Victims reclaim items allegedly stolen by North Pond Hermit

David Proulx of Waterville shows a Coleman cooler he retrieved from Maine State Police evidence on Saturday, May 4 in Skowhegan. The cooler was recovered from the campsite of Christopher Knight in April.
Alex Barber
David Proulx of Waterville shows a Coleman cooler he retrieved from Maine State Police evidence on Saturday, May 4 in Skowhegan. The cooler was recovered from the campsite of Christopher Knight in April.
By Alex Barber, BDN Staff
Posted May 04, 2013, at 3:01 p.m.

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — About 40 camp owners from the Little North Pond area discussed how the North Pond Hermit affected their lives for the past 27 years during a meeting with the district attorney on Saturday.

Kennebec and Somerset County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney met with the victims at Maine State Police Troop C barracks, where evidence was stored in the case of Christopher Knight, the man police say committed more than 1,000 burglaries while living in the woods in Rome for the past 27 years. Knight, known as the “North Pond Hermit,” was arrested early last month.

“According to the state trooper, they told me that he was breaking [into my property] an average of twice a year since 1990,” said David Proulx of Waterville. “That’s 46 times. I think it’s more than that. I’m usually the first one on the lake in the spring and the last to leave in the fall.”

Maloney said victims had to give specific details about items they believe Knight stole. Trooper Diane Vance then went into the storage room and returned the item or items to the victim. Sgt. Peter Michaud said most victims didn’t want their items back.

“We looked at stuff. There’s flashlights there,” said Gary Emmons of Richmond. “Even if I recognized it, I wouldn’t want any of that stuff.”

Proulx returned to his pickup truck with a blue cooler and a raincoat. The cooler was easy to identify as his as he had written his name on the lid in permanent marker.

“I’m glad that he got caught. I think he’s a guy who chose to live this way,” said Proulx. “He’s a thief and a burglar and he should be treated that way, no different than anybody else who gets caught.”

Police didn’t provide an itemized list of what was in evidence, but did allow viewing of the items. Knives, watches, flashlights, pots, pans, boots, backpacks, lots of clothes and other camping equipment were visible.

One man, who didn’t want to be identified, walked out with a thermometer and a knife and jokingly exclaimed that he would place the items on eBay.

Knight is still being held at Kennebec County Jail in Augusta. Trooper Vance said she talked with him on Tuesday.

“He’s doing well. He’s very well adjusted,” said Vance.

He’s been unable to answer why he chose to live in the woods, she said.

“He hasn’t had an answer for that. He doesn’t know why, but it’s just something he chose to do,” said Vance, adding that he was apologetic. “From the get go, he’s wanted to make amends. He’s very embarrassed and upset. He’s ashamed of what he’s done.”

For the victims, Knight’s arrest has come with a sense of closure. Proulx said victims not knowing who was breaking into their camps left many scared.

“There’s an elderly woman who lost her husband a few years back and she’s scared to death to be at the camp by herself,” said Proulx. “People don’t understand that some people are afraid of this guy. I didn’t like the idea of my wife being there alone. I had my grandkids up there. He created more [emotions] than just stealing stuff to live on. He stole stuff to survive, probably, but he put a lot of fear in [people]. I’ve changed my lock. I’ve changed windows. It’s cost me quite a bit of money over the years.”

Maloney said she gave victims an update on the case and what steps her office may take. She said it was important to hear from the victims before deciding her next move on the case.

“The purpose of the meeting today is to give victims an opportunity to tell me how everything has affected their life,” said Maloney. “It’s a policy in my office in a felony case where victims are involved or with any domestic violence case to never settle the case until the victims have had an opportunity to speak with our office. We always want to take what they would like to see into account.”

Maloney agreed with Proulx that some people were frightened by Knight’s actions.

“They didn’t know if it was safe for them to be there. Their children would feel like they didn’t want their parents to not be around,” she said. “They didn’t know if it was somebody who might harm them, or as it turns out, was not planning to harm them. But that uncertainty, I think, caused the most damage to people.”

Trooper Vance said many victims have were initially upset about the break-ins, but relented after learning about Knight’s story.

“Now that you have an end result here, I think some people are more at ease to find out what the situation was, but still, to have someone break into your house year after year to take your things, it makes you feel victimized and unsafe.”

Maloney praised Vance for her work on the case.

“She had to go back through years of police reports from both Kennebec County and Somerset County to match them up to what was happening with Mr. Knight. It’s extraordinary,” said Maloney. “She didn’t simply go back and attribute them all to him. She really tried to match up the evidence and make sure she was accurate every step of the way.”

Although the crimes may stretch back 27 years, Knight can only be charged with burglaries from the last six years and thefts from the last three years.

Until a mental health evaluation is performed on Knight, Maloney said she’s unable to determine the appropriate sentencing.

“Today was a very important day as far as hearing what the victims wanted and how it impacted them and where they were feeling about things,” she said. “We also need to get the restitution amount as to exactly how much damage was caused and how much was taken.”

Sgt. Michaud said other victims will still have the opportunity to reclaim their property. They can call the Troop C barracks from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday at 474-3350.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/05/04/news/mid-maine/victims-reclaim-items-allegedly-stolen-by-north-pond-hermit/ printed on April 24, 2014