Maui woman is evicted from furnished lava tube

Her lawyer likens her to a modern Henry David Thoreau

The state has evicted a Maui woman from a lava tube she has lived in for the last three years.

Karen Mayfield has pleaded innocent to three misdemeanor charges for illegal camping, disturbing a geological feature and littering. Her trial is scheduled to start May 31.

Mayfield said she is not allowed to stay in the lava tube, an underground tunnel formed by molten rock, while her court case is pending.

"I really miss it out there," she said. "I really prefer living an alternate lifestyle where I can hear the wind blow and see the stars at night."

Earlier this week, her attorney argued that Mayfield had a right to privacy, even though the lava tube is on state land.

Defense attorney David Cain presented photos of the lava tube in the Ahiihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve. The cavelike dwelling had furnishings such as a table, bed with canopy and butane camping stove.

"Anywhere you live, you have some reasonable expectation of privacy," he said.

But Circuit Judge Joel August ruled Monday that officers with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources did not need a search warrant before entering the lava tube on Dec. 10.

"It is no different than a defendant who lives out on an open beach," he said. "It's still public land where everybody can go, including a law enforcement officer."

Mayfield said she has lived in condominiums and houses and held jobs during her 24 years in Hawaii, but "over the years I have gotten closer and closer to the land."

Outside the courtroom, Cain likened Mayfield to a modern-day John Muir or Henry David Thoreau.

"During their time, a lot of people said they were kooky, especially Thoreau, and now his writings are looked at in high school classes," Cain said.

Story adapted from the Associated Press, Friday, May 2005

Return to Reality Carnival!