April 13, 2013

For victims of the North Pond Hermit, anger mixes with sympathy

Camp owners say the most valuable thing that the suspected burglar stole was their privacy.

By BETTY ADAMS Kennebec Journal

(Continued from page 2)

click image to enlarge

Coffee cups, lights and a clock hang under a tarp in Christopher Knight’s camp in a remote, wooded section of Rome where he is thought to have lived since the 1990s. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, committed hundreds of burglaries.

Andy Malloy/Kennebec Journal

click image to enlarge

An intruder believed to be Christopher T. Knight inspects a refrigerator in a Rome-area camp.

Photo courtesy Debbie Baker

Apparently the hermit shopped for clothing the same way he shopped for food.

Chuck Sullivan of Pascoag, R.I., and Rome, said he recognized clothing in photos of Knight's encampment published by the Kennebec Journal on Tuesday.

"I saw my black sweatpants that he took from me a long, long time ago, hanging from the clothesline."

Now that a suspect is in hand, Sullivan will be happier this summer.

"I will actually have a feeling like I've just gotten out of the shower, like washing grime off my body," he said.

Men's underwear disappeared from the Smithfield camp on North Pond belonging to Laureen House of Mansfield, Mass.

"We bought the family camp in 1999," she said. She said the family thought at first that guests had used items and didn't replace them.

Then she realized they were stolen. "We kind of changed the way we did things," she said.

ANGER, THEN SYMPATHY

House is a little sad at seeing the end of the hermit legend.

"I am looking forward to a sense of peace, knowing that he's not there, now he's been caught," she said. "It was very rare that I would go without my husband. There was always a fear he would not know we were there alone with children."

House said she was astonished at one North Pond homeowners' meeting when she realized almost all of the 100 camp owners in the room were burglary victims.

"That was the scariest point," she said.

One year House, like many other camp owners, left the thief a note: " 'Sorry the store has closed for the season. Please leave a list of supplies you need and we will be sure to stock up for next season.' If anything, it was a little laugh for us," House said.

Jeff Routhouska of Dover, N.H., president of the Little North Pond Road Association, said the hermit burglar's trademark was a lack of damage. "You could tell if somebody broke in that wasn't him," he said.

Andrew McDougle of Hope-dale, Mass., said his 20-year-old son might have encountered Knight.

"Just last summer my son was asleep in our camp when the hermit entered the camp and came up the stairs with a flashlight at 2 a.m. Can you imagine how scary that must have been?"

Frank Luongo of Rehoboth, Mass., who has had a camp on Little North Pond since 2001, said food and other items disappeared on their own.

"It was nothing like you would lose your mind over, but you'd feel a little exposed because someone was inside your house maybe three times," he said.

Eventually he set up alarms at the camp, so the thief turned to the garage.

"All batteries out of my snowmobiles were gone," Luongo said, "and two brand-new propane tanks full. I had just bought the damn things; they were my spares."

Debbie Baker of Norridgewock bought a camp on North Pond in Mercer in 1993 and lost bags of groceries to a burglar beginning that year. "It was frustrating to spend all that money to have food there and then get there and have none," she said.

She started tracking the movements of the "hungry man," a description that didn't frighten her sons.

He came before Memorial Day and after Labor Day, and only on overcast nights.

"Over the years he would just take whatever food he wanted, sleeping bags, books, cough drops. That was bizarre, because he took them right out of my bedroom. He left stuff, too."

By 2002, the family had had enough, and Maine State Trooper Jeffrey Love installed a camera in the camp, which Baker checked daily. On June 6, 2002, she struck paydirt.

The video showed an intruder looking into her refrigerator, a tiny flashlight in his mouth. The intruder was not identifiable, however, so the hunt went on.

Baker framed a photo from the video and hung it in camp.

"Now I feel sorry for him, because I was angry at him for years," she said. "I hope he gets the help he needs."

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

badams@centralmaine.com

 

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