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Yet Another Incident at Jerimoth Hill; Hikers Assaulted

September 30 2002 at 9:23 PM
Josh Spooner  (no login)

 
Folks:
Here's a link to an article in today's Providence Journal.

As a native Rhode Islander and a Highpointer, I'm embarrased by this, but I can't say I'm surprised. These incidents are going to continue to happen unless hikers either visit on the Open Access Dates or settle for the sign on RI 101. These landowners have made it clear that they don't want hikers on their property, and are willing to take some extreme steps to ensure that we know that we aren't welcome. My greatest fear is that someday, a hiker is going to fight back and is going to get seriously hurt or even shot.


http://www.projo.com/northwest/content/projo_20020930_fogun30.71b2b82d.html

**There is a free registration for the entire article.


Exerpts:

Pair learn tough lesson in climbing Jerimoth Hill
After a nighttime ascent of the state's highest point, two men from Alaska tell the police they were stopped at gunpoint by a property owner.

09/30/2002

BY NEIL SHEA
Journal Staff Writer


FOSTER -- Robert Thompson and Melvin Strauch thought it would be easy. Just park next to the highway and bushwack a few minutes through the woods to Rhode Island's highest point.


Between them, the friends have climbed hundreds of mountains all over the country, many of them in Alaska, their home state. So when they parked near the top of 812-foot Jerimoth Hill late Saturday night hoping to bag their ninth East Coast summit in as many days, they left their hiking boots in the car and started out in sandals.


After stumbling through the forest for nearly an hour, the pair finally emerged in a clearing and climbed the foot-high granite boulder that marks Jerimoth's summit. They snapped a picture and walked to Route 101. At their rental car, they high-fived each other.


Then two men lurched out of the bushes beside them. One had a shotgun, the other, a hunting rifle.


"They cocked their guns and pointed them at our heads," Thompson said. "They told us to get onto their property. [When we got there] [the older man] hit us with the gun barrel and made us lie in the dirt. He was yelling, 'I'm gonna [expletive] kill you guys.' "


Strauch, 42, who works at an REI store in Anchorage, tried to explain. But one of the men answered with blows. He hit Strauch and kicked him. Then he smashed Strauch's head with his gun butt. Thompson heard the thud and looked over. Strauch was bleeding.


We're going to die here, Thompson thought.


"We were determined," said Thompson, 39, who owns and operates an ejection chair thrill ride in Anchorage. "We needed to get [to] the summit."


"We told him we were just there to climb the hill," Thompson said. "We asked if it was OK to park there. He said his dad might get mad, but it was OK. So we went for the summit."


The elder Kelley and his son, William Jr., were waiting when they got back to their Mitsubishi, Thompson said.


With his face pressed into the dirt of Kelley's driveway, Thompson thought of his 6-month old daughter. He considered getting up and running away. But fear kept him glued to the ground. Both men said the elder Kelley kicked them a few times in the ribs and punched them in the head.


At some point, Strauch and Thompson remembered, the elder Kelley pointed the gun up above Strauch's head and fired a shot into the woods. " 'You ain't no climber!' " Thompson remembered Kelley shouting. " 'You've got sandals on. Where's your backpack?' "


He also yelled that the police were coming.


Kelley could not be reached for comment.


When the police asked the boy if he had given the climbers permission to cross the property, he denied it. Both boys said their father had never pointed his gun at the men. Thompson and Strauch said they never set foot on Kelley's property.


The police seized a shotgun from Kelley. Shaken by their experience, Thompson and Strauch decided not to press charges. They said they just wanted to leave Rhode Island.

 
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