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Christian Charles NIELSEN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Murder spree - Dismemberment
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: September 1-4, 2006
Date of arrest: September 4, 2006
Date of birth: May 2, 1975
Victim profile: James Whitehurst, 50 / Julie Bullard, 65 / Selby Bullard, 30 / Cindy Beatson, 43
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Oxford County, Maine, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to life in prison on October 18, 2007
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Maine Supreme Judicial Court

 
State of Maine v. Christian Nielsen
 
 
 
 
 
 

Man gets life for killings at Maine B&B

By Clarke Canfield - Associated Press

October 18, 2007

PARIS, Maine — A restaurant cook was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for killing and dismembering four people during a Labor Day weekend murder spree in western Maine last year.

"I just want to say I'm sorry for what I did," Christian Nielsen said to the victims' families, who filled five rows of benches in the courtroom, before he was sentenced.

Nielsen, 32, pleaded guilty to four counts of murder last week.

He shot James Whitehurst, 50, of Batesville, Ark., in a remote wooded area Sept. 1, 2006, then dismembered his body and burned the remains the next day. Whitehurst was a handyman who, like Nielsen, had been staying at the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast in Newry.

Over the next two days, Nielsen killed the lodge's owner, Julie Bullard, 65; her daughter, Selby Bullard, 30; and her daughter's friend, Cindy Beatson, 43, to cover up the murder of Whitehurst. He used a chain saw, a hacksaw and an ax to cut the bodies in half, prosecutors said.

"When all is said and done, Christian Nielsen has committed four of the worst criminal acts in recent Maine history," Justice Robert Crowley said at the sentencing hearing. Life sentences in Maine carry no chance of parole.

Brooke Bullard, whose stepmother and sister were killed, read a statement written by Selby Bullard's 10-year-old son, Elliot, who now lives in California. In the statement, which Elliot titled "How my life changed and I was forever wounded," the boy said he couldn't understand the violence that took his mother's and grandmother's lives.

"They have all walked the stairway to heaven," Bullard read. "At least there's no violence up there."

According to a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors Monday, Nielsen had no specific motive but told investigators he had been obsessed with thoughts of killing someone for several years and had wanted to take over the lodge.

Christian Nielsen's mental health had been a focus of his defense, and he initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. On Thursday, two forensic physiologists testified that he was not legally insane, but that he suffered from schizoid personality disorder, making it difficult for him to express emotions or remorse.

Dr. Charles Robinson said that Nielsen's motivation for the killings remains a mystery and that the man himself is a puzzle even after talking with him nearly 20 times.

"I feel like I do not understand what has happened to him," Robinson said.

Nielsen's father, Charles Nielsen, apologized for the pain his son has caused. He also asked the judge for compassion before he turned to son and said: "I love you."

 
 

Maine man pleads guilty to killing 4

By David Sharp - Associated Press

October 9, 2007

PARIS, Maine — A former cook pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing four people during a bloody four-day rampage in western Maine's ski country, but said he couldn't explain why he did it.

Christian Nielsen, 32, dropped his insanity defense a day before jury selection was to begin in his trial. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 18.

The pleas spare the victims' families a trial full of grisly details in what state police have described as Maine's worst homicide case in more than a decade.

Juanita Whitehurst, mother of victim James Whitehurst, expressed dismay when she left the courthouse.

"He can't give me a motive for why he killed my son. He doesn't know," said Whitehurst, who traveled from Arkansas to attend the trial this week.

Nielsen admitted shooting to death James Whitehurst, 50, of Batesville, Ark., on Sept. 1, 2006, before partially dismembering him and burning the remains in woods. Whitehurst was a handyman who had been staying at the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast in Newry, a resort town in southwestern Maine.

Prosecutor Andrew Benson said in court Tuesday the only motive Nielsen ever gave for killing Whitehurst was that he was "objectionable."

Over the next three days Nielsen killed the lodge's owner, Julie Bullard, 65, her daughter, Selby Bullard, 30, and her daughter's friend, Cindy Beatson, 43, to cover up the killing of Whitehurst, Benson said. He used a chain saw, hacksaw and pick ax to dismember the bodies, prosecutors said.

