ELLSWORTH — As the murder trial of William Morse got underway Wednesday in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court, a prosecutor boiled down Morse’s motive to one word: greed.

In his opening statement to the jury, Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber referred to the Pink Floyd song “Money” and quoted fictional character Gordon Gekko from the film “Wall Street” in explaining the prosecution’s theory about why Morse allegedly killed Richard Bellittieri in the summer of 2012, a year before Morse was arrested for the crime. Morse, whom Bellittieri had hired through Craigslist to do carpentry work on a duplex he was building on Goose Cove Road in Trenton, wanted Bellittieri’s money, Macomber said.

“That proved to be a fatal mistake,” the prosecutor said about Bellittieri’s decision to hire Morse. “William Morse has 175,000 reasons to kill Rick Bellittieri.”

Prosecutors say Morse took and spent $175,000 from Bellittieri’s financial accounts after he allegedly shot and killed Bellittieri in July 2012. According to Macomber, Morse dragged Bellittieri’s body into the woods behind the Goose Cove Road property, buried him under a pile of potting soil, and then felled a tree on top of the pile.

Jeffrey Toothaker, one of two attorneys representing Morse in the trial, told the jury that the prosecutors’ theory represents their best guess of how and why Bellittieri was killed. But that theory is full of circumstantial evidence that leaves a lot of important questions unanswered, he added.

“Circumstantial cases ask you to guess about key elements of a crime,” Toothaker told the jury.

Among the key details that prosecutors are not sure of, Toothaker added, is where Bellittieri was when he was shot and killed, and who was present when it happened.

“Knowing that someone is dead does not mean that you killed him,” Toothaker said.

The trial got under way Wednesday morning after the lawyers and the presiding judge in the trial, William Anderson, spent two days questioning potential jurors about whether they might have certain biases or conflicts in being able to consider evidence in the case and then render a verdict. Late Tuesday afternoon, they were able to seat a jury of 13 men and 2 women, including three alternates, for the trial.

The trial is expected to last at least two weeks and possibly three.

After the opening statements Wednesday morning, three witnesses were called to the stand before the court went into recess for a lunch break.

The victim’s estranged brother, Edward Bellittieri of Long Island, N.Y., testified that he knew of no reason that Rick Bellittieri would have returned to New York in 2012 or 2013. Morse told police in July 2013 that Rick Bellittieri had gone back to New York because of a death in the family.

Bar Harbor police officers Christopher Wharff and Shaun Farrar testified Wednesday about their efforts to detain and question Morse in July 2013 on their suspicions that he had driven a motor vehicle while intoxicated. It was after they detained him and were trying to find out who he was that they discovered he had Rick Bellittieri’s credit cards, driver’s license and Social Security card in his pockets.

The subsequent efforts by investigators from the Bar Harbor police and Maine State Police over the next few weeks resulted in Bellittieri’s body being found on the Goose Cove Road property in late July 2013. Between July 2012, when Bellittieri was allegedly killed, and July 2013, when Morse was arrested on murder charges, Morse is alleged to have frequently identified himself as the man he is accused of killing, police have said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: