Authorities trace phone of mountain man's family

PAUL FOY
FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Iron County Sheriff's Office in January, shows a man who authorities on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 identified as Troy James Knapp, walking past a cabin in the remote southern Utah wildness near Zion National Park. Authorities say Knapp, captured by a motion-triggered surveillance camera sometime in December, has been linked to more than two dozen cabin burglaries over the past five years. (AP Photo/Iron County Sheriff, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Authorities are using a court order to determine if a serial cabin burglar in the southern Utah wilderness is using a cell phone to call his family.

The court order allows authorities to track calls made to and by a couple in their 60s — Bruce and Barbara Knapp of Moscow, Idaho, who are relatives of the Utah fugitive, 44-year-old Troy James Knapp. Messages left by The Associated Press with the couple and other family members in Michigan have not been returned.

Troy Knapp has been linked by surveillance cameras and fingerprints to cabin break-ins around Zion National Park, stretching back five or more years. An arrest warrant issued by Kane County authorities charges Knapp with three burglaries and a weapons charge.

The warrant says Knapp tried to disable one surveillance camera inside a cabin by removing the memory card, but the camera had internal memory that kept video images.

Knapp has a lengthy criminal record that includes assault with a dangerous weapon, Kane County prosecutor Robert Van Dyke said Wednesday.

Other surveillance photos taken outdoors that show Knapp with a rifle slung over his shoulder are proof for the charge of possession of a firearm by a restricted person, he said.

"He is not allowed to possess a weapon because of the prior felony conviction," Van Dyke said.

Utah authorities would not reveal details of the assault case, but Knapp has a known criminal record in Michigan and California.

As a teenager Knapp was convicted in Michigan of breaking and entering, passing bad checks and unlawful flight from authorities, a clerk for Kalamazoo County courts told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The Utah arrest warrant says Knapp was charged with theft in 2000 in California, but a clerk for Superior Court of California in Inyo County said the theft and other charges were dropped as Knapp pleaded guilty to burglary. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

Utah authorities are calling Knapp armed and "possibly dangerous if cornered." He is suspected in dozens of burglaries over the years, using remote cabins for sustenance and warmth during winter — "burning up all their firewood, eating all their food," Iron County Det. Jody Edwards has said.

In summer he escapes into the wilderness around Zion National Park with supplies traced back to cabins. Early on, investigators found unattended summer camps loaded up with guns, radios, batteries, dehydrated food and camping gear.

It took until January for authorities to match fingerprints lifted from cabins to records from Knapp's burglary conviction in California.

Now, they just have to catch him. Knapp remains somewhere in roughly 1,000 square miles of wilderness, a virtual ghost in the woods.

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

Knapp "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."

The Iron County sheriff's office on Wednesday posted mug shots of Knapp on its website Wednesday that were obtained from California. The sheriff's office announced late Tuesday that they had identified Knapp as their suspect — the first major break in the case.

"That's wonderful that they know him," cabin owner Bruce Stucki said late Tuesday. "Now they need to get him in custody."

Cabin owners say Knapp favors alcohol and coffee when he makes off with supplies. While there have been no violent confrontations, detectives have called him a time bomb. Over the years, he has left some cabins tidy and clean, while others he has practically destroyed, even defecating in a pan on the floor in one home.

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 a Jan. 27 court filing, Kane County 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.

From the beginning, the suspect's lore grew, leading to theories that he might have been two separate men on the FBI's Most Wanted List or possibly 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.

They now have a name, but the man remains in the mist.

"He's scaring the daylights out of cabin owners. Now everyone's packing guns," said Jud Hendrickson, a 62-year-old mortgage adviser from nearby St. George who keeps a trailer in the area. "We feel like we're being subject to terrorism by this guy."