The grisly murder scene was discovered on the evening of Labor Day after Nielsen talked to his father on the phone and told him that he was running the inn in Julie Bullard's absence. The father and his wife dropped by and called police.

Nielsen's handgun was found at the inn, and he confessed to the killings to police.

Nielsen said he can't explain why he committed the killings. He said he had discussed his motive with his attorneys but, "We never came up with anything concrete."

Psychologists testified at a competency hearing for Nielsen last month that he suffers from schizoid personality disorder and possibly other mental health problems, including Asperger's syndrome, often described as a mild form of autism.

Nielsen's lawyers sought unsuccessfully to suppress the confession and to have Nielsen declared incompetent to stand trial. His guilty plea could be withdrawn if a court later decides that he is not competent to stand trial or that his confession is not admissible.

Defense lawyer Ron Hoffman said he recommended that Nielsen continue with a trial using an insanity defense in hopes of having him continue to receive treatment at a psychiatric hospital instead of going to state prison.

"He has a right to do what he wants to do," Hoffman said. "We respect that."

Dianna Taylor, James Whitehurst's sister, said she views Nielsen not as insane but as a calculating killer that she likened to the devil.

"When I first saw him on TV, he had this smirk on his face like 'look what I did, people,'" she said tearfully.

 
 

Man accused of killing 4 in Maine deemed competent to stand trial

ArkansasOnline.com

September 20, 2007

— Christian Nielsen is competent to stand trial next month for a bloody rampage in which four people were killed and dismembered over a four-day period last year in western Maine, a judge ruled Thursday.

Justice Robert Crowley concluded that the 32-year-old cook meets the legal standard for competency set by the state supreme court. His trial on four counts of murder is set to begin Oct. 10 in Oxford County Superior Court.

Nielsen's lawyers indicated they planned to pursue an insanity defense, but Nielsen signaled last week that his preference would be to plead guilty if he's ordered to stand trial. Whether he pursues a change of plea remains to be seen.

Defense lawyers contended Nielsen was not competent to stand trial because he's emotionally detached and incapable of assisting in his defense.

But Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson insisted that Nielsen has the skills necessary to aid in his defense if he chooses to do so.

In his ruling, issued in Paris, Crowley agreed that Nielsen's seeming disinterest is frustrating for his legal team. But the legal standard "is whether a defendant can cooperate, not whether he actually is cooperating," he wrote.

"While it is certainly unfair to subject a defendant to trial when he lacks the capacity to take part in his own defense, it is not unfair to subject him to trial when he simply chooses not to take part," the judge concluded.

Nielsen is charged with killing three women at the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast in Newry over Labor Day weekend in 2006. Remains of a fourth victim, an Arkansas man who was a guest at the bed and breakfast, were found miles away near Upton.

Last week, two psychologists agreed with each other on some of their assessments of Nielsen. But they disagreed over whether he has the ability to assist his defense team.

Dr. Ann Leblanc of the state forensic service said he could take a larger role in his defense if chose to do so. Dr. Charles Robinson, a defense psychologist, concluded that Nielsen's mental illness prevents him from engaging his lawyers.

To be found competent, Nielsen must understand the charges against him, understand his own situation and have the ability to cooperate with his defense lawyers in a "rational and reasonable way," Benson said in court.

"It is a fairly straightforward ruling," Benson said Thursday. "The judge looked at the standard set by the (state supreme court) ... and simply concluded that the overwhelming weight of the evidence was that Christian Nielsen has the skills of competence."

Nielsen's lawyer, Ron Hoffman, said he'll try to get Nielsen to talk about the case, but that so far his client won't discuss what he was thinking at the time of the murders.

"If I can't get him to talk about the plea, I'm left with no choice but to go to trial," Hoffman told WCSH-TV.

The finding that Nielsen is competent to stand trial doesn't prevent Nielsen from pursuing an insanity defense if the case goes to trial as scheduled.

Though Leblanc said Nielsen meets the legal definition of competency, she acknowledged that "he's not a mentally healthy person at all."

