Authorities ID mountain man suspect in burglaries

By Paul Foy

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 22 2012 9:44 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Authorities on Tuesday identified a man sought for more than five years in dozens of cabin burglaries in the mountains of southern Utah.

In a statement Tuesday evening, the Iron County Sheriff's Office said tips from the public and forensic evidence have linked Troy James Knapp to the crimes.

Authorities said an arrest warrant has been issued for his capture. The 44-year-old faces multiple counts of burglary and a weapons charge.

The identification of the serial cabin burglar, who has been considered armed and dangerous, was the result of "good old fashioned investigative work along with tips provided by the public," according to the statement.

It said the suspect had been "forensically linked" to the burglaries, but provided no further details.

But in court documents filed Jan. 27 in Kane County in southern Utah, authorities indicated they matched Knapp's fingerprints lifted from one cabin to records from a 2000 theft arrest in California.

Last week, Iron County Sheriff's Detective Jody Edwards said investigators hadn't made a definite identification but were getting close. However, charges against Knapp were filed in neighboring Kane County about three weeks ago, according to court records.

Edwards has been working the case since 2007. He didn't return a telephone call seeking comment on Tuesday evening.

"We believe Mr. Knapp is our guy," Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Michael Wingert told The Associated Press. "This guy is probably about as true a survivalist as Davy Crockett."

Knapp has eluded capture for more than five years and is suspected to be responsible for more than two dozen burglaries across a swath of mountains not far from Zion National Park. He's roamed 1,000 square miles of rugged wilderness where snow can pile 10 feet deep in winter.

Authorities have said Knapp has been breaking into remote cabins in winter, living in luxury off hot food, alcohol and coffee before stealing provisions and vanishing into the woods with guns and supplies.

"This suspect is known to be armed and could be possibly dangerous if cornered," the statement released Tuesday said.

Edwards had said last week that investigators were still scouring for clues. He indicated authorities were getting close to solving the case after they got the first pictures of the suspect from a motion-triggered surveillance camera outside a cabin. The photos taken sometime in December showed a sandy-haired man in camouflage on snowshoes, a rifle slung over his shoulder.

Last week, Edwards would only say "we're very close to making a positive ID on him. We just got to catch this guy."

Over the years, investigators have found the suspect's unattended summer camps, dozens of guns, high-end outdoor gear stolen from the homes and trash strewn around the forest floor.

While there have been no violent confrontations, detectives said he was a time bomb. Lately he has been leaving the cabins in disarray and riddled with bullets after defacing religious icons, and a recent note left behind in one cabin warned, "Get off my mountain."

In the Jan. 27 court filing, authorities said Knapp had left behind even more threatening notes aimed at law enforcement.

"Hey Sheriff ... Gonna put you in the ground!" read one note.

"He dropped off everybody's radar in 2003 and nobody has heard from him since," Wingert said. "He just dropped off the face of the earth."

Telephone messages left with Knapp family members in Moscow, Idaho, weren't returned Tuesday evening.

Over the years, theories about his identity had ranged from two separate men on the FBI's Most Wanted List to a castaway from the nearby compounds of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the polygamous sect run by jailed leader Warren Jeffs.

Cabin owners have been growing more frightened by the day and left wondering who might be sleeping in their beds this winter.

When alerted of the news Tuesday, cabin owner Bruce Stucki simply said, "Wow."

"That's wonderful that they know him," a relieved Stucki said. "Now they need to get him in custody."

Some cabins the suspect had left tidy and clean, while others he had practically destroyed, even defecating in a pan on the floor in one home.

Early on, investigators thought his unattended summer camps were left behind by "doomsday" believers preparing for some sort of apocalypse because of the remote locations and supplies like weapons, radios, batteries, dehydrated food and camping gear.

Authorities said the man's motives were unclear.

"He's fed up with civilization," Wingert speculated.

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