The Augusta man accused of burning down a topless coffee shop in Vassalboro was expected to arrive back in Maine late Wednesday night after being caught earlier this month in South Carolina.

Raymond Bellavance Jr., 49, would then be booked at the Kennebec County Jail in Augusta and arraigned on a charge of arson on Friday, said District Attorney Evert Fowle.

“He’s en route and the fire marshal’s and sheriff’s office have done a fine job locating him and apprehending him,” Fowle said Wednesday.

Bellavance was being extradited back to Maine under the supervision of two investigators with the Fire Marshal’s Office and a detective with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, according to Sgt. Joel Davis of the marshal’s office. Davis said local officials left Maine last weekend to retrieve Bellavance, who was being held at the Spartanburg County Detention Center in Spartanburg, S.C.

The Grand View Topless Coffee Shop, on Route 3 in Vassalboro, drew worldwide media attention after it was opened by Donald Crabtree on Feb. 23, 2009.

Fire investigators allege that Bellavance was the sole person responsible for setting the coffee shop ablaze during the wee hours of June 3, 2009, while Crabtree and his family, including his daughters, their boyfriends and their two young children, slept inside apartments in the former motel building. All seven people escaped injury after a passing ambulance crew noticed the blaze about 1 a.m. and woke them up.

Following 10 months of investigation, a warrant for Bellavance’s arrest was issued April 5 but investigators couldn’t find him. On May 5, he was nabbed by the U.S. Marshals Service in South Carolina at an elderly housing complex, where was working at a construction site. Federal officials said Bellavance had been living in a tent in the woods of rural South Carolina.

Bellavance was arraigned in South Carolina as a fugitive from justice and he waived extradition back to Maine.

Scott Monroe — 861-9253

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