CONCORD, New Hampshire — A former hermit in New Hampshire who has been charged with trespassing on the wooded property he made his home for 27 years, and was ordered to leave, didn’t show up in court for his arraignment Monday, and a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
A prosecutor said the state has had no contact with David Lidstone on the misdemeanor charge. No lawyer was listed for him, and he did not respond to phone messages.
Lidstone, who was living in a shed on the property after his rustic cabin burned down last summer, told The Associated Press in an interview this year that he would have an attorney present.
Lidstone, 81 — known as “River Dave” — was arrested in December and released on his own recognizance after he returned to the site of his property dispute with a man in Vermont who sued him. It’s been going on since 2016.
The type of warrant issued Monday would arrest, and then release, a defendant for failing to appear in court, with the defendant promising to return to court during the next scheduled appearance.
In July, as a result of the lawsuit, Lidstone was jailed on a civil contempt sanction after being accused of squatting on the property along the Merrimack River in Canterbury. But while he was still in jail, his cabin burned down in August as it was being dismantled at the property owner’s request. The fire chief said the fire was accidental.
Lidstone was ordered to pick up his remaining possessions and leave. An outpouring of support followed, and he received more than $200,000 in donations. He didn’t think he could go back to being a hermit. But by December, he had turned the shed that survived the fire into a makeshift home, outfitted with a wood stove.
Lidstone is a logger by trade who chopped his firewood and grew his own food. The property, undeveloped and mostly used for timber harvests, has been owned by the same family since 1963. Lidstone had claimed that years ago, the current owner’s father gave his word — but nothing in writing — allowing him to live there. He also has disputed whether he’s on the property in the first place.
Lidstone was also given permission to hire a surveyor to give him “peace of mind,” a judge said. As of late January, Lidstone said he was unable to get someone to come out to survey the land, but he also wanted to challenge the judge’s decision.
“I’ve got to get a ruling on that,” he said. “Why should I put up the money to survey it if it’s not going to make any difference in court?”
Lidstone faces a contempt of court hearing at the end of March in the civil property dispute case.
Story by Kathy McCormack.