SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Federal prosecutors took the lead Wednesday in prosecuting a man accused of eluding authorities for several years while stealing guns, whisky and supplies from remote cabins across a wide swath of Utah.
The decision by federal officials postponed a plea hearing in state court for Troy James Knapp, who prosecutors said intended to plead guilty to two burglary counts in Sanpete County, one of six counties that have filed charges against him.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Salt Lake City said it wanted to delay state prosecution of the 46-year-old Knapp while it considers filing federal firearms charges. Knapp faces 39 burglary-related charges in Beaver, Emery, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Sanpete counties. Authorities say the California parolee lived in or ransacked cabins after going on the run in 2004 and covering nearly 200 miles.
Authorities say Knapp took a shot at a police helicopter before he surrendered in April outside a mountain cabin in Sanpete County — an action that opened the door for possible federal charges. Sanpete County prosecutor Brody Keisel said he had been trying to negotiate a single plea deal on all state and possible federal charges, but he gave up after Knapp frustrated the effort.
Knapp does not have a defense attorney and hasn't responded to requests from The Associated Press for a jailhouse interview. Authorities have said Knapp told detectives he spent years wandering the wilderness alone and ransacking cabins while holing up in some during winters. He is accused of stoking fires, consuming all the firewood and food, and sleeping in cabin beds before moving on to the next dwelling.
As authorities moved in, he listened to AM radios for updates on the tightening manhunt. 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.
The charges from six Utah counties go back to 2009, but authorities believe Knapp was breaking into cabins for several years before that. In court papers, deputies said some of the clearest video footage of Knapp was taken last Oct. 2 by a security camera outside a Fairview Canyon cabin off Skyline Drive, a backcountry byway in Sanpete County. They said 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.