Both LeBlanc and Robinson testified that Nielsen suffers from schizoid personality disorder. Robinson also said it's likely that Nielsen suffers from other mental problems including Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism.

Authorities say the slayings centered on the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast, where Nielsen was a long-term guest while working nearby as a cook.

The first victim was James Whitehurst, 50, of Batesville, Ark., a handyman who had been staying at the B&B and helping out the owner, police said. Authorities said Nielsen burned and disposed of Whitehurst's body in the woods in Upton.

Nielsen is accused of killing the Black Bear's owner, Julie Bullard, 65, two days after that. The following day, Labor Day, Bullard's daughter, Selby, 30, and her friend, Cindy Beatson, 43, were killed when they arrived at the inn unexpectedly.

 
 

Rent dispute may have preceded Maine deaths

By Michael Levenson and Raja Mishra - Boston.com

September 7, 2006

NEWRY, Maine -- Christian Nielsen, charged in Maine's bloodiest crime in 14 years, said one day last year that he was going to straighten out, co-workers recalled. No more boozing, he told them. He would shelve his haphazard college career for the strictures of the US military.

"I thought, Christian's finally finding a place for himself," said Kristen Dorey, a waitress at the Family Fare Restaurant in Farmington, where he cooked until he was fired.

But Nielsen's ambitions apparently went nowhere. Instead, the 31-year-old moved several months ago to the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast in Newry, where he met owner Julie Bullard , her daughter Selby, and live-in handyman James Whitehurst. Over Labor Day weekend, say police, he killed all three, as well as Selby Bullard's close friend, Cynthia Beatson.

The three women were dismembered and left in bloody heaps outside the Black Bear, alongside three dogs Nielsen killed, according to police. Whitehurst's body was found burned and left in the woods in Upton, about 15 miles away.

Whitehurst was killed on Friday, and Julie Bullard on Sunday; Selby Bullard and Beatson were killed Monday, police said.

Nielsen showed up nonchalantly for work Sunday night, on time for his line-cook shift at the Sudbury Inn in Bethel, according to his boss.

Friends of the victims said Nielsen may have been involved in a dispute over payment for his room at the bed and breakfast, where he lived for the past few months.

Marcia Thomas, a San Francisco real estate agent and close friend of Julie Bullard's, said she had recently decided to sell the Black Bear and move to New York City with another daughter because she found it tough to survive financially running a bed and breakfast in Maine. She rented a room to Nielsen to help make ends meet, Thomas said.

"She loved Maine and she felt very safe in Maine and she really didn't want to leave, but for economic reasons she was going to sell the B&B and share a house her daughter had just bought in Brooklyn," said Thomas.

Police refused to comment on a possible motive.

Nielsen's father, Charles Nielsen, visited him yesterday at Oxford County Jail, where he is being held without bail. Nielsen smirked through a court hearing on Tuesday, but his lawyer sought to dispel notions that he took his situation lightly.

"I can assure you he's not amused. He's not been speaking to me in a light banter," said attorney Ron Hoffman, who refused to discuss details of their jailhouse conversation yesterday.

Interviews yesterday with several people who know Nielsen portrayed a man given to mood swings who lived a somewhat aimless life, but seemed harmless.

Nielsen studied English at the University of Maine at Farmington, following in the footsteps of his father, who teaches English at Dirigo High School in Dixfield, Maine. He completed a semester in 2001, then attended during summer and fall of 2003, spring of 2004, and spring and fall last year. He did not earn a degree, the university said.

Kenny Bachner, owner of Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, said Nielsen, a frequent customer over six years, had an unpredictable personality, sometimes appearing "very earnest," while "very closed off" on other occasions. He called Nielsen "very bright" and said he favored classic literature and comedy books. But he was no closet radical or extremist, said Bachner.

"I'd be very surprised if any of this had anything to do with any cohesive ideology," he said. "He had weird stuff going on in his head that most of us can't imagine."

At the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast yesterday, police continued forensics work at the crime scene. In a wooded area in Upton, authorities worked to remove Whitehurst's burned remains from its shallow grave.

