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An Iowa survivalist who faked his death is arrested after years on the run

DEER LODGE, MONTANA - SEPTEMBER 13: New, green trees grow in an area recently logged (foreground) as older, dead lodgepole pine that have been killed by the mountain pine beetle and its symbiotic blue fungus infection stand out like grey ghosts in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest along the Flint Creek Range September 13, 2019 near Deer Lodge, Montana. According to the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment, the annual average temperatures in the state has increased 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1950 and is projected to increase by approximately 3.0 to 7.0 degrees by midcentury. As climate change makes summers hotter and drier in the Northern Rockies, forests are threatened with increasing wildfire activity, deadly pathogens and insect infestations, including the mountain pine beetle outbreak. Although the number of new trees infested each year by the pine beetle has reduced since the height of the outbreak around 2012, the insects have killed more than six million acres of forest across Montana since 2000. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Jacob Greer was on the lam for six years, trying to avoid child pornography charges. Authorities said he was a "survivalist" who had intentions to "live off the land." In 2016, the U.S. Forest Service linked a car that was found at a Montana campground to Greer. Here, new green trees grow in the foreground near older dead trees in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in Montana in 2019.

At 22, Jacob Greer thought he'd come up with the perfect plan to avoid a trial on child pornography charges in Iowa: He'd fake his own death and take to the wilds of the Northwest.

He managed to remain on the run for nearly six years, despite some close calls. But the U.S. Marshals Service finally caught up with him on Monday, officials announced in a statement.

Greer, now 28, was arrested in Spanaway, Wash., and is in custody at the federal detention center in Seattle. He will be transferred back to Des Moines, Iowa, to stand trial.

Authorities said Greer was a "survivalist" who had intentions to "live off the land" and hide out in abandoned cabins in the U.S. and Canada. It is unclear exactly where he had been living, how he managed to survive or if others had been helping him evade law enforcement since he went on the lam.

Customs officers arrested Greer in 2016 on charges of receiving and possessing child pornography, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. A day later, he was released on bail under pretrial supervision and was allowed to live with his grandmother in Des Moines as long as law enforcement could keep tabs on him with an ankle monitor.

It appears Greer formulated his "suicide" plan sometime over the next few weeks. On May 31, 2016, Greer's probation officer received a monitoring alert indicating his GPS device had been removed. That launched a multiagency search effort that turned up Greer's vehicle with a suicide note inside but no body.

Federal officials issued an arrest warrant that same day.

About a week later, the U.S. Forest Service linked another vehicle to Greer — a car that was found at the Tuchuck Campground in Flathead County, Montana. "Greer had purchased the car with a $1,000 loan from a friend and ... he had fled Iowa with money, a bow, arrows and a backpack full of survival gear," according to investigators.

The Marshals Service says Greer was last seen at a Walmart in Kalispell, Mont., just days before the car was discovered. That is, until Monday, when he was found by U.S. marshals from the Southern District of Iowa, working with the U.S. Marshals Montana Violent Offender Task Force, and U.S. marshals from the Western District of Washington.

"The arrest of Jacob Greer after six years is a testament to the tenacity of Deputy U.S. Marshals and our investigative partners," said Ted Kamatchus, U.S. marshal for the Southern District of Iowa, in a statement. "Even though the case went cold, they would not quit." Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.