DEDHAM, Maine — David Langley first met murder suspect William Morse in late June, six weeks before Morse was arrested Aug. 1 on a charge of murder.
“I thought he was sketchy,” Langley said Saturday morning, standing in the driveway of the house he lives in on Peakes Hill Road, which is where Maine State Police had tried to apprehend Morse two days earlier. “I wasn’t impressed with him the first time I saw him.”
Langley said his landlord, Maureen Perry, was friends with Morse, who had stayed overnight at the house several times in the past month or so, including the night before he was taken into custody.
Morse, 43, was arrested Thursday in Ellsworth on a charge of murder in connection with the death of Richard Bellittieri, 61, of Trenton. Police have said that last weekend they found the skeletal remains of Bellittieri, who was last seen alive in June 2012, buried under a pile of potting soil on land that Bellittieri owned in Trenton.
According to a police affidavit filed in Hancock County Superior Court, Bellittieri’s remains had four gunshot wounds, two of which were to his head.
Langley said he had never heard of Bellittieri until Thursday, and before then had no idea that Morse was mixed up in anything as serious as a murder investigation.
Langley did not go into details about what it was about Morse that he didn’t like. He said Morse didn’t strike him as the type of person Perry would befriend, even though both Morse and Perry own and enjoy riding motorcycles.
Attempts Saturday to contact Perry were unsuccessful. Perry works and frequently stays on Mount Desert Island during the summer months, Langley said, and does not have a landline telephone at her Peakes Hill Road home. Perry did not respond to a message left with Langley requesting comment about Morse.
Hall Quarry house
Brianna Alley of the Mount Desert village of Hall Quarry was equally unimpressed with Morse. Last October, Alley and her husband Peter Neblett rented a home at 91 Hall Quarry Road that is owned by Bellittieri. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, after they were contacted by police, that they learned the man they rented it from was actually Morse. They had found the house to rent and made contact with Morse by responding to an online ad on craigslist, she said.
“[Morse] introduced himself as Rick Bellittieri,” Alley said Saturday while standing in the doorway of the house, holding her infant son in her arms while his older brother played nearby. “He wasn’t very personable, I guess. I didn’t try to interact with him that much.”
Alley said that last fall she, Neblett and their two boys had to move out of Acadia Apartments in Bar Harbor, where they were living, and needed to find a new place quickly. Morse, posing as Bellittieri, seemed desperate to rent the Hall Quarry house, she said, telling them other prospective tenants had fallen through. He didn’t ask them for references, she said, and had them pay him $500 in rent in cash at the beginning of each month.
“It seemed too good to be true, which I guess it was,” Alley said of finding an inexpensive house to rent on Mount Desert Island, where real estate is at a premium. “He had us fooled. He even showed us the deed to the house. We had no reason to believe he wasn’t Richard Bellittieri.”
Then, a few weeks ago, Maine State Police detectives came to the house and told them Morse’s real name and that they were trying to find Bellittieri. They brought police dogs to the house to sniff around outside, she said, and told them that they might want to stay somewhere else for a while. They went and stayed temporarily with her mother in Franklin, she said.
It wasn’t until media reports came out on Thursday that the couple found out Bellittieri was dead and Morse was accused of killing him.
“We were really freaked out and scared,” Alley said. “It’s weird he could get away with it for a whole year, and no one made the connection.”
Now, Alley added, they are not sure how long their living situation in Hall Quarry might last. She said police told them they likely will be contacted by who inherits the house from Bellittieri. She has no idea who that might be, she added, or when they might call.
“We’re kind of waiting to see what the next-of-kin wants to do,” she said.
Police close in
Langley, the Dedham resident, said he has rented a room in the house on Peakes Hill Road for the past 18 months and first met Morse earlier this summer at the house. His landlord’s mother, who is in her 80s, also lives there, he said.
Langley said he had interacted with Morse maybe a dozen times at the house in the past six weeks, sometimes sharing meals with him and others. He said Morse had stayed at Perry’s house several nights last week because, as Morse told him, police wouldn’t let Morse stay where he had been staying, which Langley speculated may be Bellittieri’s unfinished home on Goose Cove Road in Trenton, where his body was found. Last week, police kept a round-the-clock watch on the Trenton property for several days as they searched for clues of Bellittieri’s whereabouts.
According to Langley, Morse had stayed at the Dedham home the night before his arrest. Morse had driven off on his motorcycle earlier on the morning of Aug. 1 but came back around 7 a.m. with police detectives following close behind, he said.
Before Morse came inside the house, Langley said, he heard Morse telling a detective in the driveway that he would not talk to them without his attorney. Morse then walked into the house but immediately exited through a back door just steps away from where he entered.
Langley said he thought Morse was on his cellphone in the fenced-in backyard, but Morse apparently slipped through a back gate and escaped on foot through the woods, unseen by Maine State Police detectives who remained out front.
Langley said police knocked on the door and asked him about Morse, but he told them he was gone. Police asked to come inside to look, but Langley told them they would have to get a search warrant. He said he had no idea why they wanted to talk to Morse and that he was just trying to protect his privacy and that of his landlord’s mother.
After a few minutes, police ordered Langley and Perry’s mother to leave, Langley said, because they thought Morse was still in the home. It wasn’t until Langley and Perry’s mother were driving away together that Langley found out from her that police suspected Morse of murder. One of the detectives must have mentioned it to Perry’s mother as they were leaving, he speculated.
“I wished he had told me [that],” Langley said, referring to the detective who had knocked on the door. “I would have let him come in the house.”
Morse’s continued freedom was short-lived, however. Police spotted him early that afternoon at a grocery store 2 miles away in Holden and, after Morse got a ride with a friend, followed the vehicle into Ellsworth before stopping it and placing him under arrest.
Langley said that, despite his initial impression of Morse, the news that police believe Morse killed another man took him by complete surprise.
“He didn’t strike me as that type of person, either,” Langley said. “You just never know. You got no soul [if you murder someone], especially if you’ve been living in the guy’s house.”
Neighbors who live next door to where Bellittieri’s body was found in Trenton have declined to comment on the matter.
Maine State Police began investigating Bellittieri’s disappearance and Morse’s connection to Bellittieri in early July, after Bar Harbor police stopped a car Morse was driving and discovered that Morse was in possession of Bellittieri’s Social Security card, driver’s license and bank cards. The car, police found out, also was registered in Bellittieri’s name, according to the police affidavit.
Upon further investigation, police determined Morse had done carpentry work for Bellittieri at the Trenton property and that no one had seen Bellittieri for more than a year. Besides passing himself off as Bellittieri to the tenants in Hall Quarry, Morse allegedly has passed himself off as Bellittieri to other people, including police officers, in person and possibly over the phone. He allegedly has withdrawn thousands of dollars from Bellittieri’s bank account, police have indicated, and is the only person who claims to have seen Bellittieri within the past year.
Morse made his initial appearance on the murder charge in Hancock County Superior Court on Friday and is being held indefinitely at Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth. Citing his client’s inability to pay the high bail amount that likely would be set, Morse’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth, told the judge on Friday that he agreed for now not to ask the court to schedule a hearing to determine probable cause and to set possible bail.