Trenton murder suspect makes first court appearance, allegedly passed himself off as dead man

William Morse in the courtroom at the Hancock County Superior Court in Ellsworth Friday for his first appearance. Morse is charged with killing Trenton resident Richard Bellittieri.
Gabor Degre | BDN
William Morse in the courtroom at the Hancock County Superior Court in Ellsworth Friday for his first appearance. Morse is charged with killing Trenton resident Richard Bellittieri.
By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 02, 2013, at 12:25 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — William Morse, the man accused of killing a Trenton man who last was seen alive a year ago, had been passing himself off as the dead man, according to a police affidavit filed in Hancock County Superior Court.

Morse, 43, is accused of killing Richard Bellittieri, 61, who was last seen alive in June 2012, Maine State Police have said. Police found Bellittieri’s remains on July 28 in the woods of a property deeded to Bellittieri on Goose Cove Road in Trenton. Police said Thursday that Morse has been staying in the Trenton area but the affidavit lists Morse as having an address in Fishkill, N.Y.

According to the affidavit filed Thursday in court by Maine State Police Detective Thomas Pickering, an examination of Bellittieri’s remains by the medical examiner’s office indicates that the dead man had four gunshot wounds — one near his right eyebrow, another to the right side of his cranium, a third in his right thigh and a fourth to his right foot. The affidavit, which has part of a sentence temporarily blacked out at the request of Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, does not explicitly say whether police believe Bellittieri died from the wounds or when Bellittieri died.

The document says that in the past few weeks, police have determined that Morse:

— Has been driving a vehicle registered to Bellittieri.

— Has been in possession of Bellittieri’s Social Security card, driver’s license and bank cards.

— Passed himself off as Bellittieri in person to other people as well as possibly over the phone.

— Is “the only person who claims to have seen or spoken with Richard Bellittieri within the past year.”

Morse was arrested Thursday in Ellsworth after police went to a home on Peakes Hill Road in Dedham to interview him about Belliettieri’s death. Morse, whom police had followed to the home, managed to elude police for a few hours after he walked away from the home unseen. He was spotted again by police some hours later at a store roughly 2 miles away in Holden and then was followed again when he got a ride with a friend. Police stopped the vehicle on Route 1A in Ellsworth and arrested Morse.

On Thursday morning, Morse was limping and wearing jail-issued clothing as he was led by Hancock County sheriff’s deputies into Superior Court to make his first appearance on the murder charge.

Morse did not enter a plea to the murder charge. He also is facing three unrelated misdemeanors — operating a motor vehicle after suspension, illegal attachment of plates and violating conditions of release — to which he pleaded not guilty on Friday.

Morse remained silent during the hearing with the exception of saying “yes” twice in a clear voice to Justice Kevin Cuddy. The judge asked Morse if his listed date of birth was correct, and if he had a chance to discuss the murder allegation with his defense attorney, Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth.

During the brief hearing, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson and Toothaker told Cuddy that they agreed to waive setting a date for a hearing to determine probable cause and bail for Morse. Toothaker told the judge he reserved the right to request a hearing at some point and that he expected the murder charge to be presented to a Hancock County grand jury either later this month or in October.

Toothaker said after the appearance that, for now, his client will be held indefinitely at Hancock County Jail. He said Morse was on his way to Toothaker’s office in Ellsworth when he was stopped and arrested on Thursday.

Benson declined after the court proceeding to comment on the case. He told Cuddy during Morse’s appearance that the investigation into Bellittieri’s death remains open.

According to the affidavit, Bar Harbor police began looking into Bellittieri’s whereabouts last month when, while investigating an earlier high-speed motorcycle chase, they stopped Morse as he was driving an Audi automobile and arrested him for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicants. The car was registered in Belliettieri’s name and his Social Security card, driver’s license and two of his credit cards were found on Morse at the time of the arrest, the affidavit indicates. Police also reportedly found a black briefcase containing documents and receipts that belonged to Bellittieri in the car.

Bar Harbor police later showed photos of both Bellittieri and Morse to a tenant living in a house owned by Bellittieri in the Mount Desert village of Hall Quarry. When asked to identify Bellittieri, he selected the photo of Morse, according to the affidavit.

Bar Harbor police also tracked down security video from a bank in Southwest Harbor that allegedly showed Morse using an ATM to withdraw cash from one of Bellittieri’s bank accounts in June of this year.

Further investigation by state police detectives revealed that Morse also may have passed himself off as Bellittieri when he was stopped for speeding in Southwest Harbor in January 2013 and in voicemail messages left last month for Bar Harbor and Maine State Police officials. Audio recordings of those interactions later were played for Bellittieri’s ex-wife, from whom he was divorced in 2002, the affidavit indicates. Bellittieri’s ex-wife told police the voice she heard on the recordings was not that of her former husband.

Also, according to the affidavit, police were asked to help find Bellettieri nine months ago. The document says that a woman who knew Bellitieri contacted the Mount Desert Police Department last November to request that they find the man, whom she had not seen since May. An officer spoke with the tenants who were living in the Hall Quarry house owned by Bellittieri and tried to contact him with a telephone number provided by the tenants. The affidavit indicates the officer’s phone message was not returned, but it does not indicate whether Mount Desert police took other steps to try to find Bellittieri.

Citing the continuing Maine State Police investigation, Mount Desert Police Chief James Willis declined Friday to comment on his department’s involvement in the case.

Before Morse was arrested on Thursday, Maine State Police detectives interviewed Morse on July 25 and 29 about Bellittieri’s disappearance, according to the affidavit. Morse told police during those interviews that he met Bellittieri online and that Bellitieri hired him to work on the building under construction on Goose Cove Road and that he had not seen Bellittieri for several weeks. He also told police he had withdrawn $4,000 from Bellittieri’s bank account at Bellittieri’s request, the document indicates.

Morse did not answer any questions from police when they tried to talk to him in Dedham on Thursday morning or later that day when they met with him at Hancock County Jail after his arrest, Pickering wrote in the affidavit.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/08/02/news/hancock/trenton-man-accused-of-murder-makes-first-appearance-in-court/ printed on November 28, 2014