In the summer of 2008, a one-kid crime wave washed ashore on the island where I live in Puget Sound, Washington State. A number of our local businesses and homes were hit, and it seemed like the work of a common, if prolific, cat burglar. But when Colton Harris-Moore allegedly boosted a Cessna 182 from our tiny airport and flew it across the Cascade Mountains in November of that year, I knew this was no ordinary thief — especially since he’d never taken a flying lesson.
Since then, I’ve followed Colt. The January issue of Outside Magazine will feature an 8,000-word story I’ve written that details my intensive search for the truth behind the legend of the 18-year-old outlaw some call “The Barefoot Burglar.” I’ve recreated some of his more spectacular alleged crimes, and spent considerable time getting exclusive interviews with Colt’s classmates, friends and mother, along with forensic psychologists, lawyers, flight instructors, experts on our fascination with outlaw legends, and, of course, some of his victims and the police who are trying to catch him.
I’ll continue to report on this story as long as Colt remains at large. It’s going on 20 months now since he broke out of the Griffin Home, near Seattle, and he’s a suspect in as many as 100 crimes. I’ll use this blog to post updates along with parts of my research that didn’t fit in the Outside story but that go a long way toward answering questions such as: Is Colt a sociopath? What is his mother, Pam, really like? What’s his dog, Melanie (who he calls “Meshee”) like, how many times has she been arrested, and did she really sniff out a SWAT guy hiding in the woods? Did Colt really fly those planes? Why can’t the FBI and all the county sheriffs catch him? Is he a criminal mastermind? How can some newspapers get so many facts wrong about a story? Is it despicable or strange that so many people are following this story and rooting for Colt? If a Blackhawk helicopter with infrared sensors couldn’t find Colt hiding in the woods, does that mean he’s a vampire? Yes, while crime is serious stuff, this story is also a lot of fun to follow and speculate on — as long as Colt doesn’t get hurt, or worse, wind up hurting someone else.