From total freedom roaming the mountains and deserts to sitting in a cell in the Sanpete County jail, Troy James Knapp will be looking at life a little differently for a very long time.
Emery County Sheriff’s Detective Garrett Conover said in an interview Thursday that Knapp expressed he was growing weary of the harsh conditions in which he was trying to survive and might have been ready to turn himself in.
In the past, Knapp would vacate an area whenever he felt he had been spotted and authorities might be close. This time even after he had an encounter on March 29 with shed hunters and others the following two days, he stayed put. When multiple state and federal police agencies closed in on Knapp Tuesday morning he attempted to flee and fired shots at a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter on two occasions. Once detained, Knapp was relaxed and talkative.
Conover said Knapp was sorry if he had stolen anything that belonged to the deputies or their families. He also said deputies did a great job sneaking up on him because he had no idea they were outside the cabin waiting.
KnappвЂ™s apology shed light on his skewed moral view of his actions. He told authorities that he never stole anything from towns through which he walked in the state, only from cabins because they are second homes. He also stated that he never broke into small вЂњmom and popвЂќ cabins, just nicer cabins where he thought owners had the means to replace the items taken.
According to Conover, Knapp felt fairly confident he could stay near Ferron reservoir undetected because he knew gates had been locked by Forest Service personnel, limiting access to the area. He was found in a cabin in which he had also broke in to back on November 3, 2012. He had even shoveled the walk and deck.
In addition to clothing, food and weapons, alcohol was something Knapp searched for. Between fall and Tuesday, he told authorities he had ranged as far as Colorado, Moab, Green River and many places in between. Knapp said it wasn’t difficult to travel on foot 15 miles per day. Knapp ended up with frostbite from his desert wanderings this winter.
Conover said the key to finding Knapp was the chance encounter with shed hunters. The men were walking on the Dairy Trail, along a tight and narrow section with a mountain on one side and drop-off on the other, when they came upon Knapp. In the course of their ensuing conversation, Knapp told them he was the “Mountain Man,” but had no intentions of harming them. The men reported the incident to the Emery County SheriffвЂ™s Office. Sheriff Greg Funk immediately set out to track Knapp. The Emery County SheriffвЂ™s Office also notified U.S. Marshalls of the sighting.
Then on Saturday, March 30, a report of a break-in at the Reeder Subdivision at 1:25 p.m. in Joe’s Valley was linked to Knapp. Another burglary report was called in at 5:30 a.m. the following day. This time guns were reported stolen including a rifle. As Funk and his men tracked Knapp back to the Ferron Reservoir area, they notified the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office that Knapp was in their jurisdiction.
Conover said that Knapp knew how to make himself difficult to track. He walked just off trails to not leave tracks. He changed shoes and boots randomly to confuse his trackers as well. Funk, Conover and two officers from Adult Probation and Parole left on snowmobiles to continue their efforts during the 20-degree night.
Five officers from Sanpete County responded to the search as well as five additional officers from Emery County, seven from Iron County, seven from Sevier County, three from Beaver County, 12 Highway Patrolmen, a medic, a Forest Service Officer and U.S. Marshalls.
Just after midnight Tuesday morning, Funk and his team tracked Knapp to a cabin and spent the rest of the morning keeping him under surveillance. Knapp was apparently unaware of their presence and slept in until approximately 9 a.m. When he came outside to chop wood he spotted officers moving in and bolted inside. Knapp came back out with snowshoes and gear and fled.
Knapp saw Funk and another officer moving behind him in the trees and dropped to his knee and took aim with a weapon. Feeling in imminent danger, Funk fired his weapon at Knapp, but missed. Fortunately, Knapp then fled into the direction of encroaching officers and was apprehended without further incident.
Currently, Knapp faces 21 charges in four Utah counties. Emery County has yet to file any formal charges, said Conover. Conover also said additional charges, including attempted homicide charges on each of the officers or personnel in the Utah Department of Public Safety Helicopter at whom he shot, could be filed against Knapp.
Conover recognized the joint efforts of all involved and especially noted the hours that Funk put in over the Easter weekend to make the apprehension of Knapp come together.