RICHFIELD — Law enforcers say the "Mountain Man" has been spotted again.
The fugitive, 44-year-old Troy James Knapp, who just two weeks ago was believed to have traveled north into Sanpete County, is now believed have backtracked into Sevier County again.
A hunter in a remote area of Sevier County was spotting game with his binoculars on Oct. 7 when he saw a man crouched next to a campfire, said Sevier County Sheriff Nathan Curtis.
"The guy is dressed in camo, has a big rifle on, a backpack, but he wasn't wearing any hunter's orange. So that kinda stood out to this guy, 'Why wasn't isn't this guy wearing any orange?'" Curtis said. "He didn't notice a campsite or anything. He noticed the guy was crouched there and had a little camp fire. And he was able to see well enough through his binoculars that he had a tattoo on his neck. And then when he got home he was watching the news and said, 'That's the guy I saw.'"
Law enforcers responded by putting together a large team and going into the Acords Lake area, where there are nearly 280 cabins, and looking for Knapp.
Last week, Curtis said more than 40 officers from Sevier, Sanpete, Iron and Box Elder County sheriff's offices as well as the Joint Criminal Apprehension Team went to the area to search. They found a couple of cabins that investigators believed Knapp had broken into. But they did not find him.
"We hit every one of those cabins," Curtis said.
The unsuccessful search is the latest effort to find Knapp, a survivalist who is believed to have broken into dozens of cabins in southern and central Utah for at least seven years. He is also believed to be responsible for leaving messages for the public and law enforcers, such as, "Pack up and leave, get off my mountain."
After photographic evidence emerged, Knapp was charged earlier this year 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.
He is believed to have spent most of the past summer in the Fish Lake area of Sevier County.
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, is known to carry a backpack, a rifle over his shoulder, and dresses in camouflage. He has tattoos on his neck, chest, both arms and the back of his left hand.
With winter quickly approaching, Curtis wasn't sure if Knapp might attempt to flee back to southern Utah or find a vacant summer cabin to hide in for the winter. He credited the recent media attention on Knapp for helping police put pressure on him.
The problem, he said, is that Knapp is good at traveling great distances on foot over rugged terrain in a short amount of time.
"Fifteen miles a day for him is nothing," Curtis said.
The sheriff encouraged cabin owners to check their properties regularly and not to leave weapons inside when they leave, noting that whatever Knapp finds, he'll use.
"If he breaks into the cabin, he's going to use something — use your bed, use your food, use your clothing — he's going to use something," Curtis said.4 comments on this story
He also encouraged all cabin owners, hunters and recreationists to report possible sightings immediately. Delaying just a day could mean a big difference in locating Knapp.
"Two days behind that could put us 20-30 miles away," he said.
Curtis said officers are ready to go immediately whenever they get a report.
Investigators 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.