ELLSWORTH, Maine — Four days before jury selection is expected to begin in the murder trial of William Morse, a judge has denied his attorneys’ motion to suppress evidence in the case.

Morse, 45, is accused of killing Richard Bellittieri, 61, sometime between June 1 and Oct. 31, 2012. Police have said that Bellittieri had not been seen alive for more than a year when his skeletal remains were located in late July 2013 under a pile of potting soil on property that Bellittieri owned off Goose Cove Road in Trenton.

Jury selection in the murder trial is scheduled to start Monday morning in Ellsworth and to continue into Tuesday. The trial, which is scheduled to begin Wednesday morning, is expected to last a couple of weeks.

Police have said Bellittieri had four gunshots wounds — two on the right side of his head — but have not released additional details about his death. Morse, who police say passed himself off as Bellittieri, had done some carpentry work for Bellittieri prior to Bellittieri’s disappearance, according to police.

Morse also was known by the alias “Bill Tool” or “Tooley” and by the nickname “Hundred Dollar Bill,” according to court documents.

In a memorandum filed last month in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court, attorneys for Morse argued that on July 9, 2013, police improperly searched an Audi car their client had been driving. The defense attorneys also claimed that, about two weeks later, police improperly entered and searched a house on the Goose Cove Road property, where they found Morse hiding under a pile of clothing. Both the car and the house belonged to murder victim Richard Bellittieri.

In their motion, defense attorneys David Bate of Bangor and Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth sought to prevent certain evidence from being introduced into testimony at the pending trial. Among the evidence they hoped to get excluded from the trial were statements their client made to police and items that Bar Harbor police found in the Audi when Morse was arrested July 9, 2013, on a charge of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicants.

In a 21-page decision dated April 2 and released Friday, Justice William Anderson ruled that Morse did not have standing to challenge the search of the car, which he did not own. Police had a right to search the car and its contents in an attempt to establish Morse’s identity as they were investigating Morse, who was not being cooperative, on the possible drunken driving charge, the judge wrote.

According to police, when Morse was arrested in Bar Harbor on July 9, he was in possession of Bellittieri’s driver’s license and two of Bellittieri’s credit cards. In a subsequent search of the car, which was registered in Bellittieri’s name, officers found Morse’s birth certificate and Social Security card and, in an attache case in the trunk, various documents and receipts belonging to Bellittieri. As a result of that OUI stop, Morse was charged with criminal OUI, operating a motor vehicle after suspension, violating conditions of release, refusing to submit, and failure to provide police with his correct name.

Bar Harbor police tried but were unable to contact Bellittieri following the July 9 incident. The following day, they contacted Maine State Police to request their assistance.

An Ellsworth woman who was a friend of Bellittieri had contacted police in November 2012 with concerns about his whereabouts. Because Morse had assumed Bellittieri’s identity, however, Bellittieri’s disappearance escaped official notice for another eight months, until police found the missing man’s identification in Morse’s pocket during Morse’s OUI arrest.

In his court order, Anderson wrote that Morse also does not have standing to challenge the subsequent July 25, 2013, police entry and search of the Goose Cove Road house because Morse could not establish that he had Bellittieri’s permission to be in the dwelling.

The state police interview with Morse, which occurred minutes after they found him hiding in the house, also was done properly, the judge wrote, because Morse was not under arrest and had not yet been charged with Bellittieri’s murder. Statements that Morse made to Detective Tom Pickering during the interview, the judge determined, will be admissible as evidence at the trial.

According to police, Morse told Pickering that:

— He had seen Bellittieri the previous month, in June 2013.

— He did not know of anyone else who had seen or spoken with Bellittieri in the past year.

— He “may have” registered the Audi in Bellittieri’s name.

— Tenants at a Mount Desert Island house owned by Bellittieri would know Morse as Bellittieri rather than by his real name.

According to court documents filed by Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber, the prosecutor in the case, police decided to obtain a search warrant for the Goose Cove Road property after they came across “hundreds of marijuana plants” growing in the woods behind the house during their search for Bellittieri.

Anderson reserved ruling on another argument made by Morse’s attorneys, which is that a two-photo identification “lineup” — one of Morse and one of Bellittieri — that was presented by police to Bellittieri’s tenants was improper and prejudicial against their client. The judge wrote that he would have to question the tenants during the course of the trial, without the jury present, before he could decide whether to allow that testimony to be presented to the jury.

Citing the pending trial, attorneys on either side of the case have declined to provide additional comment on the matter.

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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....