ELLSWORTH , Maine — A former girlfriend of murder defendant William Morse and a second woman who described herself as a “friend” testified Thursday morning in Morse’s trial.
Morse, 45, is accused of shooting and killing Richard Bellittieri in July 2012. Morse is alleged then to have stolen Bellittieri’s identity and to have spent $180,000 of Bellittieri’s money over the following year, before he was arrested on the murder charge on Aug. 1, 2013.
Southwest Harbor resident Nancy Elliott, Morse’s former girlfriend, testified Thursday morning about where she kept her .40-caliber Springfield Armory XD handgun, which police have identified as the murder weapon. She said Morse may have seen the gun in the camper she lived in during the summer of 2012 and that he may have known where to find the key.
Bar Harbor resident Lea Elliott (no relation to Nancy Elliott) also testified Thursday morning. She told the jury she first met Bellittieri in the spring of 2012 when he let her live in her camper van on his Goose Cove Road property. She said she first met Morse there after Bellittieri hired him through Craigslist to help build a duplex on the property.
Lea Elliott testified that when Bellittieri disappeared in July 2012, Morse told her Bellittieri had returned to his home in New York because someone he knew had died. She said the last time she saw Bellittieri was on July 16, 2012.
“I thought we were all friends,” Elliott testified. “We joked that I thought they were the odd couple.”
Some time after Bellittieri disappeared, she said, Morse took her out to lunch and paid with Bellittieri’s credit card. When she asked him about it, she testified, Morse replied, “That dude owes me money.”
Elliott also said that, in the days after July 16, 2012, Morse was quiet and acted “normal.” She stayed at the Goose Cove Road property until October 2012, she said, and never saw anything to indicate that something violent had happened on the property or inside the dwelling, where she frequently took showers.
Police became concerned about Bellittieri, whose death went unnoticed for a year, after Morse was arrested July 9, 2013, in Bar Harbor on a charge of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants. Morse allegedly told the arresting officers his name was Bill Tool, but when they searched him and the vehicle he had been driving, they found identification and documents that belonged to Bellittieri.
A few weeks later, after questioning Morse and others and then searching Bellittieri’s property on Goose Cove Road in Trenton, police found his body in the woods, buried under a pile of potting soil and felled trees.
On Thursday afternoon, an electrician who knew Bellittieri and a Maine State Police detective who is an expert on cellphone tower technology each testified to the jury of 13 men and 2 women, which includes three alternates.
The electrician, Ryan Fletcher, testified that Bellittieri told him in 2012 that a carpenter Bellittieri had hired for the Goose Cove Road project wasn’t working out and that Bellittieri planned to fire him. Fletcher said, however, that he was not told the name of the carpenter that Bellittieri planned to fire.
Sgt. Kyle Willette of the Maine State Police testified about the usage and tracking data police were able to obtain from the cellphone records of Morse, Bellittieri and others connected with the case. Willette described the location of cellphone towers in Trenton and on Mount Desert Island and the time of day on July 17, 2012, at which the various cellphones used signals from those towers. That is the day police believe Bellittieri was killed.
The data shows that Morse’s phone connected that day with towers near Nancy Elliott’s home, where the murder weapon was, and near the Goose Cove Road property, where Bellittieri’s body was found a year later. Willette said the tower data does not include voice conversations or text messages that accompanied those connections.
Willette also said that a call placed from Bellittieri’s cellphone to the Bar Harbor Police Department the day after Morse’s OUI arrest was transmitted by a cellphone tower in Ellsworth. A man claiming to be Bellittieri called Bar Harbor police from Bellittieri’s phone and said he was in New York, but a dispatcher who knew Belliettieri and took the call said the voice was not his, police have said.
Morse’s trial could wrap up on Friday, presiding Justice William Anderson has said.