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Defendant denies torching topless coffee shop

Maine State Police | BDN
Maine State Police | BDN
Raymond Bellavance
By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — The man charged with burning down the Grand View Coffee Shop in Vassalboro more than two years ago denied committing the crime as he took the stand in his own defense Thursday at Kennebec County Superior Court.

Raymond Bellavance Jr., 50, of Augusta gave his version of events leading up to the fire at the topless coffee shop on June 3, 2009.

Bellavance confirmed what Krista MacIntyre, a former waitress at the coffee shop, said the previous day — namely, that he was not jealous of other sexual partners she had, including shop owner Donald Crabtree, and therefore had no motive to burn down the coffee shop where MacIntyre worked.

He said he was staying at his daughter’s home the night of the fire.

Bellavance said he stayed with friends during the evening before the fire and later tried to hang out with MacIntyre at an Augusta bar. He said he saw her and Jason Lunt talking while sitting in opposite vehicles in a parking lot.

He said he approached them and asked what was going on.

Assistant Distirct Attorney Alan Kelley asked if he was upset to see them together after MacIntyre told Bellavance she didn’t want to be with him that night.

“You’re not upset?” Kelley asked.

“That’s correct,” said Bellavance.

Kelley then read an interview Bellavance gave to detectives.

“Where the … you’ve been? You’re supposed to be with me,” Kelley read from Bellavance’s statement on March 31, 2010.

Bellavance said he then walked with a friend to another bar, but didn’t enter. He said he later went to his daughter’s house, where he typically stayed at night, and did not set the fire at the coffee shop.

According to Bellavance, early the next morning, he and three others, two of whom he barely knew, were driving past his aunt’s house off Route 3 on their way to plant some marijuana in the woods.

He said the van they were in got a flat tire. He and one of the men in the van walked to his aunt’s house to get a tire iron so he could get the lug nuts off the wheel. His aunt gave him a fresh shirt as his was wet from lying on the ground trying to get the tire off, he said.

Bellavance said a passer-by replaced the tire. He said he and the three others who had been in the van went home instead of planting the marijuana.

Bellavance’s explanation of how his shirt got wet contrasted with the prosecution’s theory. The prosecution said that he got his shirt wet while crossing the bog near the coffee shop after the arson to escape to a waiting car. Bellavance said he knew those woods enough from hunting over the years to avoid the bog, adding that there are much easier ways to get through those woods.

“I know how to get to my aunt’s without getting wet,” he said to his attorney, Andrews Campbell.

He spent most of the rest of his testimony trying to discredit other witnesses, saying they were lying to cover themselves.

Campbell targeted State Fire Marshal’s Office investigator Kenneth MacMaster, who was recalled to the stand.

Campbell contended that MacMaster uses lying as an interview technique to try to get suspects to confess.

“Lying is a major part of your investigative technique?” Campbell asked MacMaster.

“No, not major,” replied MacMaster.

“Does it become hard to differentiate lying in interviews and lying in court?” Campbell asked before Kelley objected to the argumentative question. The trial judge, Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy, sustained the objection.

Campbell suggested that MacMaster pressured witnesses. The defense lawyer claimed that MacMaster said that if Bellavance was convicted, Thomas Mulkern, who earlier in the trial said he witnessed Bellavance setting the fire, would be next in line.

MacMaster denied ever saying that.

Mulkern was given immunity for his earlier testimony.

Teena Savage, a former girlfriend of Bellavance and cousin to MacIntyre, was recalled to the stand. She testified that Ballavance threatened her.

Kelley asked if Savage wanted to testify against Bellavance. She replied, “No.”

When Kelley asked why not, Savage said, “He threatened to burn my house down and shoot my horse [if I testified].”

Justice Murphy thanked the jury for being patient during the long trial.

“I’m very, very thankful for all the sacrifices you have made,” said Murphy, noting many appointments that were canceled or moved by jurors.

Both the defense and the prosecution rested their cases Thursday afternoon. The trial will begin its 10th day on Friday with closing arguments scheduled for 9 a.m.

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