SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Authorities captured an elusive survivalist on Tuesday who is suspected of burglarizing Utah cabins and leaving some covered with threats and bullet holes — ending a saga that began six years ago and drew in police and residents around the state.
Troy James Knapp, 45, dubbed the "Mountain Man" by cabin owners, was taken into custody in mountains outside of Ferron in central Utah after evading authorities for more than five years, the Sanpete County Sheriff's Office said.
The area is about 180 miles north of the site where detectives believed Knapp was a year ago.
Authorities have said Knapp was armed and dangerous when he broke into dozens of mountain cabins across remote southern Utah. They said he has been photographed by motion-triggered camera on snowshoes with a stolen rifle slung over his shoulder.
Knapp has been living off the comfort of those cabins in winter then retreating to makeshift summer camps deep in the forest with stolen guns and supplies, detectives have said.
The manhunt escalated in the spring of 2012 as the summer tourist season approached. Detectives suspected Knapp was roaming the mountains around Zion National Park, following rivers, using pay phones, and even riding park shuttle buses to stock up on food in a nearby town.
Zion rangers were alerted and distributed posters warning cabin owners to be on the lookout.
Authorities say Knapp's motives have never been clear but speculated that he was fed up with civilization.
The last known sighting of Knapp was Oct. 1 by a surveillance camera in Sanpete County. Iron, Kane and Garfield counties have all issued arrest warrants for him on burglary and weapons charges.
Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower told The Spectrum of St. George that the arrest involved several agencies.
"I'm excited as hell," Gower said. "We're absolutely stoked about this. It's been a long time coming."
While there have been no violent confrontations with Knapp, authorities had feared he was a ticking time bomb.
He is suspected of leaving some cabins riddled with bullet holes, defacing religious icons and writing taunting notes.
"Hey Sheriff ... Gonna put you in the ground!" he wrote in one note, according to court records.
Records indicate Knapp fell off the radar in 2002 when he apparently left California in violation of his parole for a burglary conviction. He had been charged with theft in 2000 in California, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison, according to records.
Authorities lost track off Knapp around 2003.
"He just dropped off the face of the Earth," Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Michael Wingert told The Associated Press in February 2012.
In 2007, southern Utah authorities began investigating a string of cabin burglaries they believed were tied to one person. Over the years, detectives found unattended summer camps stocked with dozens of guns and stolen, high-end outdoor gear.
It wasn't until early 2012 that investigators identified Knapp as the suspect from cabin surveillance photos and videos. Wingert compared his skills as a survivalist to Davy Crockett.
As a teenager, Knapp was convicted in Michigan of breaking and entering, passing bad checks and unlawful flight from authorities, according to court records in Kalamazoo County.
His most serious arrest for felony assault in Michigan was reduced in 1994 to a charge of malicious destruction of property after he agreed to plead guilty.