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Utah booby traps: Spiked boulder was for wildlife, 2 men say

April 24, 2012|By John M. Glionna
  • This photo released Monday by the Utah County Sheriff's Department shows part of a booby trap found along a hiking trail. Two men have been arrested on suspicion of setting the traps and were booked Saturday into the county jail for investigation of misdemeanor reckless endangerment.
This photo released Monday by the Utah County Sheriff's Department… (Utah County Sheriff Department…)

LAS VEGAS -- Just when you thought it was safe to go back on those mountain trails.

In a case that has stunned authorities with its ruthlessness, two Utah men have been arrested in connection with a pair of deadly makeshift booby traps set up along a popular hiking trail.

One of the traps involved a trip wire triggered to send a 20-pound, spiked boulder swinging into an unsuspecting victim. The other was designed to trip a passer-by into a bed of sharpened wooden stakes.

The two suspects, ages 19 and 21, told investigators after being arrested last weekend on suspicion of misdemeanor reckless endangerment that the traps were intended for wildlife.

But Spencer Cannon, for one, isn’t believing that for a second.

“When you look at those things, you just get chills down your spine,” the Utah County sheriff's sergeant told the Los Angeles Times. “One sends a rock the size of a football speeding at your head. The other is even more nightmarish. Walk into that trap and either you get the worst headache of your life or a stick through your eye.”

He added: “There’s no question these traps were set for humans and that these suspects knew their deadly potential.”

The booby traps were set at entrances to a popular makeshift wooden shelter used by local hikers as a sleepover and campfire site, Cannon said, adding that the traps took time and energy to erect and involved rope and heavy-duty fishing line along with rocks and sticks.

The traps were discovered earlier this month by James Schoeffler of the U.S. Forest Service, an officer with military training who was patrolling along Big Springs Trail in Provo Canyon outside the city of Provo. He noticed the trip wires not far from a popular trail head and suspected they were designed to catch hikers walking in the dark, Cannon said.

"He has experience in the military that told him something didn’t look right,” Cannon said. Schoeffler disabled the traps after taking photos and video of the site. 

Cannon said investigators received a tip following posted comments on Facebook and tracked down the two suspects independently.

“This area was popular with families, children, people out to have a good time, and look what awaited them,” Cannon said. “These two suspects tried to convince me that these traps really didn’t have risk to people, but I don’t buy it.”

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john.glionna@latimes.com

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