MANTI — Troy Knapp, the so-called "Mountain Man," was not only elusive, but paranoid, according to law enforcement officials. And he also has a good memory.
Investigators know this information because they say Knapp has been very chatty since his arrest on Tuesday.
"He was real forthcoming in talking about where he had been, and what he was doing and why he was going around and basically, just justified why he was breaking into cabins," said Sevier County Sheriff Nathan Curtis.
"He said (cabin owners) had it, and he needed it. They had excess because they had these cabins and they were leaving these things behind in them and so it was obvious to him they didn't need them, so he took them."
After nearly seven years of allegedly breaking into summer cabins over much of central and southern Utah, the 45-year-old survivalist was
I was talking to some of my deputies who were among the first group on him, and (Knapp) was telling them, 'Good job, you got me,' They said he was an interesting person to talk to.
–Sevier County Sheriff Nathan Curtis
Officers had been working on an operation to corner Knapp after a father and son hunting for shed antlers spotted him on Friday. The final confrontation went down about 10 a.m. Tuesday. Police say Knapp fired multiple shots a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter, but no one was injured.
As deputies on the ground began to move in on Knapp, he pointed his rifle directly at Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk, said Curtis. Knapp did not fire, but Funk felt his life was in imminent danger and fired a shot himself. Knapp was not hit, and he started running off.
He tried to avoid one group of officers. But as his attention was diverted to those deputies, another group came up behind him. At that point, Curtis said, Knapp threw down his rifle and surrendered.
"I was talking to some of my deputies who were among the first group on him, and (Knapp) was telling them, 'Good job, you got me,'" Curtis said. "They said he was an interesting person to talk to."
In subsequent interviews with Knapp, they learned that he had a good memory of what he had been doing while on the run.
"He had a lot of detail. He could remember where he had been and which paths he had took to get into those cabins and where he was going, and that was really interesting," Curtis said Wednesday.
Investigators also learned that Knapp had very paranoid tendencies.
"What he told our officers is he would go to the door (after breaking into a cabin) and he'd keep listening. He'd get up every once in a while and go to the door and listen for engines," he said.
Cabin owners describe Knapp's alleged crimes
It was that paranoia, however, that possibly helped Knapp avoid being caught in Theresa Abrams' cabin last year. Abrams lives in North Las Vegas but has a cabin in Hatch, Garfield County. Authorities believe Knapp lived in her cabin for about five weeks in April and May of last year.
KANAB — Kane County Sheriff Lamont Smith said, from the very beginning, these cabin break-ins were different. That's what had him concerned, because it didn't appear like the person breaking into cabins was interested in valuable items.
Smith said his office first started getting reports of cabins being broken into about seven years ago. The cases were all pretty much the same: guns, food, and clothing stolen; but no TVs, stereos or computers.
"That's what made him so unique," Smith said. "We were dealing with a different type of an individual because he was taking survival stuff."
Investigators started mapping the cabins in Kane County and noticed a pattern. They were all near Navajo Lake and Duck Creek Village — along a ridge line in areas hard to access during the winter.
Then the "Mountain Man," as he became known, started moving.
"It's anywhere from here to Duck Creek, and then into Cedar City; and the he went into Beaver County and into Piute County, and then into Sevier and Sanpete (counties)," Smith explained, pointed each county out on a map.
Rick Hanna owns Mountain Man Realty in Duck Creek Village, which specializes in cabins. He noticed less people going to their cabins with the Mountain Man on the run, and after Troy Knapp's arrest Tuesday calls started flooding in.
"I've been besieged with phone calls," Hanna said. "(People are) asking, 'Is it true, Rick? Did they catch him?' Yes, the caught him. It's great news."
"I think all of us sheriffs are the same way. I know we're going to have to wait our turn, but there are a lot of questions I'm sure my detectives have for (Knapp)," Smith said.
According to Smith, there are some positives that came from this case — mainly that cabin owners are now getting to know each other so they can look out for each other. Neighbors getting to know neighbors ultimately reduces crime, he said.
"Food was stolen, clothes were stolen, the fingerprints were his all over everything — coffee mugs, dishes, plates. He wrote all over books we had, he had pulled out music we hadn't listened to in years and put it in the CD player. He had been watching TV, he had been sleeping on our bed. He pulled an old heater out from downstairs and placed it upstairs where he ate his dinners at the dining room table," she said.
Abrams said she and her husband arrived at their cabin late one night, found food was out and the back door open.
"We apparently walked in on him and scared him off that particular night, and that's when the sheriff came up the next day," she said.
The intruder got into Abrams' cabin by breaking a small hole in a window and unlocking the latch, she said. The book he wrote in was Rush Limbaugh's "I Told You So."
"Obviously the guy didn't like Rush Limbaugh because he drew pictures on Rush Limbaugh and wrote things like, 'I'm a scumbag,' 'I'm a dirt bag,' things like that, stupid 6-year-old humor," Abrams said.
Abrams said she and her husband were never afraid of going to their cabin. She half-jokingly said they were just angry that they weren't the ones who caught him.
Other cabin owners, like Oscar Hulet, admitted they had been a little more on edge.
"Knowing that he had looked though every door, every closet. … The ladies didn't want to go to the cabin without a handgun," he said.
Curtis spoke with one cabin owner in the Duck Creek area who was very nervous while Knapp was still on the run.
"He said, 'I didn't feel like I could go out on my porch at night because he might be watching me through his rifle scope.' I told him I didn't think he would come to your cabin if you were there, he'd avoid you. He said it didn't matter. It was knowing that he was out there and had been in the cabins near mine that made him nervous," the sheriff said.
In some cabins, Knapp actually put dishes away after using them. In other places, he ransacked the cabins, according to Curtis.
Ron Bartholomew, who owns a cabin in the area where Knapp was arrested, was particularly surprised Tuesday when he saw photos of deputies arresting the man.
"It's our cabin he's been into, because he's got my jacket on," he said, adding that he was anxious to check on the condition of the cabin and see if anything else had been taken.
Curtis estimated Knapp broke into 15 to 18 cabins in Sevier County alone. In Garfield County, he is suspected in as many as 30 break-ins with dozens more in Iron, Kane, Sanpete and Emery counties. Curtis said Knapp told his investigators he had broken into many more than they were aware of.
"He said. 'If you bring my maps in, I'll show you where things are and where I've been. He actually had maps of the state of where he'd been," the sheriff said.
Knapp also kept an AM radio with him that he used to try and keep track of what law enforcement officials were saying about him.
Kane County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Tracy Glover said once Knapp's identity was discovered about a year ago, it was clear that Knapp left the Kane County area.
"He got quite a bit of pressure once we figured out his identity down in our area," he said. "We think he left here about a year ago and started moving north. We could kind of follow him through Beaver County and Piute County into Sevier County."
Investigators also believe there are many undiscovered remote campsites where Knapp lived during the summers. Curtis expects there may be "lots" of weapons at these campsites. Knapp told deputies he would point out on a map where the campsites are located.
Knapp was being held Wednesday in the Sanpete County Jail. He is currently facing 18 criminal charges in Iron, Kane and Garfield counties. He is also expected to charged with additional crimes for events that happened Tuesday. Charges could be filed in Sanpete County as well as possible federal charges for allegedly stealing firearms.