In Southern Utah, a Hunted “Mountain Man” Stalks the Woods

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UPDATE, BELOW — SUSPECT NAMED.The Iron County Sheriff’s Department in southern Utah says it just wants to talk to the man in this security camera image. At least that’s the official word. More official words include “armed and dangerous,” ominous adjectives that are ascribed to an un-named suspect wanted in conjunction with break-ins in around the county that most of us know as home to Brian Head and Cedar Breaks and that has rural and cabin dwellers fearful.

That’s because the cops have found hand guns, abandoned camps, rifles, and loot stolen from vacation homes in the area, and the suspect is wanted in connection with more than 20 burglaries. And this case is now going on five years with the police tracing a trail that covers 1,000 square miles between Iron County and the Colorado border.

The more disturbing tells, what keeps the police awake at night, are the man’s recent actions, including leaving cabins riddled with bullets, and defacing religious icons in homes as well as leaving threatening notes. Greater fears include the possibility that he’s one of two men on the FBI’s Most Wanted List — one sought for the 2004 killing of an armored-truck guard in Phoenix, another for killing his wife and two children in Arizona. But those matches remain unlikely, since fingerprints lifted from cabins have yielded no match.

And if you happen to own a cabin in the area or like to hike deep into the Dixie National Forest? Be alert. Whoever the Mountain Man is, he knows how to survive. His summer camps, where he’s retreated far from the reach of the law, have often been found abandoned and stocked with guns. One camp was found with a copy of Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild.” And rumors persist that he’s neither of the FBI suspects, but rather a “lost boy,” a cast-out from the twin towns of Hildale or Colorado City on the Utah-Arizona border, both of which are home to polygamous sects that are known for evicting young males so there’s less competition for wives.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 22, 2012
Sheriffs in Kane and Iron counties, Utah, have identified the suspect as Troy James Knapp, 44, who was arrested for theft in California 12 years ago. Officials said earlier this week that they didn’t have a suspect, but in January Knapp was charged in Kane County with first-degree felony aggravated burglary, two counts of third-degree felony burglary, and one count of third-degree felony possession of a firearm by a restricted person. He was ID’d by fingerprints left on a window of a cabin.

“We believe Mr. Knapp is our guy,” Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Michael Wingert told The Associated Press. “This guy is probably about as true a survivalist as Davy Crockett.”

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