Monday, December 9, 2013
By Betty Adams firstname.lastname@example.org
AUGUSTA — Christopher T. Knight who has spent the past six months behind bars, is scheduled to plead guilty to theft and burglarly charges and be admitted to a special court program.
Knight, known as the North Pond Hermit, is scheduled to be admitted to the Co-Occurring Disorders Court at 1:30 p.m. that day in Kennebec County Superior Court. Knight’s attorney, Walter McKee, said Thursday that final details are still being worked out, but he hopes Knight can be released from jail then.
However, Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said Friday it could take months for Knight to go free.
Knight, 47, who grew up in Albion, told police in April he spent the past 27 years living a hermit-like existence in the Maine woods near North and East and Little North ponds, committing an estimated 1,000 burglaries, breaking into surrounding camps at night to steal everything he needed to survive.
He was dubbed the North Pond Hermit by seasonal camp owners who frequently found their larders depleted and their tools, batteries and propane disappearing. Occasionally, his image was captured by a game camera, but no one could identify him.
On Oct. 28, Knight is expected to plead guilty to indictments from Kennebec and Somerset counties charging him with seven burglaries and six thefts between July 14, 2008, and April 4 in Rome and Smithfield.
The largest thefts occurred at Pine Tree Camp in Rome, which hosts summer programs for disabled adults and children. Knight was arrested there April 4 as he left the camp dining hall, a backpack and duffel bag laden with foodstuffs. He also was charged with a March 13 burglary at the camp and another on April 26, 2012. The other charges involve private camps.
A guilty plea to the charges is required for admission to the special court.
District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said previously that under the court’s supervision, Knight will be able to get counseling for an alcohol problem. “Alcohol was stolen at several crime scenes and he has identified alcohol as something that was a part of his life,” Maloney said.
At the time of his arrest in April, employees of Pine Tree Camp said Knight would often steal certain types of beer, but not others. For example, he'd skip Bud Light and Miller Lite, but take Budweiser.
To get into the court, those accused of crimes must have either a documented substance abuse disorder and mental illness, according to a pamphlet on the court. McKee and Maloney agreed to send Knight to the court. Justice Nancy Mills presides over the court, which meets weekly in Kennebec County Superior Court.
Generally people spend at least a year in the program, and most take two years to complete it.
McKee said Thursday that Knight, as with others in program, will be told what the sentence will be if he successfully completes the program and if he does not. Most participants live locally and work in the community.
After Knight was arrested, he led officers to a well-camouflaged camp near North Pond, where they found propane tanks, sleeping bags, books, batteries, coolers, food, jewelry, a wallet, camping gear, medical supplies and alcohol.
Some of those items were reclaimed by their owners when Maine State Police invited residents to view what they found at the camp.
Maine State Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance and Maine Warden Service Sgt. Terry Hughes arrested Knight on April 4. The arrest, and Knight’s story of life in the woods, captured national and international attention, and provided fodder for at least one documentary.
He attracted sympathy as well as calls for him to make reparations to Pine Tree Camp.
Betty Adams — 621-5631