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Police nab long-sought Utah 'Mountain Man' survivalist suspected in cabin break-ins

A survivalist nicknamed “The Mountain Man” who for more than five years eluded officers tracking him in connection with numerous cabin break-ins, has been arrested, Utah authorities said.

Emery County Sheriff's Office via AP

Detectives John Barnett and Jerod Curtis take fugitive Troy James Knapp into custody Tuesday April 2, 2013, in mountains outside of Ferron in central Utah.

Iron County Sheriff’s officials said Troy James Knapp, 45, was taken into custody Tuesday morning near a reservoir in Sanpete County, central Utah, NBC station KSL TV reported.

Knapp is suspected of breaking into dozens of summer cabins during the winter — eating hot food, drinking alcohol and coffee – before stealing guns, high-end outdoor gear and other provisions, The Associated Press reported. He also allegedly riddled cabins with bullet holes, then vanished into the wilderness.

Knapp is thought to have roamed across 1,000 square miles of rugged territory where snow can pile up 10 feet.

In summer, he fled into the remote mountains of southern and central Utah in order to escape authorities.

Authorities said Knapp even taunted cabin owners and law enforcement officers by leaving threatening notes inside cabins he allegedly burglarized.

“Pack up and leave, get off my mountain,” one note read, KSL reported. "Hey Sheriff ... Gonna put you in the ground!" another note said, according to court records.

Knapp faces a total of 18 charges in Iron, Kane and Garfield counties, KSL reported.

AP file

In this undated photo provided by the Iron County Sheriff's Office in January, a man, thought to be Troy James Knapp, is seen walking past a cabin in the remote southern Utah wildness near Zion National Park.

Knapp’s identity was unknown for years, but in December 2011 a motion-triggered wildlife surveillance camera snapped what is believed to be him as he walked past a cabin in the southern Utah wilderness near Zion National Park.

The picture shows a man dressed head to toe in camouflage with a rifle strapped to his shoulder.

After the sighting, charges were filed in Iron County’s Fifth District Court and a warrant was issued for Knapp’s arrest.

Last October, some 40 officers from several different agencies searched a remote area of Sevier County where Knapp was seen but couldn't find him.

According to The Associated Press, which cited court records, Knapp left California in 2002 in violation of his parole for a burglary conviction. He had been charged with theft in 2000 in California, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison, the records state. 

As a teenager, Knapp was also convicted in Michigan of breaking and entering, passing bad checks and unlawful flight from authorities, according to court records in Kalamazoo County, the AP reported. An arrest for felony assault in Michigan was reduced in 1994 to a charge of malicious destruction of property after he agreed to plead guilty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.