April 14, 2013

North Pond Hermit's bail upped to $250K; police worry about exploitation

'There's a lot of people out there trying to exploit' Christopher Knight, says Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance, including a marriage proposal and mysterious effort to post his previous, $5,000 bail

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — Bail for Christopher T. Knight — the North Pond Hermit — was hiked to $250,000 Sunday following two additional charges and a fear that people from across the country want to exploit him, the lead state police investigator said Sunday.

Those overtures include a marriage proposal from a woman living out of state and a man described as elusive who attempted to post the previous $5,000 bond for Knight on Saturday.

"My job is to ensure he does appear in court," Maine State Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance said, "but there's a lot of people out there trying to exploit him."

Knight made international headlines last week when the Kennebec Journal broke the story that after his 27 years of living in the woods — and allegedly stealing food, cookware and other items from local camp owners to survive — police finally had captured the North Pond Hermit. He initially told police he had committed more than 1,000 burglaries over nearly three decades.

Perkins-Vance went to the Kennebec County jail Sunday afternoon to add charges of burglary and theft to the pending charges of burglary and theft. On Saturday evening, a man claiming to be from New York or New Hampshire showed up at the jail and offered to bail him out, said bail commissioner Wayne Michaud, a retired Augusta police lieutenant.

"This guy was very elusive and made Mr. Knight nervous," Michaud said. "A total stranger shows up and says, 'I want to get you out of jail for $5,000,' and there's no plan and it was not disclosed. It was very odd."

Michaud declined to release the person's name and said the man appeared to be acting on some else's behalf. Lt. Ryan Reardon of the Kennebec County jail also said he could not disclose the name and refused to release a copy of the arrest affidavit Sunday evening, saying he needed to get it approved by the district attorney's office first.

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said she needs to review the document before it can be released because she wants to make sure it won't compromise the ongoing investigation.

Perkins-Vance, who met with Knight on Sunday when she filed the additional charges, said he told her that he never intended to leave with the stranger who offered to bail him out. He met with him for "curiosity's sake and to work on his social skills," she said.

And the marriage proposal?

"Someone called the jail from somewhere across the country, trying to propose marriage to him," she said.

Overall, Knight, a 47-year-old who is a 1984 graduate of Lawrence High School in Fairfield, seems to be doing well in jail, she said. Despite his stated preference for solitude — he claimed to have spoken to only one person in his 27 years in the woods — he is now in with the general jail population, she said.

"He's smiling, pleasant," she said. "He's a very humble man."

Camp owners in the area said over the years they got to know Knight's thieving habits, such as his desire for big jars of peanut butter and apparent disdain for tuna. He allegedly stole clothes, but not money. Police also found Nintendo Game Boys and jewelry at his encampment.

Maloney said she hopes Knight gets a chance to meet with his court-appointed attorney soon and said while it is unusual for bail to jump so dramatically, this is an unusual case.

"The first concern is he might be a flight risk," she said. "The second concern is the group of people who are interested in posting bail for Mr. Knight who are not from our state and not members of his family. I will remain concerned for Mr. Knight until he has an attorney helping him to navigate what is a new world to him."

Susan Cover — 621-5643
scover@mainetoday.com

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