April 12, 2013

Campsite items, theft victims reveal hermit's tastes, tactics

By AMY CALDER Morning Sentinel

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.

click image to enlarge

The North Pond Hermit’s campsite, in a remote stand of woods in Rome, was dismantled Thursday by law enforcement officials, who removed two pickup-truck loads of materials.

Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

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

Staff graphic by Sharon Wood

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They 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 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 was 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 at the Pine Tree Camp on North Pond as law enforcement officers dismantled the wilderness campsite they say Christopher T. Knight made his home for more than 20 years while committing more than 1,000 burglaries in central Maine.

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

Police deposited the items on the camp dining hall's 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 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 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 arrested Knight on April 4, saying Knight triggered a surveillance sensor as he tried 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, drawing 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 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.

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 lived 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.

'I KIND OF FELT BAD FOR HIM'

Before taking the hike Thursday, the Proulxs said they were eager to see whether any of their belongings were at the campsite.

"I want to see if he's got my frying pan," David Proulx said. "I want to see if the TV is mine, and he stole utensils and stuff."

As the group returned through the woods to be bused back to the Pine Tree Camp, law enforcement officials dismantled the encampment, hauling away two pickup-truck loads of items.

(Continued on page 2)

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