An 81-year old man who has lived “off grid” in a remote New Hampshire cabin for nearly three decades has been arrested for “squatting on private property”.
But in a bitter twist, while the US Air Force veteran and father of four known as “River Dave” was behind bars and arguing that the landowner gave him verbal permission to live there, his cabin has burned down.
David Lidstone was jailed on a civil contempt charge because in the eyes of the law he had been squatting illegally for 27 years.
He lived alone in the small cabin, which was roofed with solar panels, cutting his own firewood, tending substance crops, and keeping chickens and other livestock.
Property owner Leonard Giles, 86, reportedly didn’t even know David was there until 2015.
A judge told David that he could be go free if he just agreed not to return to the cabin and lets the landowner demolish it.
"He holds the keys to the jailhouse in his hands," Judge Andrew Schulman said. 'He can open the door and leave whenever he'd like. All he has to do is agree to abide by the court's prior orders."
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The wood land has been owned by the same family since 1963. As it currently stands there are no plans to develop it.
David has a good deal of support among the community that use the Merrimack River. Jodie Gedeon, a keen kayaker that has come to see him as a friend, is organising a crowdfunder to help “river Dave” pay his property taxes: “I’m devastated,” she said when reporters told her about the destruction of David’s cabin.
“He’s just a really, really, big caring guy, and just chooses to live off the grid,” she told Penn Live.
“It really is about humanity, it really is about compassion, empathy … he’s not hurting anybody.”
David said in court that he didn’t blame Mr Giles: “He’s a heck of a nice old man, I’ve talked with him a couple of times. This is not his fault, this is not my fault,” he said.
“It’s lying, cheating corrupt judges like you that are stepping on little people like me. But I’m telling you, sir, you step on me, I’m going to bite your ankle.”
The New Hampshire state fire marshal’s office has been asked to investigate the cause of the fire at the cabin.
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