In Newry, a small cluster of inns near western Maine's ski resorts, and its neighboring town, Bethel, friends and acquaintances of the victims speculated about the suspect's motives even as they grieved over the victims.

Julie Bullard, 65, had relocated to Maine from San Francisco, and added her own eclectic design touches to the Black Bear, said Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce.

Over the summer, Julie Bullard offered Whitehurst, 50, of Batesville, Ark., a free room in exchange for his services as handyman, said Zinchuk. Bullard and Whitehurst may have been engaged in an effort to evict Nielsen after he failed to pay for his stay at the Black Bear, she said.

Selby Bullard, 30, and Beatson, 43, were killed when they went to check up on Julie Bullard, police said.

Bonita Sessions, who employed both women at Apple Tree Realty office in Bethel, said Selby Bullard "was always smiling" and Beatson was "so beautiful and animated."

"They'll be sadly missed by everyone," said Sessions. "There will be a hole in everyone's heart."

 
 

Suspect arrested in quadruple slayings near Maine ski resort

By Gregory D. Kesich - Portland Press Herald

September 6, 2006

NEWRY, Maine - A 31-year-old cook is accused of killing and dismembering a bed and breakfast owner and two other women outside the converted farmhouse and burned the body of a fourth victim before dumping the remains in the woods in a neighboring town, officials said today.

The suspect told detectives that his four-day killing spree began with a local man on Friday and continued two days later with the death of the owner of the bed and breakfast where he was staying in Newry, according to a state police affidavit. Newry is near the New Hampshire line, about 75 miles northwest of Portland.

The daughter of the bed and breakfast owner and a friend were killed when they arrived there unexpectedly on Labor Day, the affidavit said.

Col. Craig Poulin, state police chief, painted the picture of a grisly crime with three women who'd been shot and dismembered. The fourth victim's body was burned, dismembered and his remains were dumped in the woods 10 to 15 miles away in Upton.

"It's a crime of horrific proportions," Poulin told reporters at a news conference. He said it was the "worst homicide in Maine in 14 years."

The bodies of the three women were recovered Monday evening, and detectives were still working today to recover the remains of the man.

The suspect, who was charged with four counts of murder, smiled as he was leaving Oxford County Superior Court, where he was ordered held without bail.

"The police didn't get involved until Monday," said Deputy Attorney General William Stokes. "How it happened, when it happened and why it happened is still unclear."

Stokes said investigators worked throughout the night and still have questions about the sequence of events.

The suspect was working at the Sudbury Inn in Bethel and rented a room at the Black Bear Bed and Breakfast, owned by Julie Bullard. Police believe that the suspect killed James Whitehurst, 50, and left his body in Upton.

The owner of Sudbury Inn said he worked his shift in the kitchen Sunday, getting off work in the late evening. Sometime the same day, he killed Bullard, Stokes said.

Bullard's daughter, Selby Bullard, 30, became concerned when she couldn't reach her mother by cell phone.

She drove to Newry with her friend Cynthia Beatson, 42, on Monday, said Benita Sessions, who runs the Apple Tree Realty Office in Bethel, where the two women worked.

"Julie had bad asthma, she would get into these coughing fits," Sessions said. "Selby couldn't reach her by phone so she and Cindy drove out her to check on her."

Stokes said Bullard and Beatson were killed when they came to the Black Bear.

The state police crime scene evidence recovery team scoured the grounds by the white inn with maroon shutters off Monkey Brook Road, looking for evidence outside the house and behind an outdoor swimming pool.

Little is known about Whitehurst, Stokes said. Authorities have not been able to reach his next of kin late this morning. Julie and Selby Bullard had moved to Maine from San Francisco, sometime in the last two years, Sessions said.

Selby Bullard had two children and had been selling real estate for about a year.

Beatson grew up in the Bethel area and had worked as a waitress and a seamstress before she started selling real estate.

She was married to Dough Beatson, a local contractor, and they had one child.

Sessions said the two women were best friends and went everywhere together.

It's unclear what sparked the killings. State Police Sgt. Walter Grzyb said the two men did not know each other beyond the fact that they were both staying at the same inn.

