ROCK SPRINGS — A first-degree murder charge was filed against a Green River man Wednesday following the death of a 5-year-old boy.
Christopher James Nielsen, 26, made his initial appearance on the charge in Sweetwater County Third District Court on Thursday afternoon. Bond was set at $1 million cash or surety. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 11.
Nielsen was originally arrested Nov. 14 for alleged aggravated child abuse with serious bodily injury and substantial mental/emotional injury. The Green River Police Department responded to a medical call at an apartment on Bridger Drive on Nov. 11 about a 5-year-old boy suffering from what appeared to be a seizure. Nielsen had been babysitting the boy at the time, according to court documents.
The boy was transported to Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County and then flown to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. After speaking to doctors at the hospital, law enforcement interviewed Nielsen and arrested him on the original charges. He told investigators he shook the boy prior to the seizure and then shook him hard for another two to three minutes in the hope he would regain consciousness.
The 5-year-old died on Nov. 28 due to excessive brain trauma, according to court documents.
The aggravated child abuse charge was dismissed and the first-degree murder charge filed after the boy died. The maximum sentence for first-degree murder is death or life imprisonment with or without parole and a fine of not more than $10,000.
The prosecution asked for bond to be set at $1 million, cash or surety. The judge granted the request, citing the seriousness of the charge and Nielsen’s lack of local ties. Nielsen had only lived in Sweetwater County a week before the boy was hospitalized. He was staying with Vanessa Kidner, the mother of the boy who died, and her fiance, Stacy Willeitner, in exchange for babysitting Kidner’s two children.
Under other court conditions, Nielsen is to have no contact with Kidner or Willeitner and he cannot leave Sweetwater County without the court’s permission.
Nielsen will be appointed a public defender.