Sheriff’s deputies arrest Troy James Knapp, the so-called "Mountain Man", after finding him in a remote area of Sanpete County.
Sheriff's deputies arrest Troy James Knapp, the so-called "Mountain Man", after finding him in a remote area of Sanpete County. (Photo courtesy Emery County Sheriff's Office)

In the end, Troy Knapp's arrogance proved to be his downfall.

When a group of people looking for shed antlers on central Utah's Ferron Mountain saw the blond-bearded man last Friday, he boasted to them that they had encountered Utah's notorious and elusive "Mountain Man,' Emery County sheriff's officials said in a press release Tuesday.

The 45-year-old wilderness survivalist had eluded law enforcement for more than five years before surprising the group of 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 in central Utah.

By Monday, authorities had traced Knapp into Sanpete County, and quickly launched a plan to nab their dangerous fugitive.

On Tuesday, officers cornered Knapp about 10:10 a.m.

But he didn't surrender without a fight; Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins said Knapp fired at a Department of Public Safety helicopter hovering overhead.

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 multiple law enforcement 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.'

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 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. He was last spotted Oct. 7 in Sevier County.

Authorities feared that Knapp, who allegedly stole weapons from the cabins he burglarized, would prove dangerous if cornered. He had 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.'

Police also feared that Knapp might hurt residents if they accidentally encountered him.

"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.'

News of Knapp's arrest quickly spread among residents in the areas hardest 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 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 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.