A U.S. Forest Service Officer on foot patrol in the Big Springs area of Provo Canyon discovered a rudimentary shelter. The entrances to the shelter had been booby trapped. Two men were arrested.
In the South Fork Canyon area of Provo Canyon, on the trail above the Big Springs Trailhead parking lot, is an area popular with those who enjoy hiking and camping. Many who frequent this area are college age men and women. Many families also frequent this area. It is common for those recreating in this area to use down and dead tree limbs to build rudimentary shelters. Deputies and U.S. Forest Service Officers also occasionally encounter individuals using illegal drugs or illegally using alcohol in this area. However, the vast majority of the activity around these shelters is perfectly innocent.
On April 16, 2012, U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer James Schoeffler was on foot patrol in this area when he came across one of these shelters. This particular shelter is known locally as “The Fort”. Because of his time in the military Officer Schoeffler has extensive experience with identifying booby trap devices. As he investigated the shelter he noticed what appeared to be a trip wire near the ground at an entrance. Upon further investigation he discovered that the trip wire led to a booby trap device which was made with a large rock, sticks sharpened at both ends, and was held together with rope. This device was situated in such a way that when contact was made with the trip wire it would swing toward an unsuspecting hiker or camper. It was hung where it would most likely swing to and hit the head or face of the hiker or camper. In a second entrance to the shelter Officer Schoeffler found a second trip wire. This wire was configured so as to trip a person, possibly causing them to fall forward onto sharpened sticks placed in the ground.
Using Facebook, Officer Schoeffler and Deputies with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office were able to contact individuals familiar with the shelter. A witness who saw the information on Facebook, and who was familiar with the shelter, called the Sheriff’s Office with possible suspect information. After a short time the discovery of the booby traps was being discussed on the social networking site. This witness were very concerned that whomever set up the booby traps be identified to prevent further dangers of this nature.
At length Deputies identified two suspects. Both confessed to their involvement in placing the devices, telling deputies they put them in place on Sunday, 4/15/12, the day before Officer Schoeffler discovered them. The suspects, Benjamin Steven Rutkowski, age 19, of Orem, and Kai Matthew Christensen, age 21, of Provo, were arrested today, 4/21/12, by Utah County Sheriff’s Sergeant Wayne Keith. Rutkowski and Christensen were booked into the Utah County Jail on one charge of Reckless Endangerment, a Class A Misdemeanor.
For questions call Sergeant Spencer Cannon, Public Information Officer, Utah County Sheriff’s Office, (801)404-1912. I am available for interviews, and photographs of the shelter and the devices can be made available as well. Click on the link "Booby Trap Device" to view one of these photos.