Thursday, December 23, 2010



I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and a Merry Christmas.

I know many people are concerned about Colton’s Christmas. The latest information I have is that he’s holding up well, still in solitary by his preference, occupying himself by drawing and reading. I know many people have sent him cards and letters.

On a related note: I hope that those who are in a position to help during this season will consider donating to child and youth programs in their local communities.   

There’s been some discussion in the comments about Colt’s education and whether what he has to say will be of any interest. Regardless of Colt’s level of formal education (which teachers and his fellow students tell me basically ended at the fourth grade)  I am interested to find out what he has to say. I think many other people will be curious as well, including crime victims, psychologists and Colt’s supporters.

At this point, my book will tell you everything we know about his childhood, how people treated him, how he treated other people, what his school experience was like, what were some defining moments in his life, how he made friends and enemies, how he began to get into trouble, how that escalated, and on through the wild chases, captures and escapes of the last four years. (The book also focuses on the effect he had on communities here – the wtf-effect – but we’re just talking Colt now).

His actions and the words we hear him say to those around him already speak volumes about the person he was/is, where he’s come from and what he has experienced. If Colt breaks his silence before the manuscript is finalized, then I think we’ll also have a glimpse of his future potential, good or bad. In that case, formal education level is moot; it’s more about self-awareness.

As for an actual book update: The release is set for Spring 2011. I’ll let you know the exact date it will arrive at bookstores as soon as we hear. Hyperion, concerned that folks wouldn’t find the book easily enough, have titled it: The Barefoot Bandit: The True Story of Colton Harris-Moore, New American Outlaw. (Remember to look for my name as author as there will be other Barefoot Bandit books out there). As a sign of the times, it’s already available for pre-order on your favorite book websites (they don’t charge you until it actually ships). Your local brick-and-mortar bookstore will also be able to pre-order for you.

Happy holidays!      

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


The story I wrote about Colton Harris-Moore in Outside Magazine (the first major magazine story published on Colt) was just selected as one of the"Top Ten Most Ridiculously Entertaining Reads of 2010." is a group that combs the web for stories that are larger than the little bits and blurbs that most people have the patience to peruse online. They then highlight the ones that they feel are worthy of a real read.

Longform has chosen some amazing stories for their editor's picks and top tens, so it's great to make their list. If anyone hasn't read the piece, the link above will take you to the list and then to the story on Outside's website.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Colton Harris-Moore was arraigned today. They took him in early, as the proceedings begin at 9 a.m., but can go on for hours as defendant after defendant is brought in to face the judge.

Colton plead not guilty to the Federal offenses that include stealing an airplane and taking it across state lines from Bonner's Ferry, Idaho, to Granite Falls, Washington, taking a boat across the Columbia River from WA to OR, and bringing a gun across the border from Canada.

The judge set a trial date of January 18.

The big question for Colt watchers is whether the many charges in WA and the other charges and potential charges in OR, WY, SD, IA, IL and IN will be consolidated into one trial or plea bargain arrangement. So far Island County, WA, where Colt grew up, says they're determined to put him on trial there separate from any Federal trial or plea.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


This Saturday night, November 13, CBS 48 Hours Mystery will air a full hour on Colton. This CBS crew worked the story a long time, so I’m hoping for a good show. They spent a lot of time here on Orcas and Camano, and sent crews across the country to cover the events during Colt’s run.

I declined to go on camera with them while they were first on Orcas because Colt was still at large and I felt the press attention was escalating the danger for both him and anyone who might get in his way. Once he was captured, I agreed to do an interview and spoke with them at length back in July in the Bahamas and then did a little bit more interview and some B-roll back here on Orcas a few weeks later.

For those on this site who’ve told me they like the behind-the-scenes stuff, most TV interviews you see like this are done in hotel rooms — and that’s what we did in Nassau. B-roll is the name for the background and atmospheric shots you see usually running behind a voice over as a way to segue between main shots. Often they’ll be sort of silly shots of the correspondent walking awkwardly with the interview subject down a beach, or the interview subject awkwardly making a phone call, or talking (awkwardly) with a co-worker. For this show, they took some shots of me kayaking and walking my dog around the island. I know Murphy will be pissed if his footage is left on the cutting room floor. He could care less if he looks awkward — he just wants some screen time.

As for me… It’s an interesting spot to be in. I spoke on-camera for something over three hours. My on-camera answers to Peter Van Sant’s questions were just what anyone who’s read my posts and comments here would expect: overly long and full of context.

