Authorities seek attempted homicide charges against 'mountain man'
Wednesday , April 03, 2013 - 4:02 PM
MANTI -- Authorities were pushing Wednesday for attempted aggravated homicide charges against a survivalist suspected of burglarizing dozens of remote Utah cabins where he stayed while eluding capture for six years.
The charges were being sought after 45-year-old Troy James Knapp fired at officers in a helicopter before surrendering on Tuesday in the snow-covered mountains outside of Ferron in central Utah, Sanpete County Sheriff Brian Nielson said.
Nobody was wounded, but firing at officers "is about as serious as you can get," Nielson said.
Knapp remained in custody, where Nielson said he was regaling detectives about his solitary travels and survival tactics.
"He really has a fascinating story to tell, and right now he's willing to tell it," Nielson said.
Knapp also could face multiple charges of burglary, theft and damaging property in the county.
County prosecutor Brody Keisel said he would submit probable cause documents in court on Wednesday showing why Knapp should be held until charges are officially filed.
Charges against Knapp already have been filed in at least three other Utah counties, but "he's going to get prosecuted here first," Keisel said.
The woodsman doesn't have an attorney. The county's public defender, Lawrence H. Hunt, said he could be assigned to represent Knapp when he makes his first appearance in court next week.
Authorities say the six-year search for the person who left cabins covered with threats and bullet holes ended Tuesday with what they called the surprisingly easy capture of Knapp outside a remote cabin.
"He was laughing with our guys. He said, `Boy, you really snuck up on me,'" said Sevier County Sheriff Nathan Curtis, part of a multi-agency team that tracked down Knapp by following his boot and snowshoe prints.
The self-styled "Mountain Man" looked sullen as he was walked into Sanpete County jail late Tuesday, already in jail garb from a quick stop at another lockup for a shower and change in clothes.
Authorities believe Knapp lingered around the snowy mountains outside Ferron - about 125 miles southeast of Salt Lake City - since last fall and took shelter at cabins in the middle of the Manti-LaSal National Forest.
Dozens of officers converged on snowmobiles and a snowcat early Tuesday after authorities got a Good Friday tip from a pair of hunters who had a chance encounter in the area with someone who introduced himself as a "mountain man," Curtis said.
Authorities from several counties spent the weekend planning the capture. A surveillance party led by Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk quietly approached Ferron Reservoir by snowshoe at 1 a.m. Tuesday.
"They could hear him chopping wood," Curtis said.
Nine hours later, with the help of the helicopter, they flushed the suspect out of a cabin where he was barricaded.
"He walked into a line of guys with guns and realized he was done," U.S. Forest Service Officer Scott Watson said. "We were so happy it turned out the way it did."
Knapp had been living off the comfort of cabins in winter and retreating to makeshift summer camps deep in the forest with stolen guns and supplies, detectives have said.
The motive for the break-ins has never been clear, but Knapp told authorities he didn't like being around people.
Records indicate Knapp fell off the radar in 2002 when he apparently left California in violation of his parole for a burglary conviction.
By 2007, southern Utah authorities began investigating a string of cabin burglaries they believed were tied to one person.
It wasn't until early 2012 that investigators identified Knapp as the suspect from cabin surveillance photos and videos.