The forest has a secret: The search for militia man David Burgert

Have you seen David Earl Burgert, Junior, a familiar foe to law enforcement?

Burgert led Project 7, which was an anti-government militia in Flathead County.

In 2001, he was accused of plotting to assassinate local authorities and stockpiling weapons and ammunition, including a machine gun.

He eluded police by staging his own death and fled into the forest near Kalispell.

In 2002, he was arrested following a shootout with the FBI and police, convicted and sentenced to seven years in federal prison.

He was paroled in 2010, and it wasn't long before law enforcement was on his tail again. 

He led officers on a chase outside of Lolo, then seemingly disappeared into the forest. 

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Longtime Lolo resident Steve Bayha often takes his family to Fort Fizzle, a picnic site along the Lolo Trail. 

"I feel that it's a pretty good community, where people have their eyes open," Bayha says.

Some are still keeping an eye on the woods, where wanted militia man David Burgert disappeared nearly six years ago.

"I was actually quite keen on meeting him for a long time."

Will Newsom, a retired Missoula County Sheriff's deputy, says he has an unfinished conversation with Burgert. 

"The last conversation we had, we were shooting at each other."

The initial call was not out of the ordinary: Newsom was called to check on a person, who was camping in the area illegally. 

But the situation escalated quickly.

Newsom says he knew burgert was taking him away from backup, away from help.

"This is going to be a gun fight."

"During the shooting, David Burgert was hunkered down on this side of the jeep, the bullets from the deputies, coming from the opposite direction," says ABC FOX Montana's Angela Marshall. "Following the shooting, when they went to walk around the jeep, nothing was there."

"That made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, because I had just been shot at, and I just realized that I have no idea where this guy is at," Newsom adds.

After an all out manhunt by local, state and federal authorities, detectives turned up virtually nothing.

Burgert's Jeep Cherokee, with it's tires popped, is still impounded.

Detective Lieutenant Robert Kennedy, with the Missoula County Sheriff's Office, says, "We did not find any blood or traces of blood in the area." 

No blood indicating he was shot or wounded.

No body indicating he is dead.

But there was one clue, a clue that could indicate Burgert was ready to live off the land for as long as he needed.

"We did locate one cache that we thought belonged to him," Det. Lt. Kennedy says. "There was some clothing in a box with some other survival type items."

Knowing he had skills necessary to survive in the backcountry and without any fresh leads, law enforcement today is left to speculate.

"There are several theories, at least a couple of theories, that he is dead, up in the hills where the shooting took place,"  according to Det. Lt. Kennedy. "There are several theories that he might still be alive and that he escaped during that initial search for him..."

Spreading his message of government hatred, alive...

"Mr. Burgert is a person, you know, that will come out eventually if he is alive and surface in the public eye."

Or dead.

"David Burgert is somewhere, whether he's alive or dead, he's somewhere," Newsom adds.

And Bayha takes comfort in theories that if Burgert is still alive, he's likely moved on.

"I would say, if you're trying to be gone, you keep yourself gone."

Burgert is no stranger to disguising himself to blend in with his surroundings.

Kennedy told Angela that about a month before the shooting with Missoula County Sheriff's deputies, Burgert was seen purchasing a woman's wig at a Missoula cosmetic studio.

If you see David Burgert or have details on his whereabouts, call law enforcement immediately.

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