SALT LAKE CITY – Two Utah men accused of setting potentially deadly booby traps along a popular hiking trail have been charged with felony aggravated assault.
Benjamin Rutkowski, 19, of Orem, and Kai Christensen, 21, of Provo, await a June 13 court appearance after being charged with the third-degree felony in 4th District Court this week, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/K0KIE7 ).
They were arrested April 21 on suspicion of misdemeanor reckless endangerment.
According to court documents, the men built two traps around a well-known, makeshift shelter along the Big Springs trail in Provo Canyon, located about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City.
One was rigged to a trip wire to send a 20-pound, spiked boulder swinging at head level of an unsuspecting hiker, while the other was designed to trip a passer-by into a bed of sharpened wooden stakes.
U.S. Forest Service Officer James Schoeffler, who discovered the traps while on a routine patrol of the area, said the traps could have caused significant or lethal injuries, court documents state. Schoeffler spent 12 years in the military as a bomb disposal technician dismantling deadly devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Police have said it was fortunate that Schoeffler was the first to discover the traps, given his military training.
According to the charging documents, both men admitted making the traps but said they were intended for wildlife such as wild boar and bunnies, not people.
There are no listed phone numbers for the men. Phone calls went unanswered Saturday to Rutkowski's father, Steven, who previously declined comment. Christensen's mother, Sharon, didn't immediately return a phone call. It wasn't clear if either suspect had an attorney.
A third-degree felony carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.