A cook was charged Tuesday with shooting and dismembering the owner of a bed-and-breakfast and three other people in a grisly Labor Day weekend killing spree that shocked people across the Maine countryside.

State Police chief Col. Craig Poulin refused to discuss a motive for what he called the worst homicide case in Maine in 14 years.

Christian Nielsen, 31, told detectives that his four-day killing spree began with a local man on Friday and continued two days later with the slaying of the owner of the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast where he was staying in Newry, according to state police. The daughter of the inn's owner was then killed along with a female friend when they arrived there unexpectedly on Monday, authorities said.

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The bodies of the three women were found Monday at the six-room inn, a white 1830s farmhouse in Maine's ski country near the New Hampshire line. Nielsen then led detectives to the man's dismembered and burned remains, dumped in the woods about 15 miles away.

"It's a crime of horrific proportions," Poulin said.

Nielsen was charged with four counts of murder and smiled as he left court after being ordered held without bail.

Poulin would not say how the victims had been dismembered.

The victims were identified as bed-and-breakfast owner Julie Bullard, 65, who lived at the inn; her daughter Selby, 30; Cindy Beatson, 43, both of Bethel; and James Whitehurst, 50, of Batesville, Ark.

Nielsen had recently been renting a room at the Black Bear while working at another bed-and-breakfast in nearby Bethel. Whitehurst, who was in the area on family business, also had been staying at the Black Bear.

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.

"We're all just numb with shock," said Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce. The area is about 75 miles northwest of Portland.

Nancy White, co-owner of the Sudbury Inn, was stunned to learn that the cook she and her husband had hired this summer had been arrested on murder charges. She described him as a reliable employee and a good cook.

"The whole thing is surreal. It's a shock to this small community," she said.

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

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

Maine has a low crime rate. Its last quadruple murder was in 1992, when Virgil Smith set fire to a Portland tenement, killing a woman, two men and a 10-month-old baby.

Nielsen had a history of driving offenses that included an arrest for drunken driving, but nothing more serious, police said.

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