August 27, 2013

North Pond Hermit enters not guilty plea

He makes his first response in court to theft charges, but his fate after jail could delay a resolution.

By Betty Adams
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Christopher Knight spent 27 years living in the woods of central Maine, police say, feeding himself and furnishing his spartan campsites from the spoils of more than 1,000 burglaries of area camps.

STATUS: Christopher Knight appeared at Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta on Tuesday May 28, 2013. Police said that Knight lived in the woods of Rome, Maine for 27 years, allegedly burglarizing nearby camps for food and supplies hundreds of times in order to survive, before being caught and arrested on Thursday, April 4, 2013. The case against Knight, 47, was set to be presented to the grand jury but District Attorney Maeghan Maloney stated last week that his case will be put off until a mental health evaluation is complete. Justice Michaela Murphy directed the district attorney and Knight's attorney to confer about his status.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

One of the major questions as his case winds through the court system -- causing a delay to any resolution -- is where he will live and what he will do after he's released from jail.

Attorneys on both sides hope to resolve theft and burglary charges against the man dubbed the North Pond Hermit, and are looking into treatment programs for him, before the case heads to trial in October.

Knight pleaded not guilty Tuesday to indictments charging him with seven burglaries and six thefts in two counties. The 47-year-old, formerly of Albion, has been in jail since his arrest April 4, and Tuesday's hearing was the first time he responded to the charges in court.

Knight's attorney, Walter McKee, said after the Tuesday hearing that he has asked that Knight be evaluated to determine whether he is a candidate for Maine Pretrial Services, which could supervise him while he is out on bail. If Knight is accepted into that program, another bail hearing would be set.

Knight is being held in lieu of $25,000 cash, which must be posted in his name, plus other conditions.

Money from donations made to Knight is not being used toward bail, but is going to make restitution, much toward Pine Tree Camp in Rome, where Knight was arrested and where many of the burglaries he allegedly committed took place. The camp is for children and adults with disabilities.

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said that was Knight's decision.

"He decided to set up an account and wanted that money to go to restitution and in particular to Pine Tree Camp," she said.

Knight's family, several of whom still live in Albion, have visited him at the jail in Augusta, and there's a possibility he might live with them after he's released from jail, McKee said.

Knight left home around 1987, disappearing into the woods and apparently had no contact with family members until they learned of his arrest from police. Knight told police that he committed burglaries at night and avoided people.

While Knight said little during the court appearance early Tuesday, McKee said Knight communicates well.

"What's interesting, when you talk with him, is he's remarkably articulate and well-spoken," McKee said. "He chooses his words carefully. He's highly intelligent and speaks very sparingly as you might expect."

Maloney, district attorney in both Kennebec and Somerset counties, also said the two sides continue to work toward an agreement that would resolve the case without a trial.

She said both she and McKee are looking at the programs available for offenders in Kennebec County.

Knight has already been evaluated for Co-occurring Disorders Court, a program of intense supervision and rehabilitation.

"We will be meeting next Wednesday to see whether he is an appropriate candidate or not," Maloney said.

She said a trial date had to be set, despite the continuing look at other options.

"It is time for us to make a decision one way or another. If not, it's time for us to go forward to a jury trial," she said. Maloney also said that money being sent by outside donors to Knight is not being used toward bail.

Three of the indictments charge Knight with stealing food and household supplies from the Pine Tree Camp. He is accused of burglarizing the camp on April 26, 2012, and March 13 and April 4.

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