Saturday, March 8, 2014
By BETTY ADAMS Kennebec Journal
AUGUSTA — Christopher T. Knight, known widely as the North Pond Hermit, pleaded guilty Monday to 13 charges of burglary and theft, a small fraction of the 1,000 crimes authorities say he committed in his 27 years of hiding in the woods of central Maine.
Christopher Knight sits in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta on Monday.
Andy Molloy/ Kennebec Journal
Christopher Knight is escorted into Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta on Monday to enter pleas for multiple burglaries and thefts while living in the woods of central Maine for 27 years. The North Pond Hermit agreed to plead guilty in exchange for receiving an alternative sentence with the Co-Occurring Disorders Court, a special, intensive supervision program where he will live and work in the community while reporting weekly to a judge.
Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal
• Burglary and theft at Pine Tree Camp in Rome, March 13 and April 4, 2013 and April 26, 2012;
• Burglary and theft at private camps in Rome, July 16, 2010, and Sept. 30-Oct. 8, 2012;
• Burglary at private camp in Rome ,July 14-16, 2008;
• Burglary and theft at private camp in Smithfield, April 26, 2012.
Knight, 47, formerly of Albion, was arrested April 4 as he left the Pine Tree Camp in Rome, carrying foodstuffs and tools. He has been in the Kennebec County jail since his arrest.
As part of his guilty plea in Kennebec County Superior Court, he was admitted to the Co-Occurring Disorders Court, an intensive-supervision program in which he will live and work in the community while reporting weekly to a judge. The court is designed to help people with substance abuse and mental health problems.
If he completes the program, which can take one or more years, he will be sentenced to five years in jail, with all but seven months suspended, followed by three years’ probation, said Justice Nancy Mills.
The judge said the start of Monday’s hearing was delayed because of a miscommunication between the state and the defense over the initial period of jail time. Mills said prosecutors had told victims that it would be nine months, but Knight’s attorney Walter McKee said the agreement called for seven months – the time he already has served.
Mills decided it would be seven months. She said the goal of the program is to keep incarceration at a minimum and teach participants ways to succeed.
If Knight doesn’t complete the program, he could be sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison, Mills said.
Knight walked into the courtroom Monday with his hands behind his back, clutching several papers. Knight, who was not handcuffed, repeated “guilty” 13 times as the judge asked him for his pleas to various felony and misdemeanor charges.
MOTIVE A MYSTERY
The story of Knight’s life in the woods – including his nighttime raids to gather propane and batteries for his highly camouflaged camp – was first reported by the Kennebec Journal. The story drew national media attention, plus a video, songs and contributions to repay property owners whose items were stolen.
Knight has rejected repeated requests to speak to reporters, so the reason he dropped out of society about a year after high school remains a mystery.
The seven burglary and six theft charges go back as far as six years and cover two counties.
When Knight was first questioned by Maine State Police Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance, he told her he had not had contact with his family since the mid-1980s. He told her that was about the same time he had last bought anything. Everything he had – except for his eyeglasses – was stolen, he said.
He also showed police items he had stored in plastic totes in a different area in case he had to retreat from his main campsite, Perkins-Vance wrote in an affidavit filed in court.
When Knight was arrested, he was wearing jeans and a belt reported as stolen in the fall of 2012 by Lillie Cogswell of Rome.
Reached in Wimberley, Texas, after the hearing, Cogswell said she is concerned about where Knight will live.
“What’s to say he’s not going to walk out of jail and disappear again?” she said. “And how is he going to support himself?”
She said he could have learned some sort of trade in prison.
Homeowners in the Rome area said they had given up reporting break-ins to police. Some even left notes asking the burglar to leave a shopping list for them and leave their other belongings.
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