Poulin declined to discuss motive. He said all had been shot and all four had been dismembered. He declined to say how they'd been dismembered.

News swept across the communities in Maine's western mountains.

''We're all just numb with shock,'' said Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce.

Police assured residents they had nothing to fear. ''We believe no one else was involved, and there are no additional victims,'' Poulin said.

Police were called to the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast at a time when many vacationers were streaming out of Maine at the close of the Labor Day weekend.

Nielson grew up in the Oxford County area, but lived in Farmington for several years. According to Farmington police, Nielsen had a record of mostly traffic-related violations, including a 1998 arrest and conviction for drunken driving.

"The name didn't jump out as somebody that we knew," said Police Chief Richard Caton III.

His last brush with Farmington police was in August 2005, when he was issued a summons for driving after suspension. At the time Nielsen listed his residence as a 5-unit apartment building in downtown Farmington, near the University of Maine campus.

Nancy White, proprietor of the Sudbury Inn, was stunned to hear about the allegations against Nielsen.

"He was a reliable employee, a competent cook and a soft spoken individual," she said. "I'm shocked and stunned and appalled. It's horrible."

The phone rang unanswered Tuesday at the Black Bear, a white clapboard farmhouse with a red roof that was converted into a six-room bed-and-breakfast with a pool and tennis courts.

Julie Bullard operated a bed and breakfast in San Francisco that she sold prior to coming to Bethel area with her daughter to operate the Black Bear, Zinchuk said.

"Her daughter, Selby, had just lost her husband in a car crash and I think in some ways she and Selby were doing something together, getting a fresh start, with Selby's two children," Zinchuk said.

For a time, Selby Bullard operated an optician's shop in town that filled eyeglass prescriptions, Zinchuk said. More recently, she received a real estate license and had been working with Beatson at Apple Tree Realty Inc., she said.

Julie Bullard decided in February to close the Black Bear, Zinchuk said, and there was a ''For Sale'' sign out front.

The Associated Press, staff writers Tom Bell, David Hench and Trevor Maxwell contributed to this report.

 
 

Maine bed and breakfast slayings a shock

By Shelby Bullard - USAToday.com

September 6, 2006

NEWRY, Maine (AP) — Julie Bullard and her daughter, Selby, tried to put tragedy behind them when they moved from California to Maine to run a bed and breakfast here. It was to be a fresh start after Selby Bullard's husband died in a car accident.

Now, both are dead, and a man who lived as a guest in their inn was charged Tuesday with killing them and two others in Maine's biggest homicide case in more than a decade.

The carnage at the 130-year-old converted farmhouse on a dead-end road unfolded over the Labor Day weekend and prompted State Police Chief Col. Craig Poulin to call it "a crime of horrific proportions."

Police said Christian Nielsen, 31, who had worked as a cook in an inn's kitchen in neighboring Bethel, offered no resistance when he was arrested on four murder charges.

Poulin said the investigation was too new to comment on a motive, but added, "We believe no one else was involved and there are no additional victims."

Nielsen, who had been living at the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast for a couple of months, told police that his first victim on Friday was James Whitehurst, 50, of Batesville, Ark., whose remains were burned and discarded in the nearby town of Upton, authorities said.

Inn owner Julie Bullard, 65, was killed Sunday, police said. The following day, her daughter Selby and Cynthia Beatson, 43, were also killed when they arrived at the inn unexpectedly, a state police affidavit said. All three women were dismembered.

State police were alerted to the carnage Monday evening by Bullard family members who arrived at inn to find a woman's body and blood outside. Nielsen's father told troopers that he thought his son had committed the killing, according to prosecutors.

Nielsen, questioned by detectives Monday night, admitted killing all four people, the affidavit said. He then led a detective to Upton, where Nielsen said he had disposed of Whitehurst's body, the document said.

Whitehurst, described as a handyman who was helping out Julie Bullard, had been staying in the inn, a white clapboard farmhouse with a red metal roof, while he was in the area.

