April 11, 2013

Neighbor: Family believed 'North Pond Hermit' had run off to New York

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

ALBION — The man now known across the nation as the "North Pond Hermit" might have practiced for his life alone in the woods by camping out for a year behind his own home, a neighbor of his family said Wednesday.

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Robert Milliken talks about former neighbor Christopher Knight on Wednesday during an interview at Milliken's Albion farm.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy Game Wardens, State Police and Somerset County Sheriff's deputies hike into Christopher Knight's camp site in Rome Tuesday April 9, 2013. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, was a hermit who committed hundreds of burglaries to sustain himself. The camp was located in a heavily wooded location.

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AUDIO: Hermit news conference
Audio from Hermit news conference at Dept. of Public of Safety in Augusta on April 10, 2013.
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Police detain hermit who lived in Maine woods for 27 years without human contact.

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  Maine Warden Service Sgt. Terry Hughes discusses encountering Christopher Knight, the alleged North Pond Hermit, at the Pine Tree Camp on Thursday.

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Maine Warden Service Sgt. Terry Hughes and Maine State Police Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance discuss Christopher Knight's habits and life in the woods of Rome.

 

 

Authorities say Christopher T. Knight, 47, who was arrested last week and charged with burglarizing the Pine Tree Camp in Rome, told them he had been living in the woods since 1986, burglarizing unoccupied camps to get food, batteries, propane and clothes, and staying well clear of people.

Knight grew up in Albion and graduated from Lawrence High School in Fairfield. By 1986, he had disappeared. Police say he walked into the woods and never looked back, committing more than 1,000 burglaries over the years, taking what he needed to survive.

Robert Milliken, 57, who owns a farm near the Knight family's home in Albion, said he has known the family for years and attended Lawrence High School with Knight's older brothers.

Milliken said he heard many years ago from a cousin of the Knights that Christopher Knight had left home – and apparently had been camping in nearby woods.

"He said Chris had taken off when he graduated and the family had never heard (from) him," Milliken said outside his barn Wednesday. "They thought he had taken off and gone to New York City, you know, a country boy. Then they found about a year later (behind the house) where somebody had been camping out. They figured it was him."

Milliken said that cousin, Dana Nelson, died in 1986 in a logging accident.

He said he wonders how Knight managed to live alone and outdoors all those years.

"I don't know quite how he survived or why he would want to live that way," Milliken said. "Apparently he kept up on current events," referring to news reports that Knight listened to programs on battery-powered radios.

At least some of Knight's relatives, including his mother, Joyce, still live on Pond Road, where he grew up.

On Wednesday, an unidentified man escorting two women out of a black pickup truck at that home declined to talk about Christopher Knight.

In a news conference at the Augusta headquarters of the Maine Department of Public Safety, state Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance, who was with Maine Warden Service Sgt. Terry Hughes for Knight's arrest early on the morning of April 4, said Knight initially told her that he did not want police to contact anyone in his family.

She said she talked to Knight later at the Kennebec County jail and told him that the story of his capture would be coming out in the media, so he agreed she could break the news to his mother.

The Kennebec Journal first reported Knight's capture Tuesday night, after authorities had inspected Knight's encampment earlier in the day in the woods of Rome.

Although Knight may have been breaking into unoccupied camps for decades, the state can prosecute only the burglaries that occurred over the past six years because of the statute of limitations, Perkins-Vance said.

Burglaries at the Pine Tree Camp – believed to total at least 50 over the years – occurred in the spring and fall, when campers weren't there.

At the news conference, Dawn Willard-Robinson, the camp director, said, "He was using it like a local Walmart."

CAMERA AT CAMP ALERTED POLICE

Perkins-Vance and Hughes had been seeking what they called the "backpack burglar" for years because of repeated burglaries of unoccupied camps in the North, Little North and East Pond areas in Rome and Smithfield.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Warden Service Sgt. Terry Hughes, left, and State Police Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance talk about capturing Christopher Knight -- known as the "North Pond Hermit — during a news conference on Wednesday in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Warden Service Sgt. Terry Hughes, left, and State Police Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance talk about capturing Christopher Knight during a news conference on Wednesdayin Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Christopher T. Knight

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy District Game Warden Aaron Cross inspects Christopher Knight's camp Tuesday April 9, 2013 in a remote, wooded section of Rome. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, was a hermit who committed hundreds of burglaries to sustain himself.