So, as someone who’s always been the interviewer, I’m now in the uncomfortable position of interviewee, wondering how they’ll cut all my verbiage down to a couple minutes of airtime. I’ve taken great pains and lots of words here — as I did on camera —to explain how I do indeed feel empathy for Colton and his very painful history while at the same time I sympathize with his victims and understand the lingering pain and the damage to the trusting lifestyle of my own community and the similar one down on Camano. Whether all that comes across to these seven-or-so million viewers as it has to you, we’ll see.

So, on to the stuff you’re actually interested in: What are you going to learn about Colton and his long, often barefoot, run from the law? There are lots of details that, naturally, I’ve been saving for the book, but because these pesky CBS producers know what they’re doing, some of those will be spilled in this show. Problem is, I’m not sure which ones. I assume, though, that you’ll learn some fascinating details about what Colton carried all the way across the country and to the Bahamas. Yes, you know about the Mac laptop and the pistol and maybe some of the other electronics, but he also carried a few personal papers, photos and drawings that are very telling.

There will be some surprises as to where Colton went and spent time when he wasn’t on Camano or Orcas. They may show how he communicated with people while he was on the run. And hopefully you’ll also get to see how beautiful this part of the world is.

On the other side, you’ll probably get to see Marion and Maxine and Kyle and Pat and Kelly and Scott and Jason and some of the many other alleged victims I’ve met along this trail who bring the story of “the kid who could fly” back to earth and show the real effects.

I’ll wait and see what’s in the show before commenting on anything else. And, by the way, I don’t have a television and will be out at an island potluck during air time. It may take a couple of days before I can see a tape of the show and respond to any comments.

TV and movies do some things better than books and other print, while absolutely nothing beats a book for telling the full story. TV is, obviously, a visual medium, and I’m looking forward to great visuals in this program and hoping for a fair treatment of the story.

Also: Next Monday, the 15th, is the deadline for Federal prosecutors to file their charges against Colt. If it happens on time, you’ll see it in the news. I’ll post some highlights as soon as I digest them. And once again, sorry I’ve been AWOL for so long, but I'm working double time on the book.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I'm getting a lot of emails and comments about sending mail to Colt in prison (see a recent comment for his full FDC SeaTac address). The Federal Detention Center where he's being held has strict rules about inmate correspondance. I've already unwittingly fallen afoul of one regulations by sending stamps in a letter. I received a polite form letter back with a check mark on "Stamps" showing my breach of the rules. Other apparently common infractions include sending "Body Hair," "Plant Shavings," Sexually Explicit Photos," and "Electronic Musical Greeting Cards." So let that be a warning.

One regulation I found today by re-reading the inmate handbook is that prisoners can only retain five publications (books, magazines) at any one time. That sucks.

You can read the entire inmate handbook by following the link below to a pdf. It gives you a tiny insight into life inside:

Federal Detention Center Inmate Handbook 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I’ve gotten a few pings lately asking if I’m still here. Sorry for going silent for a few weeks, but the good folks over at Hyperion are hoping to get this book to you sooner than scheduled so I’ve been working every hour available, writing and researching.

Normally, all the research for a book happens before the actual writing begins. This ain’t normally. The research — uncovering new sources and secrets — is the fun part. (The actual writing part, for me at least, is occasionally about as enjoyable as having dental work). So it’s good, in one way, that every week I’m still digging up new pieces of information and finding new insight into this fascinating story. The bad part is that every moment spent interviewing new witnesses or acquaintances of Colt, or poking through the woods to discover one of his hideouts is time where I’m not here duct-taped to my laptop.

And to complicate matters, the story continues to unfold…

Everyone is most interested in what’s going on with Colt right now. He remains locked up in SeaTac Federal Detention Center. He’s doing about as well as can be expected. Sources in the system say that he’s still being held in solitary confinement. That’s not as punishment, but as a form of protective custody. Remember that he hasn’t been sentenced to any federal crimes, so he’s simply being held without bail, and the authorities believe it wouldn’t look good to have him roughed up in prison before he might be convicted. He’s getting lots of mail, corresponding with some old friends, and reportedly keeping a positive attitude. He, naturally, wishes he was someplace else.

