At bond hearing, defense argues victim’s own bullet may have ricocheted and killed him

Pre-trial set for Nov. 10, 2022 for Victor Bellino
Victor Paul Bellino
Victor Paul Bellino(Source: Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office)
Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 2:08 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 7, 2022 at 3:28 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The defense attorney for a Boyce man charged with second-degree murder for a May 15, 2021 shooting in Gardner, in which the victim returned gunfire, claims the victim may have accidentally shot and killed himself as a result of a ricocheted bullet.

Victor Bellino, 52, was in court on Thursday, July 7 for a motion to reduce his $1 million bond. In addition to the second-degree murder charge, he is also charged with five counts of illegal use of a weapon. He has pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

Testimony leading up to that decision to deny a bond reduction shed new light on the argument Bellino’s defense attorney, Angelo Piazza III, plans to make when the case goes to trial for the death of Mark Lewis, 40, of Hineston. Lewis was an off-duty deputy with the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office, according to a news release on the matter when he died.

Detective Cainan Baker with the sheriff’s office testified at the bond reduction hearing that an altercation between Bellino and Lewis erupted when Bellino showed up at his stepson’s property and accused his own wife of having an affair with Lewis.

“The source of the argument, Bellino and his wife were fighting,” said Baker. “She left the house earlier that day. They were arguing by messenger. [...] Mr. Bellino was accusing [his wife] of having an affair with Mr. Lewis.”

Bellino’s wife reportedly denied the claim.

Det. Baker said witnesses at the scene, which included Bellino’s wife, stepson, and his stepson’s wife, reported that Bellino got his gun, and Lewis went and got his too. There were some questions by Piazza of the timeline of who got a gun first, but Baker said Bellino did.

At some point, the two became separated by a truck, with Lewis at the front near the windshield and Bellino near the tailgate. Det. Baker said Bellino fired five shots and Lewis fired two, one of which hit Bellino in the shoulder. A fatal shot hit Lewis in the face, but as we learned in court, the bullet that was retrieved during the autopsy was deemed “unsuitable for comparison.” Piazza argued that the bullet could have come from Lewis’ gun.

“Has your department taken any steps to investigate if he’s the victim of his own bullet?” asked Piazza.

Baker told him it was a question for the crime scene unit.

Piazza argued that he believed Lewis’ second bullet possibly ricocheted off the truck, as there was apparently an indentation on the windshield post, and he hit himself. Notes about the bullet’s trajectory were read in court, “front to back, slightly right to left, slightly upward.” Piazza believed that trajectory lined up with the mark on the windshield post, and that this was a self-defense case on Bellino’s part. He also believed that Lewis “followed” Bellino.

“We have a man in jail who is a victim and exercised self-defense,” Piazza told the court.

Prosecutor Chris Maxwell said Piazza’s argument about self-defense was “cherry-picked by one word, ‘followed.’”

“He (Lewis) got a gun to defend himself and the people in that trailer,” said Maxwell. “He (Bellino) drove around all day long getting angrier and angrier (about the situation with his wife) until he showed up at the house. [...] Mr. Bellino came to start a fight, a gun fight. He is a danger. There’s a danger to the public if he’s out.”

While Piazza wanted Bellino released on a $100,000 bond, Judge Beard said a $1 million bond is in line with a second-degree murder charge and denied the reduction.

Bellino will be back in court on Nov. 10 for a pre-trial.

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