AUGUSTA — There’s a huge gulf between prison terms that are recommended for the man convicted of burning down the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in Vassalboro.

Raymond Bellavance Jr. is incorrigible and should be sentenced to 30 years behind bars, the maximum allowable prison term, says acting District Attorney Alan Kelley.

Defense attorney Andrews Campbell, however, says Bellavance’s lengthy criminal record proves he is an angry man but other evidence shows he is capable of loving and protecting his children and grandchildren. Campbell suggests a sentence of 10 years for the crime, with half of that suspended and four years of probation, to allow Bellavance to make contributions toward restitution.

The dueling prison arguments are contained in sentencing recommendations the two sides have filed in court.

Bellavance, 51, of Winthrop, was convicted Dec. 30, of two counts of arson in the torching of the coffee shop on June 3, 2009. Each arson count carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and are expected to be merged into one for sentencing.

A sentencing hearing that had been scheduled for Monday was delayed by Justice Michaela Murphy at Campbell’s request. The defense attorney is seeking a second psychological examination of Bellavance.

A new date for the sentencing has yet to be set, according to records in Kennebec County Superior Court.

Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney had filed their recommendations with the court in anticipation of Monday’s hearing. Both reports list Bellavance’s criminal record, and Kelley notes that Bellavance has been in trouble with the law since he turned 18, spent lengthy periods in prison, and proved to be unsuccessful on probation.

“His history is one that has been marked by anti-social and violent behavior against men and women, as well as significant drug and substance abuse,” Kelley said, adding that Bellavance continues to deny responsibility for the arson and blames others for it.

Kelley outlines the state’s theory of the arson in his report. He argued at trial that Bellavance, who had recently been released from jail, had rekindled a sexual relationship with Krista MacIntyre and disliked the fact that she worked as a topless waitress at the coffee shop. Kelley described a scene in March 2009 in which Bellavance confronted MacIntyre’s boss, coffee shop owner Donald Crabtree, and threatened to shut the place down.

A day later, MacIntyre sought a restraining order against Bellavance, writing on the complaint that he told her, “No one will ever have U, U are myne untill I die.”

Kelley also says Bellavance conducted a practice burn at his daughter’s Augusta home on May 24, 2009, just 10 days before the blaze at the coffee shop. Augusta firefighters and police were called, and Bellavance later pleaded guilty to a charge of “burning prohibited material.”

And just two days before the coffee shop fire, Bellavance’ estranged wife and others heard him threaten to burn down the coffee shop in order to prevent MacIntyre from working there.

The night of the fire, MacIntyre broke a promise to be with Bellavance, and he got angry after finding her in an Augusta parking lot speaking with another man, Kelley said.

Kelley details a busy overnight June 2-3, 2009, for Bellavance, saying he got cocaine in Augusta, found a ride to his daughter’s home on the east side of town, and then enlisted a co-conspirator, Thomas Mulkern, to help him burn down the shop.

Mulkern testified at the trial about his role, saying Bellavance wore gloves to avoid prints or DNA on the five-gallon gas cans they brought to the scene. Mulkern, who got immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony, said he watched Bellavance light the fire and then fought with him after learning that people were living in the former motel that was connected to the coffee shop.

Crabtree, his two daughters, their infant children and the daughters’ boyfriends escaped unharmed after an ambulance crew driving by on Route 3 raised the alarm.

Investigators first questioned Bellavance — who was jailed on another charge — about the blaze 10 months later. As soon as he was released, he fled to South Carolina, claiming he worried about being framed for the arson.

In his pre-sentencing report, Campbell likened the flight by Bellavance and the pursuit by State Fire Marshal’s Office investigator Ken MacMaster to that of Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.”

Campbell lists numerous sentences for arson that have been imposed over the past 26 years, with the highest being 30 years with all but 25 years suspended, where a person intended to kill people.

Campbell argues that Bellavance never intended to kill anyone, and in fact offered to help Crabtree rebuild after the fire. Campbell said a relatively short prison term — Bellavance has been held for almost two years on the arson — and a period of probation will allow Bellavance to work and pay restitution. Crabtree, who had no insurance on his building, reopened the business briefly in a commercial trailer on site, but later sold the property and moved to Greenbush.

“Mr. Bellavance is no free-loader and no slouch,” Campbell says in the report. “He is a better dry-waller even when disabled and with one arm in a cast than most individuals with two arms. His energy, as partially testified to at trial, is indefatigable and his ability remarkable.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]


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