PARIS – Christian C. Nielsen is not mentally healthy, but he’s capable of standing trial next month, a doctor testified Thursday at a competency hearing for the quadruple murder suspect.

After listening to testimony all day, Oxford County Superior Court Justice Robert E. Crowley continued the hearing to Monday to allow the defense to present its witnesses.

Nielsen, a 32-year-old former short-order cook from Newry, sat silently as the director of the State Forensic Service described his mental health and personality since the last year’s Labor Day weekend killings.

Dr. Ann LeBlanc discussed results of six examinations she gave Nielsen at the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta and answered questions from Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, defense attorney Ron Hoffman and Crowley.

“He’s not a mentally healthy person at all,” LeBlanc said. However, she maintained he has sufficient mental capabilities to go to trial.

Benson explained that a defendant is competent if he understands the nature of the charges brought against him, his own condition with relation to the charges, and has the capability to cooperate with counsel to conduct a defense in a rational and reasonable manner.

LeBlanc said Nielsen was given a test that involved a hypothetical aggravated assault case. Questions are geared to determine the defendant’s understanding of the criminal justice system, their reasoning ability related to information they provide their attorney, and their appreciation in relation to their own case.

LeBlanc said Nielsen missed only one question in the reasoning portion of the test.

“Most other defendants do much worse,” she said.

The doctor said Nielsen suffers from a schizoid personality disorder, which she described as having “an extreme difficulty in establishing interpersonal relationships and expressing emotion.”

Hoffman asked LeBlanc to confirm that those with the disorder can suffer from brief psychotic episodes.

“I concluded that there was no evidence that he had ever been psychotic,” she answered.

She said Nielsen still has an eating disorder, which brought his weight down to dangerous levels in May. However, LeBlanc said the condition does not affect his reasoning ability.

Hoffman disputed that, saying he has diabetes and finds it harder to think when his blood sugar levels are abnormal.

Leblanc said Nielsen showed understanding of his situation as well as the work of his attorneys, but he’s not interested in contact with them beyond the minimal requirement.

“He thought he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison or in a mental hospital,” she said.

Hoffman said Nielsen must be able to “broadly control his own defense” and not simply recite information.

“I think he hasn’t lost his ability to emotionally engage with his attorneys,” LeBlanc said.

Nielsen, who was living at the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast in Newry at the time of the killings, is accused of shooting James Whitehurst, 50, of Batesville, Ark., a guest at the inn, on Sept. 1, 2006, in Upton and dismembering, burning and burying his body. He is also charged with shooting inn owner Julie Bullard, 65, in her bed on Sept. 3, 2006; and Julie’s daughter Selby Bullard, 30, of Bethel, and Selby’s friend Cindy Beatson, 43, of Bethel, inside the inn on Sept. 4, 2006. All three women’s bodies were also dismembered.

Nielsen, who worked as a cook in neighboring Bethel at the time, told his father he planned to take over the inn, police said.

He was taken into custody at the inn after his father and stepmother went there to check on him on Labor Day and discovered the bodies of the women just hours after they had been killed, police said.

In an earlier hearing, Margot Joly, the co-defense attorney, asked Crowley to suppress statements made by Nielsen that led to the discovery of Whitehurst’s remains in a shallow grave.

Benson called several witnesses to testify.

Frank Finch, an employee at Finch Sporting Goods in Hanover, said Nielsen purchased a .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver before the shootings and claimed it was for home defense.

Detective Mark Lopez of the Maine State Police confirmed that he found that fully-loaded revolver in a tool chest at the inn, as well as a receipt for a gas can, matches and several tools in the trunk of Nielsen’s car. Benson said the tools included a bloodstained and charred hatchet and pickax.

Dr. Edward David of the state Medical Examiner’s Office said the layout of Whitehurst’s remains suggested the body had been dismembered prior to being burned or while it was in the fire. He also said it had been covered with some rocks and soil.

Dr. Marguerite Dewitt, who did the autopsy, said a bullet was retrieved from Whitehurst’s skull, which was found in fragments.

Nielsen was returned to Riverview hospital after the hearing.



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