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The infamous "mountain man" cabin burglar, who has eluded authorities for five years despite numerous photos and handwritten notes placing him at the scene of dozens of break-ins, has surfaced in footage from Sanpete County, a sign the armed survivalist may be moving north.
The Sanpete County Sheriff's Office said it obtained video of a man they believe to be Troy James Knapp, 45, captured by a night vision camera just before the man entered the property. The video was not released because it is considered part of an ongoing investigation.
Knapp's alleged criminal activity is cutting an ever-widening swath through Utah, despite what law officers say is a costly and time-consuming effort to apprehend him. He has been linked to cabin break-ins in Iron, Kane, Garfield, Piute, Beaver and Sevier counties, and has been profiled in media as far-ranging as London's Daily Mail.
One commenter posted this: "How long until this guy is killed in a shootout with the cops? He has embarrassed the heck out of them."
That kind of criticism stings Iron County Sheriff Mark Grow, who said Wednesday that he and his fellow county sheriffs are frustrated.
"We hear the public ridicule and we knew this would be the case when we went public" with Knapp's identity in February, Grow said. "That frustrates us that they don't have faith that we are taking this seriously and we are spending hundreds of man-hours trying to track him down."
Grow said the U.S. Marshal's Office has provided sheriffs with manpower and equipment in the hunt for Knapp, which has involved searching by plane and with dogs. "We've spent numerous hours in the mountains following up on leads, airtime following up on leads, at a great hit to my budget, not including the overtime."
Grow described Knapp as "a loner most of his life. He likes to be on his own, doesn't like to answer to society." His family in Moscow, Idaho, who Grow said have been cooperating in the investigation, and other people who know him say Knapp would likely try to avoid confrontation.
"Troy enjoys his freedom. Troy's not going to initiate anything that's going to take his freedom away," Grow said.
Still, he is known to carry a rifle and a pistol and is considered dangerous. According to court documents, Knapp was sent to prison on a burglary conviction in California in 2000 and was paroled in 2002.
In the most recent sighting, owners of the cabin on North Skyline Drive in Fairview Canyon gave footage to the sheriff's office after reporting the burglary on Oct. 1, the day it took place, according to Sanpete County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Zeeman. Sanpete County also suspects Knapp in another break-in at a cabin near Pine Creek about a week earlier. Zeeman said nothing seems to have been stolen from either cabin.
"I think he goes in and sees if there's anything he can use or take, and if not he moves on," Zeeman said.
Law officers from Iron and Sevier counties, where Knapp previously has been spotted, assisted Sanpete authorities in a futile 24-hour search for Knapp last Wednesday. The Department of Public Safety's helicopter also was used in the search.
Authorities in southwest Utah have officially tied Knapp to seven burglaries in Kane and Garfield counties through photographic evidence or fingerprints left behind at the scenes. Prosecutors in Kane and Garfield counties have warrants out for Knapp's arrest, charging him with multiple counts of burglary, aggravated burglary, theft and possession of a firearm by a restricted person.
Beyond the official charges, authorities also have tied Knapp to dozens more break-ins in Iron, Piute, Beaver and Sevier counties. The October break-in was the first time Knapp was spotted in Sanpete County.
Knapp often leaves behind campsites and caches of supplies, including items he's allegedly taken from cabins. And he doesn't seem concerned about leaving a trail. An affidavit filed in Kane County describes threatening notes found in some cabins directed to investigators that read: "Hey Sheriff, f- you! Gonna put you in the ground!"
Kathy Carle, whose Garfield County cabin burglary in September 2010 was linked to Knapp through fingerprint evidence, had nothing but praise for law enforcement.
"We actually feel pretty good about it," she said. "We are concerned [about the length of the investigation] but they're doing their best."
Grow said the public's help will be critical to finally apprehending Knapp.
"The public's going to help us bring this man in. We're not out there fishing, hunting and spending time in the backcountry," he said.
Police have said anyone who encounters Knapp should avoid confronting him and call 911.
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