AUGUSTA — For the second time this month, the man known as the North Pond Hermit has been indicted on burglary and theft charges.
A grand jury in Kennebec County on Thursday handed up six separate indictments against Christopher T. Knight, 47, formerly of Albion; each charges one count of burglary and five have an additional count of theft.
Earlier this month, Knight was indicted on one burglary and one theft charge by a grand jury in Somerset County.
The charges represent a small portion of the estimated 1,000 or more burglaries Knight told investigators he committed during a 27-year period in the woods in the area of North, East and Little North ponds.
The earliest burglary indictment in Kennebec County describes a burglary five years ago. The statute of limitations prevents prosecutors from going back farther.
Knight has spent the past four months behind bars in Kennebec County jail. He was arrested April 4 as he left the Pine Tree Camp dining hall in Rome, laden with food and tools.
That incident forms the basis of one of the burglary and theft charges; Pine Tree Camp also is listed as the site of two more burglary and theft charges, one on March 13 and one on April 26, 2012.
The other three indictments in Kennebec County name individual Rome homeowners as victims, and the offenses allegedly took place July 14-18, 2008; July 16, 2010, and Sept. 30–Oct. 8, 2012.
The items listed as stolen include food, household supplies, clothing and exterior lighting.
An indictment is not a determination of guilt, but it indicates that there is enough evidence to proceed with formal charges and a trial.
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 alcoholic beverages.
Some of those items were later reclaimed by their owners when Maine State Police invited residents to view what they had found in the camp.
The investigating officer in all but one of the indictments is Maine State Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance.
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.
District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, whose district covers both Kennebec and Somerset counties, said Thursday that while she expects the case to end via plea negotiations rather than a trial, the indictments are the next stop in the process.
“We needed either to indict him or release him,” she said shortly after the grand jury rose. “This enables the case to be set for a jury trial. I still don’t think we’re going to have a trial.”
Maloney said she anticipates that the indictments from both counties will be handled together in Kennebec County Superior Court.
Knight’s attorney, Walter McKee, took the news of the new indictments in stride.
“This is really no great surprise and changes little in the case,” McKee said Thursday via email. “A case like this takes time and the DA is under time pressure to bring an indictment. I am still confident we are going to resolve this case in short order.”
Maloney said she and McKee have continued to meet to try to agree on an appropriate sentence. She said she’s also had periodic phone calls and emails from burglary victims and that she will notify them if an agreement is reached.
“I have an understanding of what they’re looking for,” she said.
Three of the burglary charges are class B, which carry maximum prison terms of 10 years. The others are class C, carrying maximum prison terms of five years.
She also said some victims have requested restitution.
“We can’t really proceed on all the restitution requests,” she said. “Because of the 27-year time span, some of them are outside the statute of limitations. We can proceed on those within.”
Police investigated Knight’s story of living a hermit-like existence and concluded it was most likely true.
Knight apparently left his family home in Albion around 1986 and disappeared, going into the woods and avoiding contact with people.
When he was arrested, he told investigators the only thing he owned that he had not stolen were glasses he wore.
The break-ins in the Rome and Smithfield area occurred only at night, and drove some camp owners to set up game cameras to catch on film the thief they knew would arrive shortly after they opened camp for the season.
One camp owner framed a photo showing a ghostly, black-and-white image of a man leaning into the refrigerator.
Knight was captured after Hughes responded to a report of an alarm being triggered by a sensor at Pine Tree Camp. That camp was the object of numerous burglaries throughout the years.
A judge previously set bail for Knight at $25,000 cash, with a number of special conditions.
Betty Adams — 621-5631