A federal judge gave prosecutors until November 15 to present their indictments against Colton. Remember I’m not a lawyer so this is just for discussion purposes, but doing a quick look at the timeline I’ve created that includes criminal activity where there appears to be evidence, I’d guess the feds will present at least five or six interstate charges for planes, a boat and vehicles, each of which could carry a 10-year sentence. There could also be a federal charge for a bank break-in, maybe for assault and battery on an ATM, and possibly other sundry charges if they feel they can prove firearm violations.

State and local charges present a whole ‘nother issue. The million-dollar and many-years-behind-bars question is about consolidation. Conceivably, Colton could face federal charges, be found guilty, and get sentenced to x-number of 10-year sentences to be served concurrently — meaning he might do seven years. If all the various states and counties where prosecutors are also busy preparing cases can’t agree to come together and consolidate, then Colton risks a travelling road show where at any stop he could get a touchy local judge that slaps him with an additional 20.

A layman’s look at the potential local charges shows that some appear to be slam-dunks based on evidence, while others smell like polished dung due to lack of evidence. With a lot of suspected crimes to choose from, though, prosecutors may come to the negotiating table with a bulging box of charges but then, when it comes down to thinking they might have to actually try the case, winnow it down to just their strongest. However, just cherry picking cases could leave Colt in a lot of jeopardy if they’re tried one-by-one.

In our justice system, the defendant must agree to consolidating charges in one venue. On Colt’s side, you have the probability that he’d get a lesser sentence under a consolidation deal. On the prosecution side, you have the benefit of saving money by not having to prosecute and potentially incarcerate him in all the various jurisdictions. Add in, though, the political issues where local residents want to see Colt sentenced in the place where he did damage, and where local victims demand a shot at restitution, and you’ve got some very interesting dealings going on in the coming months.

Back to the dental work… Thank you to those hanging in there — I promise to post more frequently.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Nasty little things, those facts.

First, an apology to all those who haven’t seen their comments and questions posted. It looks like almost all of them came in while I was in the Bahamas and that, to put it mildly, was a crazy time. I’m just getting caught up now.

The most interesting of the new old comments came from someone who says they live here on Orcas Island. It was anonymous. Whoever you are, Anon, I’d be happy to talk in depth about all your… well, it’s tough to call them questions, they’re more accusations.

In short, Anon is saying — with many serial question marks and exclamation points — that it’s way beyond coincidental that Colt flew to the Bahamas where I’ve been traveling to for so many years. And then he/she says inquiring minds on Orcas demand to know why if Colt drove a boat up to where I was standing why wasn’t I the one to pick up my cell phone and call the cops??? And says that it’s pretty clear that I didn’t because it was more important for me to take notes for my book.

Anon closes by saying: “The people who occupy this island, that unwittingly became his victims for the total of the 6 months that he was here, deserve to know the answer to that, Mr. Friel. You live on Orcas Island. And so do many of his victims!!!”

First, Anon: Your facts are totally wrong. I wasn’t there when Colt drove up in a boat and talked to people. Maybe since you’ve sent in that comment you've gone back and re-read that, and you now comprehend it better so I won’t belabor the point, but, briefly: I had been on that concrete dock — the Three Island ferry dock on North Eleuthera — earlier in the evening to interview ferry drivers who’d had their boats damaged, and the manager of a nearby bar that had been broken into. It wasn’t until hours after I’d gone that Colt drove up in the dinghy and had the conversation with a few Bahamians, including a guy I then interviewed the next morning (after the capture) on Harbour Island.

Depending on the exact timing of things, I was either at the street festival at The Bluff (it was the Bahamas Independence celebration and what they call “Homecoming” at The Bluff) or most probably, since more witnesses are saying it was around midnight, I was sacked out on a friend’s couch in Gregory Town by the time people saw and interacted with Colt.

Those are just nasty facts. It was never reported any different — not by me and not by the dozen or so reporters who’ve all interviewed the guys who were actually standing on that dock talking to Colt. Check the newspaper stories: there are no reports of any sleep-deprived, jet-lagged, six-foot white guys standing there chatting with him.

Since you live on an island, you know how nasty rumors can get started by having one person either mishear or misread or whatever they do to ignore the facts. I hope that hasn’t happened here on Orcas. [And a note to the rest of my readers out there who don’t live here: Sorry this is kind of a silly and very defensive post, but islands are unique places to live. Wonderful, but they can also be very intense in a very, very small town gossipy kind of way.]