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy Somerset County Sheriff's Office Cpl. Gene Cole, left, helps Maine State Police Trooper Diane Vance inventory money recovered from Christopher Knight Tuesday April 9, 2013 at the Pine Tree Camp in Rome. Knight, a hermit who lived in the woods since April 1986, was apprehended when he broke into the camp, police claim. He was captured carrying a knapsack and bag of tools. Many of bills date from the 1980s and 1990s, Vance said, and were never circulated by Knight.

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy Tools recovered in a bag that Christopher Knight was carrying when he was apprehended at Pine Tree Camp in Rome Tuesday April 9, 2013. Knight, a hermit who lived in the woods since April 1986, apparently utilized the tools to break into several dozen camps in the Belgrade area, according to police.

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy Pine Tree Camp facility manager Harvey Chesley inspects a door that Christopher Knight alleged broke open in the dining lodge at the Rome camp Tuesday April 9, 2013. Knight, a hermit who lived in the woods since April 1986, was arrested in after breaking into the lodge on April 4, according to Warden Service Sgt. Terry Hughes.

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy Christopher Knight was apprehended at Pine Tree Camp in Rome carrying candy, potato chips, ball cap, poncho and a wrist watch that were all stolen from the camp, according to police. On Tuesday April 9, 2013 police inventoried the items that Knight, a hermit who lived in the woods since April 1986, was carrying when he was arrested on April 4.

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy Game Wardens and State Police get global positioning coordinates before hiking into Christopher Knight's camp in Rome Tuesday April 9, 2013. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, was a hermit who committed hundreds of burglaries to sustain himself. His camp is located in a heavily wooded location.

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy Christopher Knight's camp site located in a remote stand of woods in Rome moments before Game Wardens, State Police and Somerset County Sheriff's deputies inspected the camp Tuesday April 9, 2013. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, was a hermit who committed hundreds of burglaries to sustain himself.

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy Game Warden Aaron Cross photographs Christopher Knight's camp Tuesday April 9, 2013 located in a remote wooded section of Rome. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, was a hermit who committed hundreds of burglaries to sustain himself.

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy Game Warden Sgt. Terry Hughes, right, Maine State Police Trooper Diane Vance, center, and Somerset County Deputy Jeremy Leal Tuesday April 9, 2013 inspect Christopher Knight's camp in a remote, wooded section of Rome. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, was a hermit who committed hundreds of burglaries to sustain himself.

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy Game Warden Sgt. Terry Hughes, right and District Warden Dave Ross inspect Christopher Knight's camp Tuesday April 9, 2013 in a remote, wooded section of Rome. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, was a hermit who committed hundreds of burglaries to sustain himself.

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy Christopher Knight's camp on Tuesday April 9, 2013 in a remote, wooded section of Rome. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, was a hermit who committed hundreds of burglaries to sustain himself. Knight kept camping supplies and a tent beneath a brown tarp where he lived, police say.

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy A television found at Christopher Knight's camp on Tuesday April 9, 2013 in a remote, wooded section of Rome. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, was a hermit who committed hundreds of burglaries to sustain himself.

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Andy Molloy Christopher Knight's camp Tuesday April 9, 2013 in a remote, wooded section of Rome. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, was a hermit who committed hundreds of burglaries to sustain himself.

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy District Game Warden Aaron Cross exits Christopher Knight's camp Tuesday April 9, 2013 in a remote, wooded section of Rome after police inspected the site where Knight is believed to have lived since the 1990s. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, was a hermit who committed hundreds of burglaries to sustain himself.

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Staff photo by Andy Molloy Coffee cups, lights and a clock hang under a tarp in Christopher Knight's camp Tuesday April 9, 2013 in a remote, wooded section of Rome after police inspected the site where Knight is believed to have lived since the 1990s. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, was a hermit who committed hundreds of burglaries to sustain himself. Knight apparently cooked meals with propane he stole, police claim.



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