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Man accused of drug-related homicide appears in court

The man accused of homicide for his connection to the 2016 overdose death of a 25-year-old Superior man made an initial appearance Thursday in Douglas County Circuit Court.

Nathan Edward Birkholz, 23, of Superior faces one count of repeater first-degree reckless homicide. The class C felony carries a maximum penalty of 40 years imprisonment and fine up to $100,000.

Cash bail of $100,000 was set for Birkholz on Thursday, and he was ordered to have no contact with the victim's family.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Maes requested the high bail amount due to the seriousness of the charge and Birkholz's record. He was convicted of burglary in 2012, theft and bail jumping in 2013 and identity theft in 2016. He also has a 2016 felony drug possession conviction in Minnesota.

Birkholz is currently serving a prison sentence with an anticipated release date of 2025, Maes told the court.

According to the criminal complaint, Neil James Christianson was found dead in his Billings Park home Nov. 25, 2016. The cause of death was heroin and fentanyl toxicity.

Investigators found private Facebook messages between the two men in which it appeared Christianson was seeking to purchase heroin from Birkholz the evening of Nov. 24.

Based on messages Birkholz sent to others that night, investigators determined he was conducting several other drug deals before going to Christianson's residence.

At 10:08 p.m., Birkholz messaged Christianson, "I'll be there in 2."

Christianson replied, "okie dokie I'll be on my porch waiting."

It was the last message he sent on his Facebook account.

Birkholz's next court appearance was set for Wednesday.