March 18, 2010

Victims at start of making a new life


BETHEL -- It didn't take long for Selby Bullard and Cindy Beatson to form a friendship, in the social circles that connect sports and business in this resort town. They were both go-getters. The kind of people who squeeze a round of golf or a ski run between appointments and caring for their children. It didn't seem to matter that Beatson, at 43, was a dozen years older than Bullard. ''They were best buddies,'' said Bonita Sessions, a broker who was a mentor to both women over the past year at Apple Tree Realty in Bethel. ''They were outgoing and full of energy.'' After Bullard broke her leg skiing this spring, it was Beatson who took to driving her around town, Sessions said. They were together on Monday, according to friends and co-workers. Bullard was having a hard time reaching her mother, Julie Bullard, owner of the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast in Newry. ''Julie had bad asthma, she would go into these coughing fits,'' Sessions said. ''Selby couldn't reach her by phone, so she and Cindy drove out there to check on her.'' A few hours later, Beatson, Selby and Julie Bullard were dead, victims of one of the most horrific crimes anyone here can remember. The suspect, 31-year-old Christian Nielsen, was in police custody, charged with their murder. ''The last time we saw them was Friday in the office,'' Sessions said, wiping away tears. ''It was just like any other day.'' Like anyone who was close to the victims, Sessions and her husband, Brian Strickland, were still in shock on Tuesday. The Beatson and Bullard families are well known in the Bethel area, and news of the killings rippled out to everyone from the owners of the local inns to the kids at the elementary school. ''This will change everything here,'' said Ellie Andrews, a local gym owner who hired Beatson to teach Pilates last winter. ''It's beyond anyone's worst nightmare.'' Selby Bullard had come to Maine, at least in part, to put another tragedy behind her. Bullard's husband died in an automobile accident in California about three years ago, said Robin Zinchuk, head of the regional Chamber of Commerce. Bullard and her two young children followed her mother to Maine. Julie Bullard, 65, had run a bed and breakfast in San Francisco, and then decided to buy the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast and move to Newry in 2004, Zinchuk said. ''Selby lived sometimes with her mom, and for a while she rented a place in town,'' Zinchuk said. Julie Bullard kept a lower profile than her daughter, Zinchuk said. She did have a reputation as a welcoming innkeeper. Scott Coatsworth, who runs a Web site that reviews inns and hotels, stayed at Bullard's Church Street Bed & Breakfast in San Francisco several times before Bullard moved east. Coatsworth spoke glowingly of Bullard. He said she painted her inn a bright yellow and commissioned a painter to create a mural on the building, as well as a car parked outside. ''She was very vivacious,'' Coatsworth said of Julie Bullard. Mother and daughter, after only two winter seasons in Newry, were already planning a move to New York City, Sessions said. Julie Bullard put the Black Bear inn on the market in May, asking $640,000 for the seven-bedroom property. Mike Cyr, who works at a local hardware and supply company, said Julie and Selby Bullard had been in regularly, buying paint and other materials. They wanted to make the place look nice so it would sell this fall. There was ''no reason in the world to expect anyone to have any animosity toward them,'' Cyr said. He said Selby Bullard was upbeat and looking forward to the next stage in her life. Selby Bullard liked to ski and go out with friends, and recently juggled two jobs. She enjoyed making frames for eyeglasses, and for a time she opened her own shop on Main Street in Bethel. She closed that down and went to work about 18 months ago as a part-time optician for Dr. William Foord in Berlin, N.H. Two or three mornings a week she would travel the 40 minutes to Berlin, said Wanda Pike, the office manager. Bullard had not been able to work much, though, since her skiing accident. She was scheduled for another leg surgery this week. ''She was a fun-loving girl, very fashionable, very cute,'' Pike said. Bullard's other job was selling real estate. She got her sales license in March and went to work for Sessions at Apple Tree Realty. That is where she bonded with Cindy Beatson. Beatson had lived in the area at least since the mid-1990s, Sessions said. Beatson's husband, Doug, is a building contractor, and they have one daughter at the local elementary school. Sessions has known the family for years, and was happy to hear that Beatson wanted to become a real estate broker. Beatson joined Apple Tree Realty about a year ago. ''She was the best friend you could ask for,'' Sessions said. Before she got into real estate, Beatson worked as a waitress and seamstress, crafting the draperies at upscale places like the Bethel Inn and Sudbury Inn. ''We knew her as a hardworking and devoted employee, a wonderful mother and a wonderful wife,'' said Allen Connors, managing partner at the Bethel Inn. Beatson worked at the restaurant there from about 1999 to 2004, Connors said. People at the inn and country club often would see Beatson golfing. She played a regular game every Wednesday, and she enjoyed ski racing at Sunday River. Beatson also was a regular at a women's fitness club near downtown. Most of the members looked up to Beatson and tried to copy her workouts, said Ellie Andrews, the gym owner. ''She was just so get-up-and-go, really into her exercise,'' Andrews said. She hired Beatson to teach a Pilates class, which was very successful. Andrews heard about the killings at her weekly Rotary Club meeting Tuesday morning. ''It was just like you had taken the air right out of the room,'' Andrews said. On Tuesday, Doug Beatson and his daughter were sequestered with only the closest relatives and friends, said Brian Strickland, Bonita Sessions' husband. The family could not be reached for comment. Selby Bullard's son and daughter, for now, are in the care of a family friend, Brian Strickland said. Several relatives from California were expected to arrive throughout the day on Tuesday. The two children had spent most of the summer in California with relatives of their deceased father, Sessions said. They returned to Bethel last week in time for the start of school. ''Everyone was enjoying a long Labor Day weekend,'' Strickland said. ''We were totally shocked this morning.''
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