The man wanted on arson charges for allegedly burning down the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in June 2009 has been arrested in South Carolina.

Raymond J. Bellavance Jr., 49, of Augusta, was arrested Wednesday, according to Kennebec County District Attorney Evert Fowle.
“We will extradite,” Fowle said. “We’ll be making formal arrangements to bring him back.”

Fowle credited the work of the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Southern Maine Violent Crimes Task Force of the U.S. Marshal’s Service with locating Bellavance.

“He was apprehended in a rural part of Spartanburg County,” Fowle said.

Investigator Kenneth MacMaster, of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, said Bellavance was en route Wednesday afternoon to the Spartanburg County Detention Facility in Spartanburg, S.C.

MacMaster said he had few details of the arrest. “He was apprehended without incident, so I’ve been told,” he said.

Bellavance has been on the lam since he was released from jail in Augusta on April 2 after being held on an unrelated charge. Authorities received judicial permission to arrest him on the arson charge 24 hours later and a warrant was issued April 5.

Coffee shop owner Donald Crabtree said Wednesday he was glad that the investigation could move forward now that Bellavance was in custody.

“I’m glad to get it under way and find out what happened,” Crabtree said. “I feel safer now that they got him.”

The topless coffee shop drew worldwide media attention after it opened Feb. 23, 2009.

Fire investigators allege that Bellavance was the sole person responsible for setting the coffee shop ablaze during the early 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 building. All seven people escaped injury after a passing ambulance crew noticed the blaze about 1 a.m. and woke them up.

Krista MacIntyre, of Augusta, a former waitress at the coffee shop and Bellavance’s ex-girlfriend, said Wednesday afternoon that she had just learned of his detention from authorities. She didn’t know why he would have been in South Carolina.

“I just got a call from the U.S. Marshal and they do have him in custody in South Carolina, but I really don’t know what to think about the whole thing. It’s still pretty much a lot for me to take in,” MacIntyre said. “We’ll just have to wait and see when it goes to court.”

According to Crabtree, Bellavance made accusations of illegal behavior by MacIntyre, then a waitress at the shop, and demanded she be fired, but Crabtree said he found no reason to do so. Crabtree said Bellavance “did threaten me that, if I didn’t have her fired, he would have me shut down.”

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