Colton Harris-Moore turns 20
Birthdays are a big deal on Facebook, where “Happy Birthday” messages pop up from dozens of friends on your special day. Colton Harris-Moore, who has almost 40,000 Facebook fans, is likely to get some messages of support when he turns 20 years old today.
A lot of what we think we know about the Barefoot Bandit is not completely true, as I found out by talking with one of the first journalists to pick up the story.
Newspaper reporter Jackson Holtz, with The Herald of Everett , was working the crime beat five years ago when he heard about a 15-year-old boy suspected of breaking into a couple of homes on Camano Island.
“The story created quite a sensation at the time because there were all these stories about this young kid who was believed to be living in the woods, who ran barefoot from police, who evaded capture for six months,” says Holtz.
Police caught the young kid, Colton Harris-Moore, and he ended up in a juvenile lock up.
End of story.
Until he escaped from a half-way house in 2008.
Colton Harris-Moore, then 15, in a Coupeville courtroom in February 2007. At the time, he was charged with 12 counts of possession of stolen property, some dating back to September 2006. File photo from The Herald of Everett.
Harris-Moore became a national curiosity when the San Juan County Sheriff’s office announced the teen had stolen two airplanes, and had escaped from Point Roberts and had possibly made it to Canada.
“So now not only do we have a teenager, a felon who had evaded police for several months, but we had somebody who had no known flight experience stealing airplanes, crashing them and surviving,” he says. “That triggered national press interest and that’s when his fan following began on the Internet.
Holtz wrote a book about Harris-Moore called “Fly, Colton, Fly: The True Story of the Barefoot Bandit .” It’ll be out April 5th. It looks at facts about the case, and exposes myths about the teen bandit.
“He wasn’t really living in the trees, or living in the woods. He was more frequently couch surfing in vacation homes,” Holtz says.
As for Harris-Moore’s nickname the “Barefoot Bandit,” evidence shows most of the time he had shoes on. In later interviews his mother seemed supportive of her son. Again, not the case Holtz says. Court records show there were “dozens of interactions with state CPS” and people who tried to bring stability to the household, but that help was turned down.
Holtz advises people to continue being suspicious about what they hear and read about Harris-Moore, including comments that he’s remorseful and now spends his time alone in his cell drawing airplanes.
“Lots of the things that we’ve learned about Colton we’ve learned after his arrest from his defense attorney,” he says. “I think those need to be taken in the context that this is John Henry Brown, a very good defense attorney, who will be saying things that only help Colton.”
Holtz says he was ready to write the book on Harris-Moore’s story because he had an ending for it, after the now 20-year-old fugitive’s arrest in the Bahamas last summer.
In November, he was indicted indicted on charges of interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft and being a fugitive in possession of a firearm, among other charges.
He’s scheduled for trial July 11 in connection with an alleged two-year international crime spree. (AP file photo)
But, the story is not over yet.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re not shocked and that there aren’t more chapters to this story that come through the criminal proceedings,” he says.