Anon, if you’ve read much of my blog, you also realize that berating me on behalf of the victims of Orcas is ridiculous. Go count how many times I’ve mentioned the victims of Orcas… and of Camano… and others. Or, better yet, since you’re here, go talk to them. There are still several on my list to go, but other than those, I’ve already talked to or requested interviews with all the rest of the crime victims here in order to tell their stories.

You say: “I have believed from the git-go that you have a sympathic propensity for the Barefoot Bandit.”

I think I’ve explained, probably to the point of boring the readers, what I believe is necessary to understand this story. It’s the same thing you need to understand anything that involves other people: Empathy. That goes for everyone involved or you have no hope in understanding anything and certainly no hope of telling a story that's fair to everyone involved. And I doubt I’ve ever mentioned the word empathy without saying that I empathize with the victims.

It’s interesting that I’ve taken heat from people on both sides of this. I’ve never tried to convince anyone to either love or hate Colton Harris-Moore. My job, as I see it, is to tell this story using facts with as much context as possible. Colton didn’t spring to life as a 17-year-old airplane thief. He came from somewhere, he interacted with people all his life, he was part of our society. That’s part of the story, as are the crimes, the victims, the chases, the capture. 

I’ll tell the story, the unfiltered good, bad and ugly on both sides. That’s the only way anyone will be able to make a reasonable decision about how they feel about all this, and the only way to have a rational discussion of all these issues that Colton’s story touches on. Facts.

And lastly, ascribing a profit motive to anything I’ve done or not done is also ridiculous. This is what I do for a living — and have been doing it for 25 years. I’m a writer. I’m writing. I’m not a roofer who suddenly said “Yee haw, I’m gonna write me a book ‘bout this barefootin’ feller and make me a bazillion bucks!” [And that’s no offense to roofers… Back in Philadelphia I worked four college summers as a roofer. And none of them ever said “Yee haw.” Maybe one said “Yo haw” (that’s a Philly joke).] My book advance, spread over the amount of time I’ll be working on this project, puts me squarely in the middle class (which as you know, Anon, is lower middle class on Orcas).

Wow, this is a long, whiny post. Sorry for that. And I still didn’t get to the one actual interesting question: Why did Colt go to the Bahamas? The obvious answer is that it’s a huge conspiracy to sell newspapers, books and Caribbean vacations. Colt’s answer, of course, is that it’s because his research told him that the islands of the Bahamas have a lot of airfields and marinas, and few police officers. And he was right; those are facts.

Monday, July 26, 2010



The Seattle Times is the first I know of to put up video interviews with some of the people involved in Colton’s chase and capture in the Bahamas. At least one TV newsmagazine and a documentarian also taped interviews with the players in the days after the arrest, so expect to see those in time.

Since I was working on the book and didn’t want to seem like the vanguard of a media invasion when I got there the morning of Colt’s capture, I didn’t whip out my video camera. So this is definitely worth a look, especially to see Kenneth Strachan — a real good guy — tell his story. “Oh, that’s Bandit!”

I don't think Kenneth had slept a wink between the 3 a.m. capture and when I saw him several hours later, he was so excited. He's the man most responsible for "Bandit"s arrest, but listen to him talk about 19-year-old Colton Harris-Moore at the end of the interview.

Seattle Times Colt Capture Video Interviews

P.S.: There are now a couple versions of exactly when Colton put the gun to his head -- right away or after the police firing -- but I’ll have that fact straightened in upcoming interviews.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Well, Colton had another “day” in court: Approximately eight minutes in front of Judge Brian Tsuchida at the US Courthouse in Seattle. I don’t think anyone expected an escapee who’s led all kinds of law enforcement on a chase that spanned three countries to get bail, and his attorney didn’t argue for it.

An Assistant US Attorney presented the argument that because Harris-Moore is believed to have flown as many as five airplanes without proper training — as well as allegedly taking a shot at police and aiming a laser gun sight at a homeowner in South Dakota — that he is an obvious danger to the community as well as a flight risk.

On the community side, I can tell you that there has been a collective sigh of relief here on Orcas Island now that Colton is in custody and we know he won’t be coming back this summer. Whether you believed he was dangerous or not, or even if you felt sorry for some aspects of Colton’s early life, the unnerving thought was never far from your mind that he might be there, watching from the woods — and we have lots of woods. You never felt that you, your family or your property were completely safe when he was on the island. Now, the island’s small business owners who lost money during burglaries and had to put out more for new security systems hope that they can go back to only worrying that the tourist season shapes up good enough to get them through next winter.

