ELLSWORTH — After deliberating for 90 minutes late Friday afternoon, a jury found William Morse guilty of murdering a man whose identity and money he stole over the ensuing year.

Morse, 45, was accused of shooting 60-year-old Richard Bellittieri in July 2012 and then of spending $180,000 of Bellittieri’s funds over the next 12 months.

The death of Bellittieri, a New York native who was divorced and had no immediate family in the area, went undetected for a year. He owned a house in the village of Hall Quarry on Mount Desert Island and was building a duplex on land he owned on Goose Cove Road in Trenton, using his savings and money he earned doing freelance accounting work to pay for the project.

Bellittieri hired Morse, a carpenter, through Craigslist in the spring of 2012 to help him complete the duplex — a decision that a prosecutor in the trial called “a fatal mistake.” Within a few months of hiring Morse, police have said, Bellittieri had been shot twice in the head and then buried in the woods on the Goose Cove Road property.

Morse explained away the absence of his employer to people who inquired by telling them that Bellittieri had traveled out of state, alternately saying that Bellittieri had a death in the family or had other business to tend to. He told some that Bellittieri had left his bank cards behind for Morse to use for the Trenton construction project.

Police became involved in looking for Bellittieri 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 properties, police found Bellittieri’s decomposed remains in a wooded wetland on the Goose Cove Road property, buried under a pile of potting soil and felled trees. The body was identified through use of dental records.

Morse was arrested Aug. 1, 2013, on a charge of murder in Bellittieri’s death and has been held without bail ever since.

After the verdict was announced around 5 p.m. Friday, a nephew of Bellittieri’s and an Ellsworth woman who was friends with Bellittieri expressed relief that Morse had been found guilty of murder.

“Justice has prevailed and a very bad person who did many bad things got what he deserved today,” Jason Happe, a nephew of Bellittieri who lives outside Charlotte, North Carolina, said outside the courthouse.

Happe said he had grown close to his uncle after the death of his father eight years ago. He said his family was “elated” to learn that Morse had been found guilty.

Pauline Buie, an Ellsworth resident who was friends with Bellittieri and who went to police in November 2012 after she was unable to track him down, raised and shook her hands slightly in celebration and smiled as the verdict was announced.

Outside the courthouse, Buie said she was glad with the finding.

“(Bellittieri) was an intelligent guy. He was a human being. He didn’t deserve this,” Buie said.

Morse’s defense attorneys left the courthouse quickly after the trial ended. Jeff Toothaker said briefly that the guilty verdict wasn’t completely unexpected.

“(Morse) knew this was a likely outcome,” Toothaker said in the courtroom. “There was a lot of evidence against him.”

The verdict came after six days of testimony in which the jury was presented with extensive evidence about how Morse assumed Bellittieri’s identity in order to access his financial accounts.

Morse passed himself off as Bellittieri as he used Bellittieri’s bank cards and as he rented out Bellittieri’s Hall Quarry house to new tenants in the fall of 2012. He called police pretending to be Bellittieri as they searched for the missing man and bought cars, a boat, a hot tub and a motorcycle with Bellittieri’s money.

Morse was not subtle about his ill-gotten windfall. He was photographed by ATM security cameras withdrawing money from Bellittieri’s bank accounts. He often went out to bars in Bar Harbor and elsewhere on MDI, calling himself “$100 Bill” as he paid for his drinks with the large denomination bills and told his servers to keep the change. He angered bartenders for driving away while intoxicated, eluded Bar Harbor police on his motorcycle on one occasion and then tried to drive off again when he was arrested for OUI on July 9, 2013.

The prosecutors in the case said Friday that they were pleased that the jury rendered a verdict after only 90 minutes of deliberations.

“We believed from the beginning that the evidence [against Morse] was overwhelming and I think the timing of the verdict might suggest we were right,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese said.

The strongest piece of evidence in the case, Marchese said, was the handgun used to kill Bellittieri, which was owned by Nancy Elliott, a Southwest Harbor woman who dated Morse in July 2012. Morse was the only connection police could find between Elliott and Bellittieri, she said.

Even though Bellittieri’s murder went undetected for a year, the amount of evidence police subsequently gathered about Morse’s efforts to raid Bellittieri’s financial accounts strongly suggested that he was the one responsible for Bellittieri’s death, prosecutors said. Police also were able to use Morse’s cellphone records, cellphone tower data and testimony from witnesses about when they last spoke to Bellittieri to identify July 17, 2012, as the likely date when Morse gunned Bellittieri down.

Among the evidence police found were receipts Morse received in spending Bellittieri’s money and a sheet of notebook paper on which Morse had written Bellittieri’s driver’s license number, bank account numbers, phone numbers, Social Security number, and Bellittieri’s mother’s maiden name. All of these things were found in the Audi that Morse was driving, which was registered in Bellittieri’s name, when Morse was arrested for OUI in Bar Harbor.

“The defendant, for whatever reason, kept all the evidence in his car — all the receipts and everything from the time he committed the offense until he was caught,” Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber said outside the courthouse. “It’s just really stunning that he would carry around all the proof of his guilt in the car.”

Having been convicted of Class A murder, Morse faces a minimum of 25 years in prison and possibly a life term. His sentencing is expected to be held sometime in the next month.


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