Troy James Knapp lived for years in the wilderness of Utah, avoiding people and eating small game he shot with weapons stolen during cabin break-ins. Sometimes, he'd raid the pantry and rumple the bed sheets before setting out alone again on snowshoes with a rifle slung over his shoulder. But for most of the next decade, the man who roamed freely through the woods will live behind bars in a federal penitentiary. Knapp, 46, known by many as the "Mountain Man," pleaded guilty yesterday to federal weapons charges and multiple state burglary charges in an agreement that will likely put him in federal prison until the end of 2024.
The pleas marked the end of a mysterious story of the California fugitive, originally from Michigan, who became a sensation in Utah. For seven years, local authorities investigated cabin burglaries in southern and central Utah, before in early 2012 they identified Knapp from cabin surveillance photos and fingerprints on a Jim Beam whiskey bottle. In April 2013, he committed the crime that earned him the long federal sentence: shooting at federal agents in a helicopter when he was flushed from a home near a mountain reservoir in snowy Manti-LaSal National Forest and captured. Even the sentencing judge offered a nod to Knapp's fame and the folklore that grew from his solitary living-off-the-land story: "The judge told him he should write a book," said the Sanpete County attorney who brokered the unusually broad and complex plea agreement. "He said, 'You've got plenty of time.'"