For those who’ve stayed at a distance from this story, it’s always been easy (and lazy) to head to the black and white extremes, to firmly stand either with the Colton fans or those gunning for him to “Stick his head in my house” so they could blow it off. But to get closer to understanding, and to see the gray areas that reside in every story and in every life, you’ve got to empathize. And in this story, that means both with Colton and with the many victims.

After the court appearance, Colton’s defense attorney, John Henry Brown, passed a message to the media he says was from Colt, basically saying “Kids don’t try this at home…”

Or on the run.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Didn't want to say anything until I saw a picture, but our local King 5 TV got the shot of Colton Harris-Moore deplaning three hours ago (Wed, July 21) at Boeing Field. For those not from the area, SeaTac (Seattle Tacoma) is our main commercial airport, while Boeing Field is the region's main center for General Aviation, charter and transport companies and, of course, Boeing repairs, test flights, etc.

King 5 TV on Colton's Arrival

Colton will now be held in FDC SeaTac and is due for a court appearance tomorrow afternoon. Initial remands and arraignments etc are really nothing substantive so I don't plan to make the trek down. The issue of bail is an interesting one, though. From my understanding, if Colton's lawyer is somehow able to arrange bail for him on the Federal charge, Washington authorities could immediately arrest Colton for the escape and send him to begin serving out the remaining two years or so of his original sentence. (But I am not a lawyer, I don't even play one on TV, and thus my legal speculation is worthless.) 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


This is a short interview I did with National Public Radio's Robin Young while I was still in the Bahamas. Scroll down to the Colt story and click "Listen."

NPR's Here and Now

COLTON HARRIS-MOORE Transportation Questions

The Federal Marshals try to keep their JPATS (a.k.a. Con Air) plans secret, and understandably so. So I don’t know exactly when Colton will be transported from the Federal Detention Center Miami to FDC Seatac. ASAP seems to be the answer, but like the commercial airlines, the Feds don’t like to fly cross country with too many empty seats.

It’s amazing how many different elements can be brought into a story. I received this note from a reader this morning:

“long plane trips can cause DVT [deep vein thrombosis], and it can happen to anyone at any age...recent news reports indicate Colton will be chained to his seat for the entire six-hour flight...this is unhealthy and wrong, it could endanger his health...”

It is accurate that the US Marshals keep their prisoners/passengers locked down in their seats, in handcuffs and leg irons. I haven’t gotten an answer to my query about bathroom or DVT breaks, though it makes sense that they’d have made some allowances for bodily functions on a six-hour flight… Of course if you’re transporting Hannibal Lecter, putting him in a diaper might be the safest way to go. Colton, obviously, is no Lecter, but the Marshals do feel he’s a flight risk.

My mom was a nurse (and in reality, they never STOP being nurses) for way more years than she’d want me to publicize. And as I’ve been traveling the world on hundreds and hundreds of long-haul flights over the past decades, she was after me early on about the dangers of DVT, deep vein thrombosis. As a sidebar health note, here is a link the reader sent about DVT, which we should all be aware of:

Deep Vein Thrombosis

When I get more info about how Colton is to be/was transported, I’ll post.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Ron and Don are, like Bob Rivers, top radio personalities in the Seattle area. These guys have followed the story for a long time and understand it. This is a long interview, but it will save me from writing a lengthy blog post because somewhere toward the end it includes my telling of the incredible last moments of Colton's long run.  

Bob Friel with Ron and Don

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I’m doing a few, select media appearances to talk about this story. Because of my unique position with regards to Colton's saga, I’ve been asked by a multitude of media outlets to appear and comment. Now that the danger to Colton and anyone who might have gotten in his way is over, I will do a few select appearances. These are mainly with the regional press here in the Pacific Northwest because they have been following the story the longest and understand it the best.

Since so many of you are outside this market, I’ll post links to anything that is replayed on the web — so you can all hear me say “uh…” and “um…” a dozen times. You'll also see that I have some challenges talking about such a complex story within the tight time constraints of broadcast media... I'm not Mr. Soundbite and rarely do I get out an answer where I don't think to myself "Um, that was only half of my answer... I told you the bad part but didn't get to the good part." I'll have to get better at that.

The first of these appearances is in three parts, an interview I did from the Bahamas yesterday with Bob Rivers. Bob is another one with very close connection to this story: It was his plane that police believe was the very first of Colton’s illicit solo flights. Bob and I also have something very exciting planned that’s going to help me research one particular part of the book. More on that later. First here’s me with Bob Rivers along with Spike and Maura on 102.7 KZOK in Seattle.

