Bellas returns to active duty

Catawba County's assistant district attorney was recently reinstated to full duty after being placed on administrative leave following an arrest and DWI charge in Sunset Beach.

Catawba County's assistant district attorney Eric Robert Bellas, 45, of Morganton, was allegedly riding a bicycle on Clubhouse Road at Sunset Beach at about midnight June 20 when he apparently flipped over a guardrail and fell off the bicycle, according to Sunset Beach Police reports and reliable O-N-E sources.

"On Tuesday, July 5, Mr. Eric Bellas' status within the District Attorney's Office was returned to active," according to a statement released by the District Attorney's Office on Thursday. "Following a charge of operating a bicycle while impaired, Mr. Bellas was placed on administrative leave. An administrative review of the allegations against Mr. Bellas was made by the district attorney. It was determined following the review that the allegations did not rise to a level that would require further censure or dismissal."

No phone calls were returned from District Attorney Jay Gaither and Bellas on Thursday to clarify the review conducted to put Bellas back on active duty.

Prior to the statement release Thursday afternoon, Gaither refused to comment on Bellas' DWI charge and if it was being pursued.

Bellas was placed on administrative leave June 21 while he was at a N.C. District Attorneys Summer Association conference at Sea Trail Resort on Sunset Beach with Gaither.

Bellas was involved with the Zahra Baker case, appearing at court proceedings for the case in Caldwell and Catawba counties. The 10-year-old girl disappeared in October, and her body parts were found scattered at various locations in Caldwell and Catawba counties in late October and early November. Her stepmother, Elisa Baker, was charged with second-degree murder for the child’s slaying.

Elisa Baker is scheduled to appear in court next week in Catawba County.

Gaither declined comment on whether Bellas was going to be reassigned to the Zahra Baker case. He was previously lead prosecutor for the high-profile murder.

The details
It's unclear what happened in the alleged bicycle incident on Clubhouse Road at Sunset Beach. Sunset Beach Police Chief Lisa Massey said responding officer B.T. Cully arrived on the scene to find Bellas was in a bicycle accident and apparently intoxicated. Bellas was the only person on the bicycle and appears to be the only subject involved in the accident.

Cully wrote in his report's narrative that he was not able to determine the exact location of the incident because the bicycle was moved prior to his arrival on the scene. In addition, Cully wrote that Bellas was "uncooperative" when asked what happened.

Bellas refused to take a breath test to determine his level of intoxication. Therefore, Cully arrested Bellas and charged him with driving while impaired on a bicycle.

Bellas had no bond amount listed, but was given a custody release into the care of Cynthia Bellas.