MOUNT DESERT, Maine — Last summer, Peter Neblett and Brianna Alley found out that the man they had been paying rent to did not actually own the house they were living in.

As it turned out, the man was not who he said he was. He had told the young couple in the fall of 2012 that his name was Richard Bellittieri, and he owned the house in the local village of Hall Quarry that they were looking to rent. Months later, police told them that his real name was William Morse, and he was suspected of killing Bellittieri, the legal owner of the property who had not been seen for roughly a year.

“He had us fooled,” Alley said last August, after Morse had been arrested on a charge of murder. “He even showed us the deed to the house.”

Eight months later, Alley, Neblett and their two young children have been able to continue living in the modest, two-story house, even though Bellittieri has no relatives living in the area and, at the time his disappearance was discovered, no one knew who his next of kin might be.

Neblett recounted this past week how unnerving it was last July when police approached him and his wife and told them they were trying to find Bellittieri. Police became concerned about Bellittieri’s whereabouts after they stopped a car Morse was driving in Bar Harbor and found that Morse had Bellittieri’s Social Security card, driver’s license and two of his credit cards. Police also had no luck tracking down and contacting Bellittieri.

Police brought trained dogs to the Hall Quarry house to sniff around outside and told the couple they might want to stay somewhere else for a while. The couple temporarily stayed with Alley’s mother in Franklin and found out Bellittieri was dead when news media reported Morse had been arrested. Morse, police allege, had shot Bellittieri and hid his body in the woods off Goose Cove Road in Trenton.

After Morse was arrested, the couple was relieved but unsure what to do. Bellittieri had no relatives in the area to speak of, so it was not clear who they should pay rent to, if anyone.

The couple was even less certain about whether they would be able to stay in the home and figured they would have to move again. The previous fall, Alley and Neblett had moved out of Acadia Apartments in Bar Harbor after resort lodging firm Ocean Properties Ltd. bought the housing complex to use as employee housing and told all the tenants to move out.

Neblett said it was a relief when, weeks after Morse had been arrested, a relative of Bellittieri’s living in the New York City area contacted them and told them they could continue renting the house indefinitely. Neblett declined to go into detail about which Bellittieri relative has been in contact with them.

“There’s nothing like not knowing where you’re going to be sleeping,” Neblett said.

He said he continues to work at the Bar Harbor bicycle shop where he was working last summer. Alley, he said, works as a round-the-clock mother of their two small children, ages 1 and 4.

Neblett said the couple’s main concern, before they talked to Bellittieri’s family, was that they would be suspected somehow of being involved in Bellittieri’s disappearance or at least in helping keep it quiet for so long. But he said said they were duped just like everybody else.

“I’m really glad that [suspicion] didn’t come up, and that we were allowed to keep living here,” Neblett said. “And that people saw [our situation] for what is was.”

Morse tentatively is scheduled to go on trial for Bellittieri’s murder in August, according to the state attorney general’s office.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....