements cautioned jurors to carefully consider the evidence the state would present. At times, he said, the state will introduce evidence that might not tell the full story.

“Are they giving you hard evidence or evidence where you have to make a leap of faith?” he said. “They want you to guess as to that part of the case.”


Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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