BETHEL (AP) – A cook charged with murdering four people in the western Maine mountains last Labor Day weekend is headed for trial next month.

Christian Nielsen faces charges of murdering Black Bear Bed & Breakfast owner Julie Bullard, 65, her daughter Selby Bullard, 30, and Selby’s friend Cindy Beatson, 43, last year on Sept. 3 and 4 at the Newry inn where Nielsen rented a room near the Sunday River ski resort.

He is also charged with murdering James Whitehurst, 50, a guest at the inn, earlier in Upton.

Nielsen, 32, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and is scheduled to go on trial in October. He is being held at the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.

People in Oxford County are bracing themselves as prosecutors and defense lawyers make final preparations.

“It’s very fresh in our minds, and it’s not over,” Monica Ludden, who worked with Beatson and Selby Bullard at a local real estate company, said. “We will never understand why it happened.”

The trial will focus on whether Nielsen should be held responsible for those actions. His lawyers will argue that he is not criminally responsible by reason of mental disease or defect.

Nielsen has told police that on Sept. 1, 2006, he lured Whitehurst to a logging road near Upton, shot him and burned his body. He said he shot Julie Bullard at the Black Bear two days later, and then shot Selby Bullard and Cindy Beatson on Labor Day when they showed up to check on Julie Bullard.

In the Bethel community, talk about the crimes has resurfaced with the arrival of Labor Day.

“This week will be tough,” said Alison Martin, 28. “You get that feeling of September in the air, and you can’t help but think about what happened. I think people will be looking to the trial to add some sense of closure.”

The trial is expected to start Oct. 9 at the Oxford County Superior Court in South Paris.

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