April 16, 2013

Police dismantle hermit's camp; neighbors recall Knight's burglar habits

Staff video by Joe Phelan

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

ROME -- Dave and Louise Proulx's seasonal camp on North Pond was burglarized so many times that they began to predict what would be stolen and what would be spared.

Staff video by Joe Phelan Louise and Dave Proulx talk about having their camp in Rome broken into by North Pond hermit Christopher Knight.

click image to enlarge

State Police Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance, left, and Warden Service Sgt. Terry Hughes hold a news conference on Thursday at Pine Tree Camp in Rome. Journalists and neighbors were brought to an area near the North Pond hermit's encampment, then asked to leave when landowner revoked permission to visit it. Evidence collected by State Police troopers was collected and displayed at The Pine Tree Camp in Rome.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Christopher Knight's camp was located on North Pond in Rome, not far from Route 137.

Staff graphic by Sharon Wood

Additional Photos Below

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The couple attributed the break-ins to the elusive North Pond Hermit, the legendary burglar whose likes and dislikes they learned to decipher over 20 years.

"We always had big jars of peanut butter, and every now and then one would be gone," said Louise Proulx, 65. "I don't think he liked tuna fish, because I don't ever remember any tuna fish being gone."

The couple kept a milk bottle full of coins on a counter, but they didn't worry about it because the hermit never took money.

"He never, ever touched a cent," she said.

Dave Proulx, 64, said their camp was burglarized more than 15 times. Everything from a battery-operated TV to pots and pans and cooking utensils were stolen.

"You name it. He's taken food, batteries. He took a boat battery," he said. "He took flashlight batteries but didn't take the flashlight. He didn't like it because it was yellow."

The Proulxs talked about the hermit Thursday morning at the Pine Tree Camp on North Pond. Their comments came as law enforcement officials dismantled the wilderness campsite they say Christopher Knight had made his home for the last 27 years while committing more than 1,000 camp burglaries in central Maine.

While authorities initially said the hermit had stolen mainly food and supplies for survival, a new picture of the burglar emerged as the evidence from the encampment was displayed in public.

Police deposited the items on the dining hall floor: a box of watches, an old-fashioned aluminum coffee pot, a high-end L.L. Bean sleeping bag, shovels, rakes, a backpack, tents, plastic storage containers, tarps, toilet paper and many other items concealed in trash cans.

There were also several Nintendo Game Boys and valuable items such as jewelry.

Thursday morning, the Proulxs and about two dozen journalists, seasonal camp owners and Pine Tree camp employees were bused about a mile away and then hiked a muddy, rutted woods road to the edge of Knight's campsite.

Sgt. Terry Hughes of the Maine Warden Service led the group. Hughes had arrested Knight on April 4, saying Knight triggered a surveillance sensor as he was trying to steal food from the Pine Tree Camp, which serves children and adults with disabilities.

The Kennebec Journal first reported Knight's arrest Tuesday night, sparking worldwide media attention to the case.

Journalists had been invited to watch the camp's dismantling; but at the last minute, police said the landowner, who lives in Rome, had a change of heart and wanted only law enforcement officials there.

"He has a right to control access to his property," State Police Sgt. Peter Michaud said just feet from Knight's camp. "He's the legal owner of the property, and I'm going to respect that."

Records at the Rome Town Office list Lisa Anne Fitzgerald and Ronald K. Fitzgerald as the owners of the wooded property, where it appears Knight had been living since at least 1990. The Fitzgeralds bought the land in 2003, according to the records. Tax bills are sent to them via a post office box in Harpswell, but no phone number was available.

Other property owners who own smaller lots on McNulty Lane near the Little North Pond area where the encampment was set up are Roger F. and Gaetane A. Ouellette, of Wimauma, Fla., who have two vacant lots. Richard and Jennifer Rodgers, of Sidney, have a camp on another lot; as do Gerard Spence and Emily Spence-Pearce, of Bristol, R.I.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Evidence taken from the campsite of North Pond hermit Christopher Knight.

Joe Phelan/Morning Sentinel

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A coffee pot and other items from North Pond hermit Christopher Knight's camp is shown Thursday at Pine Tree Camp in Rome.

Joe Phelan/Morning Sentinel

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Sgt. Peter Michaud, left, Sgt. Terry Hughes and Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance brief media at Pine Tree Camp before going to Christopher Knight's campsite Thursday.

Joe Phelan/Morning Sentinel

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Journalists and neighbors wait to hike into Christopher Knight's camp.

Joe Phelan/Morning Sentinel

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Journalists and neighbors leave the area leading to Christopher Knight's camp.

Joe Phelan/Morning Sentinel

click image to enlarge

Louise and Dave Proulx talk about having their camp in Rome broken into by North Pond hermit Christopher Knight.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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