The North Pond Hermit carried no identification when law enforcement officers stopped him April 4 as he left the Pine Tree Camp dining hall in Rome about 1 a.m., laden with food and tools.
The suspect, who police said later identified himself as Christopher T. Knight, 47, carried a standard Leatherman tool. His wallet contained $395 in bills, some of them old. In a backpack and a gym bag he had $425.38 worth of items belonging to the camp.
Those fresh details are among many contained in a new police affidavit filed by state police Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance when she later sought a judge’s approval for a search warrant to seize items from Knight’s encampment in the woods near North Pond. Knight is suspected of committing more than 1,000 camp burglaries during his nearly three decades of living in the central Maine woods, and his case has attracted worldwide media attention.
Knight initially refused to talk when he was caught, but hours later officers learned more about him, including his claim that he lived a hermitlike existence and had only one brief conversation in the 1990s with a passing hiker.
“I had to talk with the male subject for some time to convince him to provide me with his name,” Perkins-Vance wrote in the newly released court document. “The reason why he did not want to provide me with his name was because he was ashamed of his actions and did not want his name to appear in the paper.”
Meanwhile, one of Knight’s cousins, Kevin Nelson, of Pittston, said he remembered learning of Knight’s disappearance in the 1980s when he was at his grandparents, and he recalled his grandmother’s concern.
“She worried to death about him,” Nelson said. “She said no one’s seen Christopher; no one’s heard from him. Grammy really worried abut him tremendously over the years.”
A records check by police showed no criminal record for Knight, no warrants and no indication he was a missing person. It also showed he had a valid a driver’s license that had expired in December 1987.
Ultimately on the day of his arrest, Knight told Perkins-Vance he had no address and lived mostly in the woods: “He said that he did not have a vehicle, did not get mail, did not file a tax return and did not collect any kind of disability.”
He told police he left Albion some 27 years ago for the woods. He said he burglarized large and small camps to get everything he needed to survive, including his clothes. The only thing he had that was not stolen was the pair of eyeglasses he wore.
Knight said he had attended Lawrence High School in Fairfield and went to vocational school for computers.
“He did tell me he worked in this field for a year, and it wasn’t that he didn’t like it, but realized that computers were constantly changing,” Perkins-Vance wrote.
Knight didn’t want to talk about his family at all, and he told investigators — who had been seeking an elusive burglar for decades that he had been getting into camps since the 1980s — that he had no contact with his family after he left his Albion home around 1986. Police said Knight admitted to repeatedly burglarizing Pine Tree Camp, a nonprofit camp for children and adults with disabilities.
“I later learned that he did not even know the name of the town he lived in,” Perkins-Vance wrote, though he knew he was in the Belgrade Lakes area between three ponds — East Pond, North Pond and Little North Pond.
Knight at first denied he had a campsite, but later that morning he led officers to it.
The newly available court documents don’t shed any more light on why Knight decided to leave civilization in the first place.
He later told Perkins-Vance that he “read books as a child and liked reading about hermits.”
“He said nothing traumatic had occurred in his life to lead him to this lifestyle,” the officer wrote. “He told me that he could not come up with a definitive answer why he chose to live this way.”
The reading habit confirms what Nelson knew from Knight’s childhood. Nelson spent summers at his grandparents’ home in Albion. His grandmother, Doris Knight, was a sister to Christopher Knight’s mother, Joyce, and the sisters lived in adjacent homes.
“He was very quiet growing up,” Nelson said. “He stayed in his room, studied. Christopher kind of stuck to himself; all them boys had their own personalities.”
Nelson, who is five years older than Christopher Knight, was closer to Knight’s older brother Jonathan. Christopher Knight had four brothers — Jonathan, Joel, Danny and Timothy — as well as a sister, Susanna, according to a 2001 obituary for their father, Sheldon C. Knight.
“I think the brothers all sat down to eat meals, studied, did their chores,” Nelson said. “That was old school; everything was the way it should be now I think. We grew up with the minimum.”
Nelson said the boys had few snacks, so he and his late brother, Dana, used to bicycle over carrying a bag of snacks.
“They would lower a string from a bedroom window, and they’d raise a bag of snacks,” he said. “I don’t believe they ever had soda pop.”
Nelson said he was astonished to read about Knight’s sojourn in the woods.
Christopher Knight’s brothers and mother have chosen not to speak to the press about him yet, and a man seen at Joyce Knight’s house said she would not comment.
Perkins-Vance and District Attorney Maeghan Maloney have said they expected arrangements to be made for Knight’s mother to visit him at the Kennebec County jail, where he is being held in lieu of $25,000 bail.
Knight has been charged in Kennebec County Superior Court with two counts each of burglary and theft for the April 4 burglary at the camp as well as a burglary and theft in early October at a private camp in Rome.
The affidavit by Perkins-Vance refers to other camp break-ins, including several in which images of a burglar were caught on game cameras:
• three break-ins at Pine Tree camp on April 4, 2013, March 21, 2013, and April 26, 2012;
• an Aug. 27, 2012, break-in on Meadow Lane in Smithfield; and
• a July 16, 2010 burglary on McNulty Lane in Rome.
The break-ins occurred only at night. Knight told Perkins-Vance “he started breaking into camps when it was raining when he felt police were closing in on him.”
Perkins-Vance also noted she had a folder full of burglaries and thefts, but only one was within the statute of limitations and could be prosecuted. She said she would collect burglary reports from 2008 through 2013 in which Knight was a suspect.
Sheriff’s offices in Kennebec and Somerset counties as well as Maine State Police investigated those break-ins.
Knight’s attorney, Walter McKee, earlier this week set up a separate account for those who want to donate toward restitution owed by Knight.
The search warrant that Perkins-Vance obtained resulted in state police and game wardens taking a DNA sample from Knight as well as seizing 21 separately identified containers of materials from Knight’s camouflaged campsite over a two-hour period on April 11.
Items taken from the location of the tent included medical supplies, jewelry, a wallet, cooking supplies, clothes, boots, electronics, flashlights, a backpack, magazines, books, adult entertainment, food, tents, camping gear coolers, propane tanks, alcoholic beverages and “two metal barrels and totes with clothes and camping gear” taken from a site referred to as the “upper cache above the tent.”
Betty Adams — 621-5631