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'Mountain man' set to take plea deal

By Paul Foy, Associated Press | Posted - Sep 18th, 2013 @ 10:29am

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The wilderness fugitive accused of burglarizing remote cabins across a wide area of Utah is set to make his first plea from one of the six counties that have stacked charges against him.

The deal for Troy James Knapp is not a certainty. The 46-year-old has been known to change his mind often. He recently fired his attorneys and he was preparing to fight charges himself at a preliminary hearing Oct. 2.

Instead, Knapp agreed to show up at an arraignment on Wednesday, but the arraignment was later canceled, prosecutor Brody Keisel told The Associated Press.

Keisel said no deal is final until the self-styled Mountain Man accepts it in court. Knapp was recently borrowing law books from the county prosecutor to mount an implausible defense. He planned to argue that the remote cabins were left unoccupied for so much of the year, they couldn't qualify as dwellings that brought felony charges.

Knapp has told detectives he spent years wandering the wilderness alone and ransacking remote Utah cabins for guns, supplies and whisky. In winter, he holed up inside cabins, stoking fires, consuming all the firewood and food he could find and sleeping in the owners' beds. Then he moved onto the next cabin for supplies, most recently listening to AM radios for updates on a tightening manhunt.

By spring, he would take off into the wild with a doomsday supply of dehydrated foods, radios, batteries and high-end camping gear. At one abandoned camp, authorities found 19 guns and a copy of Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild," about a young man who starved after wandering into the Alaskan wilderness to live alone off the land.

Knapp lived off dandelions and wild game at times, he told detectives after his arrest. He hasn't responded to requests for jailhouse interviews from The Associated Press.

The charges from six Utah counties go back to 2009, but authorities believe Knapp - a California parolee who went on the run in 2004 - was breaking into cabins long before that. By 2007, Utah sheriffs believed that a string of cabin burglaries they had under investigation were tied to one suspect.

It was in Sanpete County where Knapp ended his run across a mountainous region stretching for 180 miles. He was captured outside a mountain cabin in April. Authorities said he took a shot at a police helicopter, qualifying him for federal firearms charges.

Keisel has been deputized by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Salt Lake City to bring those charges, and the prosecutor says they aren't part of any plea deal.

Because of his criminal record, which stretches back to his teenage years in Michigan, Knapp wasn't allowed to possess guns stolen or otherwise, authorities say.

In court papers, deputies said they recovered some of the clearest video footage of Knapp from a security camera Oct. 2 outside a Fairview Canyon cabin off Skyline Drive, a backcountry byway in Sanpete County. It showed Knapp with a rifle slung over his shoulder.

Knapp had cut wires to the security camera, but images were stored on an internal memory card, authorities said. They also took a cast of one of his boot impressions.

In all, Knapp faces 39 charges from Beaver, Emery, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Sanpete counties.

Keisel said he was trying to negotiate a single plea deal on all state and pending federal charges, but Knapp frustrated the effort and he gave up. The other counties will now take turns prosecuting him separately, although the order hasn't been determined.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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