AUGUSTA – A jury found Raymond Bellavance Jr. guilty Friday of two charges of arson related to a June 3, 2009, fire that destroyed the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in Vassalboro.

 

The verdict came about 5:50 p.m. — after more than five hours of deliberation — on the 10th day of Bellavance’s trial in Kennebec County Superior Court and after almost four hours of deliberation.

 

Bellavance, 50, of Winthrop, fled the state when he was first charged in the arson in April 2010.

 

He was extradited back to Maine and has been in jail for the past 20 months awaiting trial.

 

The topless coffee shop, owned by Donald Crabtree, had attracted national media attention even prior to the blaze.

 

Bellavance had a run-in at the coffee shop March 9, 2009, and Crabtree obtained a court order keeping Bellavance off the premises.

 

Prosecutor Alan Kelley maintained that Bellavance’s purpose that day was to get Krista MacIntyre – his sometime girlfriend – fired from her job as a waitress there.

 

A deputy testified Bellavance told him he believed MacIntyre was engaging in prostitution and doing illegal drugs at the topless coffee shop, something MacIntyre herself denied on the stand. She also said she was frequently fired and then rehired by Crabtree with whom she also had a sexual relationship.

 

Kelley said Bellavance saw MacIntyre in an Augusta parking lot talking to a man who was a frequent customer of the coffee shop, the same night she had agreed to be with Bellavance.

 

“On the night of June 2, the situation is Raymond Bellavance has been put off by Krista MacIntyre,” Kelley said. “He has to admit he was losing control.”

 

In closing arguments Friday, Kelley said Bellavance was fueled by “a combination of anger and jealousy,” adding, “Raymond Bellavance is a volatile man quick to anger.”

 

The chief witness against Bellavance was Thomas Mulkern, 26, of Augusta, who testified that his girlfriend Emma Wood drove the two men and two gasoline cans to the coffee shop very early on June 3, 2009.

 

Mulkern said he watched as Bellavance poured the cans of gasoline on the back of the coffee shop and then lit one of them with his lighter. He said the two men fought after Mulkern learned there were people living in the building that was a former hotel. Then they fled through the woods believing police

 

Mulkern received immunity from prosecution for his role in the fire and for his drug use, which he said consisted of several intravenous injections of cocaine as well as some other drugs.

 

He recently completed a substance abuse rehabilitation program in jail and was released last week.

 

Mulkern said he confessed his role in the fire to clear his conscience.

Wood, who also received immunity from prosecution, testified that she also had been on drugs and could recall little of the events, but remembers taking the men out to the woods with gas cans at some point.

 

Defense attorney Campbell called the prosecutor’s granting of immunity to Mulkern and Wood “the deal of the century.”

 

Bellavance, who testified in his own defense, said he frequently rode ATVs in the area.

 

He denied being jealous or possessive of MacIntyre, and said the two had been in a relationship for a short while several years ago and remained friends who had occasional sex with one another.

 

MacIntyre watched most of the closing arguments from a bench in the back of the large courtroom. There were about a dozen spectators, including investigators from the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

 

Kenneth MacMaster was the primary investigator in the case, and gave the jury the time line of the case and his interviews with dozens of people.

 

Campbell argued that the state offered barely enough evidence to charge arson and certainly not enough to convict Bellavance. Campbell maintianed the state focused on Bellavance as a suspect from the very beginning of the investigation and refused to look elsewhere.

 

Kelley said Bellavance’s arrival at 5 a.m. June 3, 2009, at the home of his aunt, Laurette Kalloch, places him in the vicinity of the fire even though his DNA was not found on a gas can left at the fire scene.

 

Kalloch, who lives on Dam Pond Road not far from the topless coffee shop, testified Ballavance asked to use her phone and for a dry shirt that morning, and also said he was accompanied by another man.

 

“The Kallochs quite frankly were devastating witnesses,” Kelley said.

 

Bellavance testified he was out with friends that morning intending to plant marijuana plants nearby when their van had a flat tire. He said he lay on the ground to try to fix it, but realized they needed to phone for assistance in dealing with a stuck lug nut.

 

“Proximity doesn’t make you guilty of a crime,” Campbell told jurors. “It comes down to credibility. Do you believe Ray or do you believe Mulkern?”

 

Campbell described Bellavance as an in-your-face fighter. “This ain’t a man who goes out by stealth at night to burn down the Grand View,” Campbell said,

 

Campbell told the jurors to disregard testimony of numerous inmates who said Bellavance confessed and provided details about the event.

 

“Much of the case relies on jailhouse rats,” Campbell said. “Bellavance never admitted or confessed to anyone about anything.”

 

Campbell said Bellavance feared he was being framed, so he went to South Carolina to gain time to prepare a defense.

 

Bellavance’s estranged wife, Tara Michaud Bellavance, of West Gardiner, testified Raymond Bellavance was on her property May 31, 2009, when he threatened to burn the coffee shop down to stop MacIntyre from working there.

 

Several people who were also there corroberated her story; one witness contradicted her.

 

And Teena Savage, a cousin of MacIntyre, testified that Bellavance confessed in the summer of 2009 that he burned down the coffee shop, but threatened to burn down her house and shoot her horse if she told anyone.

 

The jury returned to the courtroom once during deliberations and asked to have Savage’s testimony read back to them.

 

————

 

AUGUSTA – The defense attorney for Raymond Bellavance Jr. argued this morning that the state has offered barely enough evidence to charge arson and certainly not enough to convict his client.

 

Attorney Andrews Campbell asked a jury to return a verdict of not guilty on both counts of arson charged against Bellavance, 50, of Winthrop, in the June 3, 2009, fire at the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop.

 

One charge alleges that the arson was an intentional act, while the other says it was reckless and endangered people. Seven people who were living in the building escaped without injury.

 

Closing arguments ended by early afternoon and the judge is now set to give the jury instructions on evaluating the criminal charges before the jury begins its deliberations.

 

The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Alan Kelley, argued that Bellavance was fueled by “a combination of anger and jealousy” because Bellavance didn’t want his sometime-girlfriend Krista MacIntyre working at the topless coffee shop.

 

“Raymond Bellavance is a volatile man quick to anger and when quick to anger, he’s quick to act,” Kelley told jurors.

 

Kelley said Bellavance’s turning up at 5 a.m. at the home of his aunt, Laurette Kalloch, places him in the vicinity of the fire even though his DNA was not found on a gas can left at the fire scene.

 

Kalloch, who lives on Dam Pond Road not far from the topless coffee shop, testified Bellavance asked to use her phone and for a dry shirt that morning, and also said he was accompanied by another man.

 

“The Kallochs, quite frankly, were devastating witnesses,” Kelley said.

 

Bellavance testified he was out with friends that morning intending to plant marijuana nearby when their van had a flat tire that morning and they needed to phone for assistance.

 

Campbell argued that Bellavance was not jealous of MacIntyre and had relationships with a number of other women. MacIntyre watched closing arguments from a bench, as did about a dozen other people.

 

Campbell said the jury should discredit the testimony of Thomas Mulkern, 26, of Augusta, who said he was with Bellavance when he set the fire. Mulkern has recently completed a drug rehabilitation progam in jail and was given immunity from prosecution for his role in the fire and his drug use around that time.

 

“It comes down to credibility,” Campbell said. “Do you believe Ray, or do you believe Mulkern?”

 

“This ain’t a man who goes out by stealth at night to burn down the Grand View,” Campbell added.

 

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