Julie Bullard had purchased the building, which had been converted into a bed and breakfast with a pool and tennis court, after moving to Maine two years ago. She had operated a bed and breakfast in San Francisco that she sold prior to coming to the area, a magnet for skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

"Her daughter, Selby, had just lost her husband in a car crash and I think in some ways she and Selby were doing something together, getting a fresh start," said Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce.

Julie Bullard decided in February to close the Black Bear, Zinchuk said, and there was a "For Sale" sign out front. Selby Bullard had recently been working part-time with Beatson at Apple Tree Realty Inc.

As news of the murders spread Tuesday, people in the community reacted with shock and horror. Newry is near western Maine's border with New Hampshire and about 75 miles northwest of Portland.

"The whole thing is surreal. It's a shock to this small community," said Nancy White, co-owner of the Sudbury Inn, where Nielsen worked. White described him as a reliable employee, a good cook and "soft-spoken, quiet individual."

Police stressed that the string of killings, unusual in a state with a low crime rate, was over. Nielsen knew at least two of the victims — Whitehurst and the older Bullard — and "probably" knew all four, Poulin said.

Nielsen, who formerly lived and worked in Farmington in western Maine, had a history of driving offenses that included an arrest for drunken driving, but nothing more serious, Farmington police said. His license was revoked a year ago, said Farmington Lt. Jack Peck.

Nielsen was ordered held without bail. He appeared in court Tuesday wearing an orange jumpsuit and bulletproof vest. Nielsen uttered only two words in court: "I am," when the judge asked if he was present. He appeared calm and smiled as he was brought into and left the courtroom.

 
 

Maine police investigate an apparent quadruple homicide

By Andrew Ryan - Boston.com

September 5, 2006

Police today are unraveling a murder spree in Western Maine that appears to have begun with the murder of a man on Friday and claimed the lives of a three women – including a mother and daughter – at a bed and breakfast over Labor Day weekend as authorities say the killer tried to cover up his first crime.

The mother and daughter and the body of another woman were discovered Monday at the Black Bear Bed and Breakfast in Newry, about 70 miles west of Augusta in a popular ski region along the New Hampshire border. Investigators discovered what is believed to be the body of the male victim in a wooded area 10 to 15 miles north in Upton.

Christian C. Nielsen, 31, has been charged with four counts of murder. He was taken into custody Monday night after police received a 911 call from the bed and breakfast at about 5:30, according to the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Nielsen lived in a converted farmhouse behind the bed and breakfast and has been blamed for the deaths of his landlady, her daughter, a friend of her daughter and a 50-year-old man. Officials are still piecing together the details from the bloody weekend and plan to hold a press conference this afternoon at the Newry Fire Department.

On Friday, prosecutors allege that Nielsen killed a man named James Whitehurst, 50, according to William Stokes, chief of the criminal division of the Maine attorney general's office.

Investigators would not discuss what they believe motivated Nielsen to kill Whitehurst. His body was the last to be found when investigators discovered it late Monday in woods in Upton, north of Grafton Notch State Park.

"Teams are gong in this morning to hopefully excavate the remains," state Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland, declining to give more specifics.

Nielsen, who had worked as a cook at the Sudbury Inn in nearby Bethel, had been staying at the Black Bear Bed and Breakfast owned by Julie Bullard, 65, according to Stokes and police. As suspicion mounted about the disappearance of Whitehurst, Nielsen continued killing to eliminate witnesses, Stokes said.

On Sunday, prosecutors allege that Nielsen killed Bullard at the her bed and breakfast. Her disappearance aroused more suspicion and on Monday the slayings continued, Stokes said.

Prosecutors allege that when Bullard’s daughter, Selby Bullard, 30, and a friend, Cynthia Beatson, 43, came to check on Bullard on Monday, Nielsen killed them too, Stokes said. Investigators declined to say how prosecutors allege that Nielsen killed his victims.

Nielsen was taken into custody Monday night after police found the women’s bodies at the bed and breakfast. He is being held in the Oxford County Jail.

Nancy White, the co-owner of the Sudbury Inn, told the Associated Press that Nielsen had been hired as a cook this summer.

"This is a surprise to me," White said. "He's a reliable, soft-spoken employee who has cooked with us since late June."

 

 

 
 
 
 
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