April 14, 2013

For North Pond Hermit's alleged victims, sympathy and anger

Some see Christopher T. Knight, 47, as a folk hero; to others, he's a troublesome thief who made them fearful

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

ROME — Gratitude, confusion, sympathy and anger.

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Staff illustration by Sharon Wood

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A surveillance photo shows a person, alleged to be Christopher Knight, the North Pond Hermit, burglarizing a structure. Some of the hundreds of those whose camps and homes were allegedly burglarized by Knight feel sympathy for the man, who reportedly survived 27 years in the Rome woods by pilfering food and supplies; others feel violated, and say they're glad he's locked up.

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A range of emotions ripple through the people who say they were victims of repeated burglaries by the infamous North Pond Hermit for almost three decades.

To some, Christopher T. Knight, 47, has become a folk hero, admired for his ingenuity and survival skills. For many others, he's a troublesome thief who made them fearful, and they're glad the suspect is behind bars.

Homeowners are all grateful to police and wardens who tracked and then captured Knight outside the Pine Tree Camp dining hall in Rome after he emerged with a pack full of frozen food and other supplies for his primitive camp.

Knight is charged with burglary and theft for that April 4 incident, but he's suspected of being the elusive burglar who has troubled property owners around North Pond, Little North Pond and East Pond for the past 27 years as he hid from the world in a makeshift camp, stealing food, clothing, mattresses, batteries, frying pans, beer and candy.

Property owners envision a more comfortable season at camp with Knight in custody.

"It will make a huge difference," said Nancy Brooks, of Waterville. "I am terribly grateful."

Brooks and her family have had a campsite on Little North Pond for more than 40 years, and they suspect the hermit stole her son's Old Town canoe and used it to scout the shoreline, seeking evidence that people had brought in food or other items he needed.

"I would love to have my navy blue LL Bean duffel bag back; it was in new condition," Brooks said, "and the two twin-sized air mattresses that were inside it. My son would like his canoe back too."

Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, whose office will be prosecuting the case, said she will await a final police report before making a decision on additional charges that might be filed against Knight.

"Right now we only have a probable cause affidavit," she said. That court affidavit, by Maine State Police Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance, details the capture of Knight by her and by Maine Warden Service Sgt. Terry Hughes.

It says Knight, "a transient living in the woods in a tent since about 1986," was carrying $283.38 worth of stolen items when he exited the Pine Tree Camp dining hall in the early hours of April 4. At that point, he told Perkins-Vance and Hughes he had done "40 burglaries a year each year for about the last 27 years."

Maloney also plans to meet with homeowners who think they were Knight's victims, saying it would be scheduled to allow as many out-of-state property owners to attend as possible.

"They want to talk about what it's been like from their perspective — not so much about the items stolen, but how they felt when they walked in and saw that their place had been burglarized and the loss of security."

Fear and fascination

State police have said that the statute of limitations means they can charge Knight only with burglaries and thefts that occurred within the past six years.

An incident in September 2012 at the Little North Pond camp of Lillie Cogswell, of Wimberley, Texas, might be one of them.

Cogswell said the burglar came in through a window above the kitchen sink, breaking off parts of the faucet when he entered.

"He took pretty much all of our meat in our freezer and he took other food supplies he could carry out," she said. "He would get into your place and lock everything back up. He was unfortunately finding extra keys that were left around."

(Continued on page 2)

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