ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — Detectives searching for Harold “Butch” Knight, who has eluded police for eight months after the murder of his wife, say they are questioning Amish leaders in Maine about whether he is hiding among them.
Detectives were recently going through the evidence, again, when it jumped out — the Amish books they had found in Knight’s pole barn near Fennville.
“In talking to family members they told us Harold Knight, also known as Butch Knight, had a real interest in Amish lifestyles and in Amish communities and was an avid reader of that,” Allegan County Sheriff’s Detective Craig Gardiner said.
“I felt it was an important lead, something that maybe we could follow up on out in the Maine area,” Gardiner said.
Gardiner said he discovered three Amish communities in Maine, all within several hours of Rangeley, near the Canadian border, where Knight was last spotted in January.
The 67-year-old Knight was seen in Rangeley several days after his wife, Sara, was found dead in their Fennville-area home. She had been strangled.
“I think it would be a place that somebody could go and hide out,” Gardiner said of the Amish communities. “There’s not a lot of media attention, there’s not a lot of outsider input, so if somebody did want to disappear that would be a place they could possibly do it.”
At Gardiner’s request, Maine State Police showed wanted flyers to elders of the three Amish communities in Maine. So far, no sightings.
But he hasn’t heard back about a Mennonite community several hours away in Quebec.
He also hasn’t checked with Amish in Michigan.
“I haven’t gotten any information to show that he would have any reason to come back here,” Gardiner said.
Daniel Lambright is an Amish elder from a 14-family community near Bloomingdale, not far from Fennville. He said it’s not unheard of for an outsider to join an Amish community.
“That would not be any problem if, because of the love of Christ, you would want to join a Plain Christian community, we would not have any problem,” Lambright said. “The doors are as wide open here as they are in heaven.”
Based on their religion, the Amish avoid modern conveniences — no TV, no radio, or other electronic devices.
“The Plain churches there in Maine, they would not be aware of any photos of a man wanted,” Lambright said. “That would really help him out if he was doing that.”
But, Lambright said, Amish leaders would cooperate with police who suspected a new member was a fugitive.
“If you would ask any of those communities, ask an elder of any of those communities, if there was anything like that, I’m sure they’d be very glad to help you out.”
He said Knight hasn’t tried to blend in with his community.
“If somebody was around here like that, we would know it, I would know it,” he said.