Killing spree roils small Maine townAP Photo/Joel Page
Christian Nielsen, 31, right, is escorted Tuesday into Oxford County Superior Court in South Paris, Maine, to be arraigned on four counts of murder.
NEWRY, Maine — The carnage at the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast sent even seasoned police officers to seek counseling.
The bodies of three women were found cut into pieces and strewn about the grounds of the converted three-story farmhouse. Fresh blood smeared the ground. Three dogs lay in the grass, shot dead.
Tuesday, prosecutors charged Christian Nielsen with the three homicides, as well as a fourth after he allegedly led authorities to an Arkansas man's charred body in a nearby wooded area. Nielsen, a 31-year-old short order cook who had lived at the Black Bear for several months and worked at a nearby inn, admitted to shooting all four people, police said. His motive, however, remains a mystery, they said.
The killings unfolded in grisly succession over the long holiday weekend in Vacationland.
On Friday, police said, James Whitehurst, 50, of Batesville, Ark., also a long-term Black Bear guest, was shot to death. On Sunday, Black Bear owner Julie Bullard, 65, a recent San Francisco transplant, was killed. On Monday, her daughter, Selby Bullard, 30, was killed along with her friend, Cindy Beatson, 43, when they came looking for Julie Bullard, police said.Officials called the killings — amid ski resorts and cozy inns in the picturesque western part of the state — Maine's bloodiest crime in 14 years. Even so, the officials insisted Maine was safe and open for business and tourism.
After briefing reporters, Colonel Craig A. Poulin, chief of the Maine State Police, said, "This is a particularly gruesome, unusual type of crime to happen in Maine. … I also want to point out that Maine's homicide rate is low. It's a safe state to live in."
Nielsen, who until recently lived in Farmington, appeared briefly in Oxford County Superior Court in South Paris Tuesday, flashing a wry smile as a judge ordered him held without bail on four murder charges. He did not enter a plea and said little as he was led out in shackles, an orange jail jumpsuit, and a bulletproof vest.
The Black Bear, a quaint red-roofed inn with a pool and tennis court, was ringed with yellow police tape Tuesday as technicians searched for evidence. Newry, population about 350, is not so much a town as a small collection of inns and restaurants nestled at the foot of the Sunday River Ski Resort. Newry's covered bridge is a common stop for tourists.
According to a police affidavit, Nielsen himself summoned his parents to the scene of the slayings. His stepmother, Lee Graham, called police Monday at 5:30 p.m. to report a "dead woman" behind the Black Bear, according to the affidavit. She called again 10 minutes later to say her stepson had confessed to killing four people, the affidavit said.
State troopers quickly arrived and he was arrested without incident. Police would not say whether they recovered a weapon. But Nielsen repeated his confession, according to the affidavit. The three female bodies had been dismembered, though police Tuesday would not detail how.
State Police said Nielsen led authorities to Whitehurst's body, which had been burned and left in the woods in Upton near Grafton Notch State Park, about 15 miles away. State Police Sergeant Walter Grzyb said the two men did not know each other beyond the fact that they were both staying at the bed and breakfast.
While police would not discuss Nielsen's possible motives, some in town suggested that the Bullards were considering trying to evict Nielsen from the bed and breakfast.
"He was behind on his rent," said Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce.
Nielsen worked for the last two months as a line cook at the Sudbury Inn in nearby Bethel. "He was a reliable employee and a soft-spoken, quiet individual," said the inn's owner, Nancy White, adding that she was ''stunned and shocked" at the turn of events.
Nielsen has no history of violence. He had been arrested six times in Farmington, on charges of drunken driving, driving without a license, failure to obey a traffic control device, and, three times, driving without proof of insurance.
Farmington Police Chief Richard Caton said the man was hardly on local authorities' radar screen: "When news of his arrest broke, we weren't even aware he was from Farmington until reporters started calling."
Two of the victims, Selby Bullard and Cindy Beatson, worked at the Apple Tree Realty office in Bethel, which Tuesday was closed for the day because manager Benita Sessions was upset over the killings.
"They were both wonderful, wonderful people," she said. ''They'll be sorely missed."
Julie Bullard had sold a bed and breakfast in San Francisco and moved to Maine recently with her daughter to operate the Black Bear, said Zinchuk.
"Her daughter, Selby, had just lost her husband in a car crash and I think in some ways she and Selby were doing something together, getting a fresh start, with Selby's two children," Zinchuk said.
Zinchuk said that Julie Bullard had decided earlier this year to close the Black Bear. Tuesday, a "For Sale" sign hung out in front as authorities removed her remains.
Tourists lingering in the area Tuesday were shocked by the slayings. Susan and John Hardiman of Dorchester were vacationing with their three terrier dogs, and had recently dined at the Sudbury Inn, where Nielsen worked.
"This is freaky," said Susan Hardiman. "We're trying to get away from crime and now we're walking right into it practically."
Multiple homicides are rare in Maine.
The last quadruple killing occurred on Dec. 3, 1992, when Virgil Smith set fire to a tenement at the foot of Portland's Munjoy Hill neighborhood, killing a woman, two men, and a 10-month-old baby, authorities said. Four years earlier, Earl Losier shot and killed four people, including his brother, at a neighbor's apartment in Bangor on March 19, 1988, because of a loud stereo that disturbed him.
Material from wire services was also used in this report.
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