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‘You Came With Your Guns, You Arrested Me’: Man Living In Woods For 27 Years Jailed For Squatting

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Harry Wilmerding Contributor
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A New Hampshire man faces eviction for illegally living in the woods on private property for almost three decades, the Associated Press reported.

David Lidstone, 81, was arrested June 15 for illegally squatting on private property in the New Hampshire woods along the Merrimack River, where he has lived in a cabin for 27 years, according to the Associated Press

“You came with your guys, you arrested me, brought me in here, you’ve got all my possessions. You keep ’em,” Lidstone told the judge during a hearing Wednesday, according to the AP. 

“I’ll sit here with your uniform on until I rot, sir,” he added. 

Lidstone, also known as River Dave by locals, had lived on the private Canterbury property in a cabin with solar panels for 27 years, the AP reported. He grew his own food, raised chickens and cats, and cut his own firewood.

River Dave claimed Leonard Giles, the owner of the property who intends to tear down the cabin, gave him his word to live there, but there is nothing formal in writing, the AP reported. Giles said he had no idea Lidstone was living there until town administrators found him in 2015. 

The administrators told Giles the cabin caused concerns “with regard to the solid and septic waste disposal and the potential zoning violations created by the structure,” the AP quoted from Giles’ 2016 complaint. (RELATED: Man Arrested For Complaining About The Weather)

Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Andrew Schulman didn’t believe Lidstone caused any harm, but acknowledged that the law was on Giles’ side, according to the AP. 

“You’re doing your own thing in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state, so there’s a lot of sympathy to you for that,” the judge told Lidstone. “But there’s a lot of weight on the other side of the balance sheet, and not just about what the (landowner) wants to do with the land, but the weight I feel to uphold the judgment to the court and rule of law.”

Friends of Lidstone offered their help to raise money and organize petitions, the AP reported.

“He’s just a really, really, big caring guy, and just chooses to live off the grid,” Lidstone’s friend Jodie Gedeon told the AP. “It really is about humanity, it really is about compassion, empathy…he’s not hurting anybody.”

Lidstone, who doesn’t have an attorney, said the structure is a hunting and fishing cabin, and argued that Giles didn’t own the property but was being pressured by the town, according to the AP. 

Lidstone, a former U.S. Air Force veteran and a father of four, may be released from prison if either the cabin is destroyed, he agrees to leave the property, or 30 days pass since he was first arrested, the AP reported.

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