updated at 5:30 p.m.

 

 

AUGUSTA — The estranged wife of Raymond Bellavance Jr. testified today that she was among the first people to tell police that Bellavance had threatened to burn down the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop.

 

Tara Michaud Bellavance said she woke up in jail on June 3, 2009, to news reports saying the business, which had operated in a former motel on Route 3, had been destroyed by fire. Her comments came on the second day of a trial in which Raymond Bellavance is charged with arson.

 

Bellavance said she phoned police as soon as she was released to report the threat Bellavance made when he and his girlfriend, Krista MacIntyre, came to her West Gardiner home the previous day.

 

She said she was hosting a barbecue and Raymond Bellavance and

MacIntyre, a waitress at the coffee shop, came to her home.

 

“I remember asking Krista if she was still working at the … shop,” Tara Bellavance testified. “She said, yes. (Raymond Belavance) butted in ’cause he didn’t like my question to her and said, ‘Not until I burn the (expletive) place down.'”

Bellavance testified that she didn’t take her husband’s comment seriously. “I wish I had,” she said.

 

The next night, Maine State Trooper Chris Rogers arrested her on a charge of operating after suspension.

 

“I had to spend night in jail and woke up to the … shop being on fire on the news and the realization I probably could have stopped it if I had just said something,” she testified.

 

She said she volunteered to talk with the state fire investigator Kenneth MacMaster and that she had cooperated in the past with Kennebec Sheriff’s Office Detective Al Morin on fire and drug cases.

 

Tara Bellavance was asked to point out Ray Bellavance to the jury on Thursday; however, she said she couldn’t see him from across the room and without her glasses on. He stood up from the defense table and waved a hand at her.

“He was very abusive,” Tara Bellavance told jurors. “I loved him to death. He beat me daily.”

 

She broked down in tears as she testified, saying, “I definitely didn’t want to come in here and be painted as a bad person,” she said.

 

Earlier in the day, Donald Crabtree, owner of the topless coffee shop, took the witness stand and told Deputy District Attorney Alan Kelley he had no physical relationship with MacIntyre, whom he hired two days after the coffee shop opened.

 

When Kelley asked, “Did you have sex with Krista?” Crabtree replied, “Yes, maybe up to three times.”

 

 

Crabtree also testified that he told a state fire investigator two days after the building was destroyed that Bellavance might have been in a white pickup truck that had been backing up in the driveway and cruising by the business frequently.

 

Crabtree said he had called police because he didn’t want trouble on March 9, 2009, when Bellavance came to the Vassalboro coffee shop asking about MacIntyre.

 

Crabtree testified that was the first and only time he had talked to Bellavance, and said he described that encounter in response to questions from Kenneth MacMaster, a state fire investigator, who had asked about any unusual incidents occurring at the business prior to the blaze.

 

Crabtree and six other people were roused by the driver of an ambulance who had spotted the glow of a fire as he was passing the former motel along Route 3.

 

During this morning’s proceedings, both the prosecutor, Kelley, and Bellavance’s attorney, Andrews Campbell, referred Crabtree to typed transcripts of several of his interviews with investigators in order to refresh his memory.

 

“I don’t recall much of what I said June 3rd (2009) after I stood in the parking lot all night long watching my place burned,” said Crabtree, who lost his home and business.

 

Crabtree, who had no insurance on the former motel building, reopened the business after the fire in a commercial trailer and had started to rebuild the building, but he shuttered the shop for good late this summer. He now lives in Greenbush.

 

Crabtree is expected to return to this witness stand this afternoon after the trial’s lunch break.