Bob Friel on Bob Rivers Part 1

Bob Friel on Bob Rivers Part 2

Bob Friel on Bob Rivers Part 3


To all those who’ve written me recently about my reporting on this story: I really appreciate the kind words.

Sometimes stories pick the teller, and this one, more than anything else I’ve ever worked on in a very long career, has done just that. The unique position of living on Orcas where Colton chose to come to again and again, that he’s alleged to have stolen from so many people who are my friends and neighbors, the incredible connections and similarities I found as I researched Colton’s life, interests and actions that enable me to empathize — even my long-time connection to the places where this remarkable saga ended — all of this will help me in writing this book.

I’ll post more about the when’s and such about the book, but it’s not an overnight process. Some other publisher may decide to rush out a collection of rewritten press reports in book form to capitalize on all the attention this is receiving now, but I won’t do that. I’ll be working as fast as I can, but I promise I won’t cheat you or this deep, complex and important story by not taking enough time to do the best I can.

I appreciate the interest you have all shown since the very beginning. During this process I will continue to post exclusive information about the story (hopefully you won't mind if I save some really amazing stuff for the book, though), and I'll continue to report on developments in Colton's run through the legal system.

I read all comments and all the personal emails, and I do apologize for any times (past, present and future) when I'm slow in answering questions or when I don't think it's quite the right time for me to comment on something in particular.



Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I've just left a small Bahamian courtroom that Colton was led to in shackles. There were six or eight American reporters and about an equal number of Bahamian observers in the small room. Part of Colt's shackles were undone when he was put into the dock. He kept his eyes down until we were all told to stand for the judge's arrival.

The charges were read by an immigration official: Entering the Bahamas illegally, without proper passport.

Colt was aked to stand. He stood tall and looked straight at the judge. He was asked how he plead to the charge. Colt said in a deep, calm voice, "Guilty."

A barrister then reported to the judge that Colton said that he swam to the Bahamas, that he didn't have his passport and that he plead guilty to save the court the time and expense of a trial.

Colt stood as the judge read his sentence for the immigration offense: $300 or three months in prison. The judge then overrode that by recommending "immediate deportation."

Everyone stood as court was dismissed. Colt finally looked around, saw me and recognized me, and gave me a big smile.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Colton Harris-Moore Update

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I hate to speculate...

One of my details in the last post proved inaccurate. Colton Harris-Moore will spend at least another day in the Bahamas. Today's news conference is simply to allow more international press to get in on the story. As far as I know now, it will NOT be an announcement that he is to be repatriated before appearing before a Bahamian magistrate.

Other details, though, have been correct. He is not being held in Fox Hill Prison and is in a police station holding cell.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


The information I'm getting now is that Colt is NOT being held at Fox Hill Prison. Good news for Colt if that's true. There are a number of police stations around New Providence, and I hear that he's in a holding cell in either one or a succession of stations.

The Bahamas authorities have called a press conference for tomorrow morning at 11 a.m.My gut is telling me that they're going to back away from their original plan to bring Colt in front of a Bahamian judge on Tuesday and instead send him back to the U.S.

There's a lot of press here now and more coming in tomorrow, so word will get out almost instantly.


Readers are asking about a "suicide attempt." I wouldn't call it that, but a suicide "threat."

A Bahamian policeman who was on the boat that stopped him, one of the guys who fired the shots into the engine, told me this morning that Colt did, indeed, put the pistol he was carrying to his own head and said he would shoot if they tried to take him. Again, the Bahamian officers acted professionaly and held fast, calmly talking to Colt until he put the gun down and then threw it into the water.

Colt could have shot at them, he could have shot himself... Either would have had the same consequences, and the end of his run would have been as final as it gets. But he chose to live.


The outboards on Colton Harris-Moore's last stolen boat. Bahamian police made sure Colton couldn't keep running by stopping these engines for good with blasts from a shotgun and at least one other weapon. Colt was standing at the controls of this 32-foot Intrepid, just a few feet in front of these engines, but fortunately is okay. The Bahamian police were excellent shots, even at night and from a boat.  

Photo copyright 2010 Bob Friel ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.



