AUGUSTA — A man serving 30 years for arson for burning down the Grandview Topless Coffee Shop in June 2009 in Vassalboro has lost another bid to get a new trial.

Raymond Bellavance Jr., 55, sought relief through a post-conviction review process, but a judge denied it in a ruling filed last week in Kennebec County Superior Court.

“The court finds no evidence that petitioner did not receive the benefit of a fair trial,” Justice Donald Marden wrote in the decision.

According to the Maine Department of Corrections website, Bellavance is at the Maine State Prison, and his earliest release date is February 2034.

Bellavance was convicted of the arson after a 10-day jury trial that ended on Dec. 30, 2011, in Augusta.

The early morning fire was spotted by an ambulance crew passing by on Route 3, who called 911 and alerted the seven people — two of them infants — living in the building, which was a former motel.

Bellavance fled the state after he was charged in the arson in April 2010, but was extradited back to Maine and spent 20 months in jail awaiting trial.

The topless coffee shop, owned by Donald Crabtree, had attracted national media attention even before the blaze, and it created a domino effect of several communities passing local rules about sexually oriented businesses.

The prosecutor at trial, Alan Kelley, maintained that Bellavance had set the blaze because he was angry and jealous about his sometime-girlfriend Krista MacIntyre continuing to work as a waitress there over his objections.

At the trial, Bellavance denied setting the blaze and testified that he was not jealous, calling the state’s theory “outrageous.”

In April 2013, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court denied Bellavance’s appeal for an overturning of his conviction.

In the post-conviction review, Bellavance, who was represented by attorney Verne Paradie Jr. and Patrick Nickerson, claimed that his defense counsel, Andrews Campbell, had made mistakes at trial. One of the claims involved testimony of Thomas Mulkern, who was listed as a defense witness, but instead testified for the prosecution, telling jurors that he was with Bellavance and helped carry gas cans to ignite the blaze. In exchange for testifying truthfully at trial, the state promised Mulkern immunity from prosecution.

Justice Donald Marden’s order addressed that claim, saying “the court is satisfied trial counsel diligently pursued his objections to the presentation of Mulkern as a witness under the circumstances and was effective in his preservation of the issue for presentation to the appellate tribunal.”

In July 2016, Bellavance again took the witness stand, saying that the state’s fire investigator had fed details about the blaze to Mulkern, and that transcripts of recorded interviews between the two would support his point.

He also noted the problems with attorneys being able to hear everything at the trail, which took place in the large courtroom on the second floor of the Kennebec County Courthouse.

Bellavance said time-stamped phone records of the Vassalboro Fire Department about that night would support his alibi that he was actually in Augusta when the fire started.

He also said a video that turned up later in a case in Wiscasset would have shown the jury that he testified truthfully when he said he had assaulted fellow inmate Kristopher Russ after that inmate had come into Bellavance’s cell and spit on him at Two Bridges Jail.

“I didn’t attack him for ratting on me,” Bellavance said, contradicting trial testimony from a jail guard. “The jury would have seen that I was credible and that in fact I wasn’t lying.”

Bellavance said Campbell should have had DNA tests done on four items, including a beer can, a lighter and a bandanna located near the fire scene.

“They would have exonerated me,” he said.

He also said Campbell had failed to call as a witness a fire investigator hired by the defense.

Campbell testified at the post-conviction review hearing in July 2016 that he opted against it after the investigator indicated he could not refute the conclusions offered by the state investigator.

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney argued that Bellavance’s conviction should stand.

Marden said many of Bellavance’s concerns relate to Campbell’s conduct, and noted that the trial judge added a second attorney, Pamela Ames, to help defend Bellavance in the lengthy, complicated case.

“The court finds no evidence that either Mr. Campbell or Ms. Ames displayed serious incompetency, inefficiency or inattention,” he ruled.

Marden wrote, “It must be noted that the admissible evidence against Mr. Bellavance in this trial was overwhelming. He had a grudge against the owner of the coffee shop over an employee with which Bellavance had a romantic interest, including some previous confrontations.

“He had made threats against the owner … orally expressed an intention to ‘burn the (expletive) place down.'”

Marden also noted that Bellavance and Mulkern were seen by Bellavance’s relatives in the vicinity after the fire was reported.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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