PARIS – His client’s latest weight loss should renew the question of his competency, a defense attorney for Christian Nielsen said Thursday.

Nielsen, 32, is accused in the grisly killings four people over Labor Day weekend last year in Newry and near Upton. A judge ruled last week that he is competent to stand trial.

Nielsen, who stands 6 feet tall, has dropped nine pounds since Saturday and now weighs 106 pounds, defense attorney Ron E. Hoffman of Rumford said.

Hoffman said the weight loss brought up a “myriad of new issues,” including whether Nielsen can be prepared for a trial or whether he is even competent to stand trial. Hoffman said he has filed a motion to continue the trial until Nielsen is determined to be competent.

“We wouldn’t know when that would be at this point,” he said.

A petition from the Office of Elder Services branch of the state Department of Health and Human Services states that Nielsen is at 64 percent of an ideal weight for a person his height.

“Mr. Nielsen is not able to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning his person,” the petition states. It asks that Nielsen be put under medical guardianship.

On Thursday afternoon, a probate judge approved a motion to have Nielsen’s father appointed medical guardian to make decisions on Nielsen’s behalf. The first decision for Charles Nielsen of Woodstock will be whether to order a feeding tube for his son, Hoffman said.

He said Nielsen has told him he does not want to be force-fed.

Also Thursday, Hoffman filed a motion in Oxford County Superior Court to delay the trial, currently scheduled to begin Oct. 10.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson said he opposed a delay because a great deal of effort has been made to bring in witnesses for the trial.

“We are in our current predicament because of a choice made by Mr. Nielsen not to eat,” Benson wrote in an e-mail. “There is no guarantee that this won’t happen again if the case is continued,” he added.

During Nielsen’s competency hearing, Dr. Ann LeBlanc, head of the State Forensic Service, testified that Nielsen’s eating disorder would not affect his competence. Dr. Charles Robinson, a forensic psychologist retained by the state, said at the hearing that Nielsen does not meet the technical requirements for an eating disorder and does not suffer from anorexia or bulimia.

Hoffman said Nielsen knows he is underweight and does not exhibit the body awareness issues associated with anorexia.

“I never observe him eating,” said Hoffman. “Nobody’s really sure what the eating disorder is.”

In May, Crowley ruled that Nielsen could be force-fed after his weight dropped to about 103 pounds. Nielsen had been exercising in his cell at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland and decreasing his food intake.

However, Nielsen regained some of weight after that episode, and Hoffman said he has never been force-fed. He said the staff at Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta, where Nielsen resides, has prevented him from high-energy exercise but that Nielsen continues to do isometric exercises.

Hoffman said he did not believe the weight loss was a reaction to the upcoming trial, and did not know what prompted the behavior.

“I have no idea. I met with him Saturday he was 115 pounds,” he said. “I didn’t get any indication of what changed.”

Hoffman said he has been told by doctors that Nielsen’s body will begin to cannibalize brain and muscle tissue when his weight drops below 110 pounds.

Nielsen’s jury trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 11, according to a set of 14 questions for potential jurors that was submitted by state prosecutors Monday. The questions are meant to help determine whether a juror would be biased in the case.

Nielsen, who worked as a short-order cook in Bethel before the slayings last September, is accused of shooting James Whitehurst, 50, of Batesville, Ark., on Sept. 1, 2006. Whitehurst was a guest at the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast in Newry, where Nielsen was renting a room. Whitehurst’s body was found burned and buried at a remote site near Upton.

Nielsen is also accused of shooting inn owner Julie Bullard, 65, in her bed on Sept. 3, 2006; and Julie’s daughter Selby Bullard, 30, and her friend Cindy Beatson, 43, both of Bethel, on Sept. 4 when the two arrived at the inn to check on Julie. Their bodies were found dismembered at the inn.

Nielsen was arrested the same day after his father and stepmother came to the inn to check on him, found the bodies and called police. According to an affidavit, Nielsen told his father earlier that day that he planned to take over the inn.


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