But yesterday the survivalist known as the “Mountain Man”, who evaded US police for six years, was jailed for more than ten years.
Troy Knapp, 46, roamed across the state, breaking into remote cabins and stealing firearms and food.
He was captured in April 2013 after a shoot-out at a cabin on Ferron Mountain, south of Salt Lake City. He admitted several charges including burglary and a firearms offence.
Knapp had been compared to 19th-century frontiersman Davy Crockett for his outdoor skills and hardiness.
Defence lawyer Jay Winward told the court in St George, Utah: “There is an admiration for somebody who chooses to live off the land, because he does it while the rest of us wouldn’t. Even if he needs a little help from some cabin owners.”
During his sentencing, district judge Ted Stewart commented that Knapp should write a book about his experiences – and even told him that he would have plenty of time to do it in prison.
Knapp declined to speak in court and when asked if he had anything to say, he said: “No, thank you.”
Outside court, Mr Winward said: “That will be his last word, ‘Thank you.’ And he will live a quiet life.”
The plea deal marks the end of the story of a California fugitive who became a sensation in Utah as he raided cabins for guns, whisky and food.
After his arrest last year, Knapp fired his defence attorney and defiantly told a judge he would represent himself. But assistant attorney Matthew Bell said Knapp has been co-operating with authorities since agreeing to a plea deal on the charges against him this spring.
Knapp helped authorities find 16 weapons he had stored in four locations in four different counties. That included 13 handguns, two rifles and one shotgun, Mr Bell said.
Mr Winward said all the weapons Knapp stole during his years on the run had been accounted for.
His attorneys said the weapons were used for survival and protection against wild animals and never to “scare, threaten or use against citizens,” although they conceded he was convicted of firing at the federal agents who apprehended him.
In 2007, authorities began investigating cabin burglaries in southern and central Utah they believed were tied to one person. It was not until early 2012 that they identified Knapp as the suspect from cabin surveillance photos and fingerprints taken from a Jim Beam bottle in one cabin.
Authorities said Knapp spent winters holed up in snowbound cabins, sleeping in the owners’ beds, eating their food and listening to their radios for updates about the manhunt.
In summer, he retreated into the woods with a supply of guns, dehydrated food, radios, batteries and high-end camping gear.
After years of being unable to catch him, authorities finally closed in on Knapp around Easter last year by using some of his own tactics. After tracking him for three days, dozens of officers converged on him in snowmobiles and a snowcat, flushing him out of the cabin.
He fired several shots and tried to flee before finally being caught.