US 'Mountain Man' goes to prison

2014-06-09 19:17
Detectives placing fugitive Troy James Knapp, into custody in the mountains outside of Ferron in central Utah. (Emery County Sheriff's Office, AP,File)

Detectives placing fugitive Troy James Knapp, into custody in the mountains outside of Ferron in central Utah. (Emery County Sheriff's Office, AP,File)

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Salt Lake City - He eluded police for more than six years, ransacking cabins across a wide swath of the western state of Utah as he trekked hundreds of kilometres alone on his snowshoes with a rifle slung over his shoulder.

If deals go through as expected, it will signal the end of what could be the final chapter in the mysterious story of an unknown California fugitive who became a sensation in Utah as he raided cabins, stealing guns, whiskey and supplies.

Authorities say Troy James Knapp, known by many as the "Mountain Man," spent winters holed up in snowbound cabins, sleeping in the owners' beds, eating their food and listening to their radio for updates about the manhunt. In summer he retreated deep into the woods with a doomsday supply of guns, dehydrated foods, radios, batteries and high-end camping gear.

Last year authorities finally caught Knapp, 46. He continued his solitary ways in court as he fired his defence attorney and defiantly told a judge he would represent himself against a host of state and federal burglary and theft charges.

On Monday, Troy James Knapp, known by many as the "Mountain Man," was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison. Knapp agreed to a plea deal on federal weapons charges that stem from him firing shots at agents during his capture in April 2013.

The plea deal is part of the final chapter in the mysterious story of an unknown California fugitive who became a sensation in Utah as he raided cabins, stealing guns, whiskey and supplies. Knapp will next go before a state judge where he's scheduled to take plea deals from seven Utah counties where he is charged with burglary-related crimes.

Back in 2007, southern Utah authorities began investigating a string of cabin burglaries in southern and central Utah they believed were tied to one person. It wasn't until early 2012 that they identified Knapp as the suspect from cabin surveillance photos and fingerprints lifted from a Jim Beam bottle.

In one photo, he was wearing camouflage, a rifle was slung over his shoulder and he had rose-coloured aluminum snowshoes on his feet.

Knapp's signature clues were rumpled bed sheets and an empty bottle of whisky, authorities said. Sometimes he left notes taunting authorities, including one that warned sheriffs that he was "gonna put you in the ground!" Other times, he left thank you notes.

"In one break-in, police say Knapp cooked some beans and left a note in the cabin log that said "Thanks for the hospitality, Troy James the red head."

40 crimes

After years of being unable to catch him, authorities finally closed in on Knapp around Easter 2013 by using some of his own tactics. After tracking him by snowshoes for three days, dozens of officers converged on him in snowmobiles, flushing him out of the cabin. He fired several shots at officers and a helicopter, and tried to flee on snowshoes before being caught.

Since his arrest, prosecutors have been eager to tamper down the notion that Knapp was some sort of folk hero by insisting Knapp is nothing more than a criminal living off others for years.

To finalise his plea deal, Knapp must go first before a federal judge who needs to approve parameters of a deal Knapp agreed to in April on federal weapons charges that stem from him firing shots at agents during his capture in April 2013.

From there, Knapp will go before a state judge where he's schedule to take plea deals from seven Utah counties, said Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel. Details of the plea deals are not being disclosed, but he's charged with more than 40 burglary-related crimes dating back to 2009.

Knapp was born in Saginaw, Michigan, and got into trouble with the law early. As a teenager, he was convicted of breaking and entering, passing bad checks and unlawful flight from authorities, according to court records. Knapp drifted across the US and ended up in prison in California for burglary. He fell off the radar in 2004 when he "went on the run" while on parole.

- AP

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