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‘Barefoot Bandit’ breaks silence from jail for a cause close to his heart

Colton Harris-Moore remains in jail, but his mother is dying on the outside. He is trying to raise money to freeze her with the hope of unfreezing her once a cure if found. (AP)

Update: The GoFunedMe page Colton Harris-Moore started has been updated with a new lower goal of $230,000.

Ever since he earned the moniker “Barefoot Bandit” Colton Harris-Moore has given very little consideration to the media. But he broke his silence for a cause and reached out to KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don to get word out about it.

That cause: his mother.

“She has a very incomplete life and she is going to die decades before she should. I feel a tremendous sense of guilt because I went on the run and then jail and I haven’t been there,” Harris-Moore said over the phone while at the Stafford Creek Correctional Center near Aberdeen.

Harris-Moore’s mother, Pam Kohler, is dying from metastatic lung cancer. Harris-Moore said he noticed something was wrong a while ago, but he couldn’t do anything about it because he was behind bars.

“I tried to facilitate Pam going to the doctor to get screened three years ago,” he said.

But transportation and other issues prevented a doctor visit, he said. She would say she had a sinus infection for three months, and that tipped off Harris-Moore that something was wrong.

“I noticed small things like her coughing,” he said. “If I was out, she would have immediately gone to the doctor. We would have gotten it at stage one, not when it spread to the rest of the body. If I wasn’t in jail, it wouldn’t be happening the way it is happening right now.”

He said he feels guilty for being in jail, especially when his release is months away, yet his mother has a matter of weeks left.

“It’s to the point now that when you talk with her she has the sound of death in her voice. I’ve never heard that before. It breaks my heart. It’s a tragedy,” he said. “The doctors have no interest in treating her. And even if they did, the cancer treatment wouldn’t have any effect.”

Plan B

So Harris-Moore has another plan — one that he admits sounds a bit crazy at first. But he is adamant that if people did a little research they would realize that what sounds like science fiction is close to becoming reality. That reality is a few years off. In the meantime, he has turned to cryopreservation as a solution.

“We all know death is a process. It’s not an instant event. When a person dies their body is still functional, minus what causes the death,” Harris-Moore said. “The brain is still there, the only thing that has to happen is a form of CPR. Basically, the only thing that needs to happen is the technology developing.”

In other words, he intends to freeze his mother until medical science can catch up and cure her ailment. Harris-Moore wants to hire Alcor, a foundation dedicated to cryonics — the practice of freezing people’s bodies as they die with the hopes of later unfreezing them once cures are invented. But the job is expensive.

He is attempting to raise more than $300,000 online through a GoFundMe page. That money will cover the cost of the cryopreservation.

“I don’t get any of this money. My family doesn’t get any of the money. Pam doesn’t get any of this money. It goes straight to Alcor,” he said. “And it goes to saving someone’s life. I think people are willing to support that. They are happy to support saving someone’s life.”

But Harris-Moore admits that convincing people to donate money is one hurdle. A bigger challenge is convincing people to believe that cryopreservation can be real.

“What it comes down to is how realistic it is. In a lot of people’s eyes, it’s not,” he said. “But when you break it down to the individual steps and problems, the solutions are remarkably simple.”

He argues that tech companies from Microsoft to Google have all invested in cryopreservation research and institutions such at MIT have also spoken on the viability of it.

“It’s scientifically based. It’s fact based. It’s not this Start Trek, la-la land thing,” he said. “Soon, it will be a part of our everyday lives.”

Not the Barefoot Bandit

While discussing his efforts to save his mother with Ron and Don, he also addressed his nickname: the Barefoot Bandit. He doesn’t like the name.

“If it was up to me, nobody would know who I am. I really do not enjoy the notoriety or the publicity. I do not go by the name ‘Barefoot Bandit,’” Harris-Moore said. “The past is the past. I made a lot of mistakes in my youth and I’m all grown up now.”

Harris-Moore earned a bit of celebrity status in the Northwest ever since he went on a crime spree through his teenage years. Despite the fact that he was only barefoot during a small number of his heists, Harris-Moore became known as the “Barefoot Bandit.” As a teenager, he burglarized more than 100 homes throughout the Northwest (including parts of Canada), and stole several small airplanes, a boat and two cars. When he was 19, with the law on this trail, he stole an airplane and made a getaway to the Bahamas. But he was captured there and brought back to the states to stand trial.

Today, he is in jail, but that hasn’t stopped the Barefoot Bandit from growing his status. Harris-Moore told Ron and Don that his decision not to talk with the press has only served to sensationalize his story as news outlets have progressed it on their own.

Today, he has a blog that expresses his thoughts on a variety of topics, though is partially aimed at his goal of starting his own aerospace company one day. On his blog, he explains why he stole airplanes and provides thoughts on issues such as why America needs to elect Donald Trump to make America great again.

While in jail, Harris-Moore has had time to reflect on his crimes. He said he never intentionally did anything to hurt people. He spent a great deal of his time in the Northwest wilderness, absent of any media. He didn’t know of the reputation he was building. He said that since then, he has even become close friends with one of the airplane owners he stole from.

“Ironically enough, the owner of one of the airplanes I flew is a good friend of mine. A dear friend,” Harris-Moore said. “The first thing he said to me was ‘you can’t drive a car by looking in the rear-view mirror.’ The past is the past. All I want to do now is regain my freedom. And work extremely hard.”

Another person Harris-Moore stole an airplane from was Bob Rivers, a Northwest radio personality. Rivers has chosen not to speak much on the topic.

“I would apologize (to him),” Harris-Moore told Ron and Don. “I didn’t know who it was. I never knew who any of the victims were.”

Harris-Moore is now close to his release this summer. He said he plans on working hard. And also, his passion for airplanes has not died behind bars. Don asked if he could get a ride in a plane once Harris-Moore was out.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I’ll have a pilot’s license before I even have a car.”

Related: Listen to the full interview with Colton Harris-Moore

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