PARIS – With the exception of a single sentence, a judge has ordered that all statements Christian Nielsen made to law enforcement officials on the day of his arrest will be admissible in a trial.
Nielsen, 32, is accused of murdering four people over the Labor Day weekend and dismembering their bodies. When he was arrested on Sept. 4, he told authorities that he had committed the killings.
Justice Robert E. Crowley, who has been assigned to the case, made the decision on Thursday. It was filed in Oxford County Superior Court on Friday.
Defense attorneys Ron Hoffman and Margot Joly made the initial motion to suppress Nielsen’s statements in May, and later filed a supplemental motion giving the details of their request. The supplemental motion charged that Nielsen was not properly read his Miranda rights; that Nielsen was questioned by police after revoking his Sixth Amendment right to counsel; that Nielsen’s father was acting as an agent of police during the questioning; and that Nielsen’s statements were not voluntary.
According to the background given in Crowley’s decision, Trooper Dan Hanson of the Maine State Police was initially dispatched to the Black Bear Bed and Breakfast in Newry for a report of an unattended death. At the inn,, Nielsen’s stepmother, Lee Graham, told Hanson that Charles Nielsen, Christian’s father, had discovered bodies on the premises. She also said that Nielsen had told his father he had killed some people.
Hanson noticed mud and blood on Nielsen’s pants and, after confirming his identity, asked what was going on.
“Well, I killed some people, Dan. I shot them,” Nielsen responded. “The gun’s inside in the tool chest.”
When Hanson asked Nielsen when this had happened, he replied, “Well, it’s been awhile.”
Crowley decided that this statement alone qualified for suppression as evidence.
“Having confessed to multiple murders, a reasonable person in his position could not possibly have thought that he was at liberty to simply terminate his conversation with Hanson and leave,” ruled Crowley. “As a result, [Nielsen’s] answer…must be suppressed.”
He went on to say that the suppression of the single statement does not affect the admissibility of other evidence collected during the day.
According to Crowley’s order, Hanson detained Nielsen in his cruiser until backup arrived, as Nielsen had said he only wanted to tell his story once. When his father suggested that he wait for counsel, Nielsen replied, “Yeah, not a bad idea.”
Hanson was told by Charles Nielsen that there were three bodies at the inn and one at another location. After discovering the remains of two bodies, he returned to the squad car.
“I know you invoked your rights and you want to speak to counsel,” Hanson told Nielsen. “But I need to ask this question just for the purpose of (unintelligible). Is there any chance there is anyone here alive? I don’t want to leave somebody out there bleeding.”
Nielsen told Hanson where to find the third body, and later gave directions to the burned remains of a fourth body in nearby Upton.
During the hearing, Hanson said that Nielsen had never said he didn’t want to speak to police. His statement to Nielsen upon the discovery of the two bodies, recorded by a video camera in the cruiser, led to questioning at the hearing as to whether Hanson was acknowledging that Nielsen had invoked his right for counsel. Hanson said at the hearing that he had misspoken.
“Although Hanson’s wording, standing alone, would be persuasive evidence that [Nielsen] had invoked his right to counsel, the totality of the evidence supports a different conclusion,” stated Crowley.
He ruled that the wording shows Hanson’s “respect for [Nielsen’s] desire to only tell his story once” by insisting that he only wanted to know the location of the third body. Crowley also states that Hanson, having just discovered human remains, might not have been able to “precisely craft” his question.
Given the judge’s finding, Nielsen’s statement to Hanson that he killed four people, as well as his detailed confession to King, will be admissible at the trial, which is tentatively scheduled for October.
Nielsen is accused of murdering James Whitehurst, 50, of Batesville, Ark., on Sept. 1 in Upton. He is also charged with the murders of Julie Bullard, 65; Selby Bullard, 30; and Cindy Beatson, 43, on Sept. 3 and 4 at the Black Bear Bed and Breakfast.