Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Betty Adams firstname.lastname@example.org
AUGUSTA — The man known as the North Pond Hermit was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail Tuesday on new charges of burglary and theft after authorities had jacked his bail to 10 times that amount a few days earlier out of concern he was a flight risk.
Christopher T. Knight, 47, has been jailed since his arrest April 4 on charges of committing a burglary and theft at the Pine Tree Camp in Rome. He was initially held on just $5,000 bail in connection with that single case, even though authorities believe he committed more than 1,000 burglaries during the 27 years he lived in the woods of Rome. His bail was increased to $250,000 after an apparent stranger tried to post the initial bail and another person offered to marry Knight.
Knight’s case has attracted worldwide media attention since the Kennebec Journal first reported his arrest last week and visited his encampment in the central Maine woods.
Knight was in court via video link from the Kennebec County jail Tuesday on separate charges of burglary and theft, and he was represented by defense attorney Walter McKee.
“We are not expecting bail to be posted,” McKee told Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills.
That bail can be posted only by Knight, not by anyone else – a requirement intended to prevent outsiders from posting a suspect’s bail.
Police have said Knight lived in a makeshift camp in the woods in Rome for nearly three decades, stealing from various camps what he needed to survive, and speaking to only one person during those years.
District Attorney Maeghan Maloney estimated Knight will be charged with 15 to 20 burglaries and thefts that had been reported to police in recent years.
“If it was not important enough to report it at the time, we’re not taking those reports now,” she said.
Maloney said she will be seeking restitution from Knight for the stolen items.
Maloney said she has heard from Maine State Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance, the case’s lead investigator, that Knight has admitted to all the break-ins they discussed so far and has been “100 percent cooperative and has been a model prisoner since he’s been incarcerated.”
She said all indications are that Knight spent those years alone, without contact with his family or anyone else.
Maloney said she and McKee agreed on the new $25,000 bail amount for Knight.
During Tuesday’s hearing, McKee stood next to Knight, who was wearing a two-piece green jail uniform rather than the jeans and belt he is accused of stealing last fall from the Rome camp of Lillie Cogswell, who lives in Wimberley, Texas.
Knight, who kept his hands behind his back, responded only “yes” and “no” to several inquiries from the judge, including whether he understood his rights.
Maloney also said McKee was seeking a mental health evaluation for Knight, who has not said why he lived in the woods. That evaluation request had not been filed as of late Tuesday.
McKee was in mediation at his Augusta office immediately after the hearing and unavailable for further comment. Earlier in the day, he said via email that he would be “very tight-lipped on this case for the time being.”
Conditions of bail require him to provide an address where he plans to live, to check in weekly by phone with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and to have no contact with the Pine Tree Camp or Lillie Cogswell, or any other victims listed in charges that might be forthcoming.
Mills set a June 11 status conference in the case.
Bail on the previous charges was $5,000; however, when an apparent stranger tried to post the bail and after another person offered to marry Knight, police filed the additional charge against Knight and increased his bail from $5,000 to $250,000.
Knight was wearing the stolen items when he was arrested, according to a court affidavit by Perkins-Vance.
Owners of cabins and campsites on North Pond, Little North Pond and East Pond reported repeat burglaries and thefts from their properties by a shadowy figure who appeared to be watching their activities.
Maloney also said the trooper told her Knight’s mother, who still lives in the family’s home in Albion, indicated she wanted to see him and that arrangements were being made.
Maloney also said she believed a missing person’s report was filed when Knight disappeared at some point prior to 1986.
Knight graduated from Lawrence High School in Fairfield in 1984.
Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:
Christopher Knight, left, and attorney Walter McKee appear during a court hearing on new burglary and theft charges on Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta. Knight and McKee were appearing via a video connection from the nearby Kennebec County jail.
Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal
Audio of Christopher Knight's bail hearing on Tuesday.