Utah Man who Fakes Death on Mountain Pleads Guilty

A St. George, Utah, man who faked his death on Pine Valley Mountain this summer and then fled to Australia pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conducting a false or fraudulent scheme to obtain fees or services, a second-degree felony.

Bryan Butas, 35, will undergo a psychological evaluation and will be required to pay restitution to Washington County for search and extradition costs.

Prosecutors said the former Marine applied for a $250,000 life-insurance policy that named his estranged wife, their two sons and a stepdaughter as beneficiaries. Butas told friends on July 30 he was going hiking alone in the Oak Grove area of Washington County, according to an affidavit filed in August.

When he didn’t return to work on Aug. 1, authorities and dozens of volunteers began a fruitless search lasting 10 days, until sheriff’s investigators traced him to Cairns, Queensland, Australia.