Utah men say booby traps on trail set for wildlife, not people

Investigation • Police skeptical, say devices placed near shelters used by humans.
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The two men who police say set two booby traps near a popular trail in Provo Canyon told authorities their intended targets were animals, not people.

"We don't buy that," Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said. "It's a shelter near a trail. It's built by people, used by people, and [the booby traps] were placed in entrances used by people."

Authorities say Benjamin Steven Rutkowski, 19, of Orem, and Kai Matthew Christensen, 21, of Provo, admitted that they placed two booby traps around a man-made shelter near Big Springs trailhead. A Forest Service officer was patrolling the area on April 16 when he noticed a trip wire near the fort-like shelter. He investigated and found the wire led to a device consisting of a large rock and sharpened sticks, held together by rope.

Nearby, a second trap was found. It appeared to be set so it would trip a person and possibly cause him or her to fall forward on sharpened sticks that had been placed in the ground.

"Any reasonable person would look at where they put the devices and recognize a human is the most likely victim of those," Cannon said. "We don't believe for a second [they were targeting wildlife.]"

Rutkowski and Christensen were booked last week into Utah County jail on suspicion of misdemeanor reckless endangerment. Cannon said formal charges have not been filed yet, but expects they will be filed within the next couple of days.


Twitter: @jm_miller