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Utah ‘Mountain Man’ set to take plea deals

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — He eluded police for more than six years, ransacking cabins across a wide swath of Utah as he trekked hundreds of miles alone on his snowshoes with a rifle slung over his shoulder.

After authorities caught him last year, he continued his solitary ways in court as he fired his defense attorney and defiantly told a judge he would represent himself against a host of state and federal burglary and theft charges.

But on Monday in a courtroom in St. George, Troy James Knapp, known by many as the “Mountain Man,” is set to finally face justice by agreeing to a package of plea deals that will bring an end his court case, and start the clock on a prison sentence expected to be at least 10 years.

Knapp, 46, will go first before a federal judge who must approve parameters of a deal Knapp agreed to in April on federal weapons charges that stem from him firing shots at agents during his capture in April 2013.

From there, Knapp will go before a state judge where he’s schedule to take plea deals from seven Utah counties, said Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel. Details of the plea deals are not being disclosed, but he’s charged with more than 40 burglary-related crimes dating back to 2009.

Knapp is set to take individual plea deals for each county, but prosecutors in the seven counties have been working together to make sure everybody is on board with the package of deals, Keisel said.

He’s charged in Beaver, Emery, Garfield, Iron, Kane, Sanpete and Sevier counties.

If deals go through as expected, it will signal the end of what could be the final chapter in the mysterious story of an unknown California fugitive who became a sensation in Utah as he raided cabins, stealing guns, whiskey and supplies.

Knapp was born in Saginaw, Michigan, and got into trouble with the law early. As a teenager, he was convicted of breaking and entering, passing bad checks and unlawful flight from authorities, according to court records. Knapp drifted across the country and ended up in prison in California for burglary. He fell off the radar in 2004 when he “went on the run” while on parole.

In 2007, southern Utah authorities began investigating a string of cabin burglaries in southern and central Utah they believed were tied to one person. It wasn’t until early 2012 that they identified Knapp as the suspect from cabin surveillance photos and fingerprints lifted from a Jim Beam bottle one cabin.

In one photo, he was wearing camouflage, a rifle was slung over his shoulder and he had purple-colored aluminum snowshoes on his feet.

Authorities say Knapp spent winters holed up in snowbound cabins, sleeping in the owners’ beds, eating their food and listening to their AM radio for updates about the manhunt. In summer he retreated deep into the woods with a doomsday supply of guns, dehydrated foods, radios, batteries and high-end camping gear.

Knapp’s signature clues were rumpled bed sheets and an empty bottle of whisky, authorities said. Sometimes he left notes taunting authorities, including one that warned a sheriffs that he was “gonna put you in the ground!” Other times, he left thank you notes. In one break-in in Garfield County, police say Knapp cooked some beans and left a note in the cabin log that said “Thanks for the hospitality, Troy James the red head.”

After years of being unable to catch him, authorities finally closed in Knapp around Easter 2013 by using some of his own tactics. After tracking him by snowshoes for three days, dozens of officers converged on him in snowmobiles and a snowcat, flushing him out of the cabin. He fired several shots at officers and a helicopter, and tried to flee on snowshoes before being caught.

Since his arrest, prosecutors have been eager to tamper down the notion that Knapp was some sort of folk hero by insisting Knapp is nothing more than a criminal living off others for years.

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Follow Brady McCombs at https://twitter.com/BradyMcCombs

Associated Press

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