RICHFIELD — A man dubbed by police as the "Mountain Man" who has managed to avoid law enforcement for as many as seven years in Kane, Garfield and Iron counties is now believed to have moved into Beaver, Sevier and Piute counties.
Troy James Knapp, 44, is wanted by police for allegedly breaking into cabins in southern Utah, using up supplies and stealing firearms. They believe he is a survivalist who lives in rugged mountain areas and breaks into summer cabins when the owners are away.
In February, law enforcers were finally able to identify Knapp because of a photograph taken by a wildlife camera and fingerprints. He was subsequently charged and an arrest warrant was issued in Iron County's 6th District Court for aggravated burglary, a first degree felony; two counts of burglary and one count of possession or use of a firearm by a restricted person, third-degree felonies. Knapp is also accused of breaking into a cabin in Duck Creek, Kane County, in 2009, stealing clothing and food, according to court documents.
Investigators believe, however, that he may be responsible for more than two dozen cabin burglaries.
Those sightings of Knapp earlier this year prompted investigators to step up their efforts to find him.
Now, based on new photographs from hunters in addition to a dozen new cabin burglaries, police believe Knapp has recently been in the Seven Mile/UM Creek area near Fish Lake, according to Sevier County Sheriff Nathan Curtis.
"We're positive they're all linked to him," Curtis said.
Two weeks ago, a resident had a wildlife camera set up in the UM Creek area. The camera had captured several photos of wildlife, Curtis said. But when the camera owner went to check on it two weeks ago, all the wildlife pictures were deleted. Instead, there was a picture of man in camouflage carrying a large backpack, walking away from the camera, he said.
In addition, written in the dirt next to the camera was, "Pack up and leave, get off my mountain," Curtis said.
Similar messages have been found near cabins in Kane and Iron counties that Knapp is believed to have burglarized.
In June, a resident spotted a camp fire burning in a remote area in the woods during the no burn season, Curtis said. The resident went to explore, and found both Knapp and his campsite. He said Knapp was initially hesitant to talk until he realized the man was not a police officer, Curtis said. When the resident asked him what his name was, Knapp replied, "The Mountain."
Curtis said he has sent deputies into the wilderness and kept them there overnight and for up to a week at a time looking for Knapp.
"I can't tell you how much time we've spent on the mountain," he said.
Most of the cabins burglarized in Sevier County have been in the outlying areas, isolated from other residents, Curtis said. "He typically seeks out places where there's not a lot of people."
In one cabin, about 50 pounds worth of canned foods were stolen. Guns and binoculars have been taken from others.
The cabins in Sevier County believed to have been burglarized by Knapp have not been vandalized like some cabins in Iron and Kane counties. But Curtis said there have been signs of very odd behavior.
In one cabin, he said a DVR was set to record a program. Curtis said Knapp was believed to be responsible. "He does some odd things," he said.
Curtis believes a cabin burglary that happened in his county seven years ago can be traced to Knapp.
What makes Knapp so hard to catch, Curtis said, is that he's not tied to any vehicle or residence. Sevier County has been working with Kane and Iron counties and the U.S. Marshal's Service to find Knapp.
"It's like a needle in a haystack," he said.
Detectives believe Knapp is carrying at least one rifle and one handgun and strongly encourage citizens not to confront him. If possible, Curtis said, the public should take a photo and note the GPS coordinates of his location, and turn that information over to police.
Knapp is 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighs 160 pounds and has blue eyes and red hair typically cut very short. He had a goatee the last time he was spotted, according to law enforcers. Knapp is known to carry a backpack and dress in camouflage. He has tattoos on his neck, chest, both arms and the back of his left hand.
Anyone with information on Knapp can call their local sheriff's office.