New bail set for Maine hermit on burglary charges

Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A judge approved new bail conditions Tuesday for a Maine man who lived as a hermit for 27 years, including restrictions on who can post his bail after he attracted a telephoned marriage proposal and a stranger's offer to bail him out.

Christopher Knight, 47, made his initial court appearance via video as Kennebec County Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills set his bail at $25,000 cash, but stipulated that it cannot come from a "third party" unknown to Knight. He's charged with stealing food, clothing and other essentials from lakeside camps during nearly three decades of next to no human interaction.

Authorities have said Knight may have been responsible for as many as 1,000 burglaries during his decades in seclusion, breaking into cottages for food, cooking gear, sleeping bags, tents and other goods to help him survive. Knight has not formally entered a plea but authorities said he's admitted to a handful of burglaries.

Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said that for now, Knight may be just as happy to make a home in jail.

"He's certainly not interested in remaining in jail for extended period of time, but at least for the time being it does enable him to have some protection from the outside world at this point," said Maloney.

Knight rejected an unsolicited jailhouse offer of bail by an unidentified out-of-state person when it was first set at $5,000, and received an offer from a woman to marry him. Officials later wanted to raise Knight's bail to $250,000, mainly to protect him.

Knight, appearing in a green, short-sleeve prison outfit, had little to say during the hearing, answering a series of questions from the judge with a simple "yes" or "no."

The bail conditions set Tuesday also stipulate he have regular contact with his attorney, not leave Maine and have no contact with the victims of burglaries for which he's accused so far.

Maloney said defense attorney Walter McKee plans to request a mental health evaluation for Knight. While she has not met personally with Knight, Maloney said he appears to be coping well in jail, saying "he is cooperating 100 percent, he's been a model prisoner in the jail and has not given anyone any problems at all."

McKee, contacted by email, declined to discuss the case beyond his comments during the hearing.

Maloney said prosecutors would review complaints from property owners who were burglarized before Knight was arrested April 4 while allegedly taking a backpack full of food from a camp for special-needs children in Rome.

"If it wasn't important enough to you to report it at the time, we're not taking those reports now," said Maloney. She estimated that complaints will be filed for a total of 15 to 20 burglaries. The statute of limitations allows charges to be brought only for offenses during the past six years, police said.

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