Manti • In the end, the long-elusive loner known as Utah's "Mountain Man" proved a very talkative fellow.
When a group of people looking for shed antlers on central Utah's Ferron Mountain saw the bearded man Friday, he told them he was a "Mountain Man," Emery County Sheriff's officials said in a press release Tuesday.
It turned out Knapp wasn't exaggerating his identity.
The 45-year-old wilderness survivalist, charged with burglarizing multiple cabins in several Utah counties, had eluded law enforcement for more than five years before revealing his identity, perhaps inadvertently, to the antler hunters, who reported the sighting to police.
From there, Emery County deputies followed his tracks for several days discovering at least two new cabin burglaries along the way until Knapp wandered into the Ferron Reservoir area of Sanpete County.
By Monday, authorities had traced Knapp to the remote, snow-covered area near 9,000 feet elevation, and quickly launched a plan to nab a fugitive they considered dangerous.
When helicopters arrived about 10:10 a.m. Tuesday, pilots spotted Knapp outside Ron Bartholomew's cabin chopping wood. Knapp fired at one of the helicopters hoping to drive away police, said Sevier County Sheriff Nathan Curtis.
Then he took off running down the mountain until he ran into a group of police. Then he ran back up the mountain and into a second group and realized he was surrounded, Curtis said.
Knapp then pointed his weapon at Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk, who fired at him, Curtis said.
Only then did Knapp, who was uninjured, throw down his rifle, ending a years-long manhunt.
Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins said he's relieved and delighted that the man believed responsible for 20 to 30 burglaries in his county since 2005 is in custody thanks to the combined efforts of 40 officers from 12 public agencies.
"We've been worried about what Mr. Knapp is capable of doing," Perkins said. "It's a public safety issue. It's a relief that he's in custody."
Living life off the grid • Curtis said Knapp has been very talkative since his arrest.
He told investigators that he doesn't hate people he just doesn't like living with them so he chose to live alone in the mountains.
He ate pizza with the officers who apprehended him and laughed with them.
"'Boy you really snuck up on me,'" Curtis said Knapp told them.
Curtis said Knapp appears to be fit and healthy, having only walked or snowshoed the hundreds of miles of Utah's wilderness he's traversed over the years. Police found Knapp was traveling with multiple maps of the area.
Bartholomew, the cabin owner, was not at the residence at the time and saw television coverage of Knapp's arrest. He went to the sheriff's office to double check that was his cabin where Knapp was captured and his green jacket Knapp was wearing.
While there, investigators told him both the jacket and Knapp stunk. Batholomew decided to let Knapp keep the jacket.
Curtis said Knapp's memory is impressive he remembers everywhere he's been and why he was there. But he told investigators they don't know about all the burglaries, Curtis said.
Knapp was wanted in three counties in southwestern Utah for 13 felonies and five misdemeanors. Court records in Iron, Kane and Garfield counties accuse Knapp of a series of cabin burglaries dating back to at least 2009. Authorities in Iron County also have tied him to burglaries from as far back as 2007. Since then, Knapp has moved as far north as Sanpete County, where he was tied to two burglaries.
Authorities feared that Knapp, who allegedly stole weapons from the cabins he burglarized, would prove dangerous if cornered.
"I would hope that somebody uses really good judgment when setting bail," Perkins said. "Because if he gets out, we might not catch him again before somebody gets hurt or killed or something [else] horrible."
He allegedly left notes at some locations that included statements such as: "Hey Sheriff, [expletive] You" and "p.s. Hey Sheriff, [expletive] You! Gonna put you in the ground."
Knapp was caught with an SKS rifle and a .357-caliber pistol. The pistol is believed to have been stolen during a Sevier County burglary.
Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel said he plans to file additional charges against Knapp for firing on law enforcement but that Knapp likely won't appear in court until next week.
News of Knapp's arrest quickly spread among residents in the areas hit by the suspect over the years.
Larry Hughes, president of the Mammoth Creek Homeowners Association in Duck Creek, said two cabin burglaries there had been attributed to Knapp.
"We did have a bunch of break-ins a couple years ago and most of the stuff taken was survival stuff, you know like coffee and sugar and food. No money was taken. And if he stayed in the cabins, he didn't damage them," Hughes said. "The police also found several campsites where they found weapons stashed. Most of those cabins, though, were more remote than ours, like up around Navajo Lake."
Knapp has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 1985 when he was charged with breaking and entering and receiving stolen property in Kalamazoo County, Mich. In 1994, he was charged in Salt Lake County with disturbing the peace, and in 1996 he was charged in Seattle Municipal Court with harassment. Each charge was later dismissed. According to court documents, Knapp was sent to prison on a burglary conviction in California in 2000 and was paroled in 2002.
In recent years, Knapp has steadily moved north through the back country wilderness, leaving behind makeshift camps and caches of food and weapons. There were periodic sightings, and some cabins equipped with surveillance cameras captured images of him. But every reported sighting inevitably ended with Knapp avoiding capture.
Tribune reporter Bob Mims contributed to this story.
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