PORTLAND – A judge on Wednesday granted prosecutors’ request for a psychiatric evaluation of a cook charged in a Labor Day weekend killing spree near the Sunday River ski resort in western Maine.
Christian Nielsen, who smiled during his previous court appearance, showed no emotion this time in Cumberland County Superior Court.
In a clear voice, he answered “I do” when asked by Justice Robert Crowley if he understood the charges. Then he pleaded not guilty to each of four counts of murder.
Crowley granted a motion by prosecutors for a psychiatric examination over the objections of defense lawyers, who said Nielsen shouldn’t be put in a position of making self-incriminating statements or be examined without his lawyers present.
The defense already has hired its own expert to examine Nielsen.
Nielsen is charged with killing three women and dismembering their bodies at the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast in Newry, as well as killing a man and dumping his body in the woods.
Nielsen, 31, is accused of killing James Whitehurst, 50, of Batesville, Ark., and burning and disposing of his body in the woods in the town of Upton on Sept. 1.
Two days later, he allegedly killed Julie Bullard, 65, the owner of the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast where Nielsen was staying as a boarder. The following day, Labor Day, he allegedly killed Bullard’s daughter, Selby, 30, and her friend, Cindy Beatson, 43, when they arrived unexpectedly at the inn.
Nielsen was indicted in Oxford County Superior Court, but Wednesday’s hearing was held in Cumberland County Superior Court as a matter of convenience. He’s being held in the Cumberland County Jail after allegedly attacking an inmate at the Oxford County Jail.
On Wednesday, Nielsen wore a yellow jail outfit as he was escorted into the courtroom by a state trooper and a corporal with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department. Members of Beatson’s family watched the proceedings, but declined comment after the hearing was over.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson told Crowley that the state should be allowed to perform a psychiatric evaluation of Nielsen given the circumstances of the case. The case, he said, is likely to be a “head case,” meaning Nielsen will probably base his defense on abnormal condition of mind or insanity.