No secret now: The island I flew to was Eleuthera. I was having a couple Kaliks with a friend at a small bar near the landing where taxi boats run over to Harbour Island. Colt had already been to this bar, taking a little snack food and some drinks earlier in the week. It was Independence Day for the Bahamas, so a friend and I went over to the festival in The Bluff. Not long after we left, Colt showed up at the dock in a little Boston Whaler. He ran it aground on some coral rocks – in full view of a crowd of folks waiting on the dock for a taxi to run them to The Bluff.

Colt got the boat off, then turned off the engine and chatted with a few guys on the dock. He told them who he was and what was going on. A nice friendly chat… One guy opened his cell phone and Colt understood he was calling the police. And Colt wasn’t too upset about that. He wanted a chase. And he got one.

I’ll of course be writing a lot more on this, but it all ended fittingly for the Barefoot Bandit. He ran until the very end. After a boat chase, a land chase and a swim to a speedboat, which he stole. The final chase was two speedboats. Colt ran his onto a sandbar. The other boat with Bahamian Police inside ran close and told him to stop. Colt’s boat was floating off the sandbar and they told me that it was obvious he was going to try to keep running. So they shot out his outboard engines, hitting them with a shotgun and what I think was an automatic rifle.

Colt understood it was serious then. He tried one more thing that I’ll report later, then threw his backpack into the sea and gave up. They retrieved his backpack.

Earlier today, Colt, wearing camo shorts, a blue shirt, a hat and a bullet-proof vest – and shackled hand and foot – was led to a small plane at the North Eleuthera Airport and flown in Bahamian custody to the capital, Nassau.

It’s been quite a run for 19-year-old Colton Harris-Moore and it didn't end before he got a chance to experience a paradise, at least for a little while. Unfortunately for him, there will now be a long run through the legal system.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Well, I've already had to change my ticket because Colton Harris-Moore is, once again, apparently on the move.

I can't say where just yet, but there's been another boosted boat, this one taken from Marsh Harbour. As of right now, I'm headed to another island that fortunately also has some old friends living on it. Colt better be careful on this island who's stuff he messes with, though... one guy I know is a former Navy SEAL who won't appreciate anyone borrowing his boat. On the other hand, a good friend of mine who owns a restaurant there says she admires Colt's moxy and that she'll give him a sandwich if he stops by.


If Caught, Colton Harris-Moore Better Hope for Quick Extradition Back Home

Yes, Colt now faces U.S. Federal charges. The “We don’t care about this kid, who’s simply a local problem” FBI recently filed papers showing they they do — and have — cared about someone who's been boosting small airplanes and flying them around America. Now, if he’s caught, Colt will have at least one, and maybe eight or more, Federal charges against him (anything stolen and taken between states is a Federal crime, including cars, boats, and planes. The DNA and fingerprint evidence is now coming in in bunches, and supposedly ties Colton Harris-Moore to at least a couple of each. So... this could mean quite a bit more prison time.

BUT… if Colt thought it was a good idea to head out of U.S. jurisdiction in order to escape his warrants in the U.S. justice system… nope. As I mentioned before, there is an extradition treaty between us and the Bahamas that’s been in effect since 1994. No one will confirm or deny to me yet whether there is an agreement to bundle Colt back here right away if he’s caught. We work closely with the Bahamas govt on many matters, and even station FBI agents full-time at our embassy in Nassau because our law enforcement works with the Bahamians on issues such as drug smuggling. Colt has, allegedly, already committed a number of crimes on Great Abaco (as many as seven), including home burglaries and a break-in at Curly Tails where he’s seen on security cameras. It would not be unusual, though, for him still to be quickly repatriated to face the US charges.

HOWEVER, if he gets to the threshold where Bahamian authorities feel they need to tell the U.S. that they’d like the first crack at him — say if the worst case happens and a Bahamian gets hurt during a chase or confrontation — then Colt’s in for a rude awakening.

There is only one prison in the Bahamas, the notorious Fox Hill, which brings an immediate shudder to any Bahamian who mentions it. The most recent reports from the U.S. State Department (State 1 and State 2 ) paint a picture of an overcrowded, sweaty, hell, with the max security block crammed with twice as many prisoners as it was designed to hold. (Bahamian sources claim it is even higher). Men being held for trial (that is those still considered innocent) are routinely put in cells with convicted criminals. All convicted prisoners are initially sent to the max unit as a means of “breaking them in” to prison life.

Quoting: Male prisoners were crowded into poorly ventilated cells that generally lacked regular running water, toilets [read: the only bathrooms are communal buckets]. Most prisoners lacked beds. Many of them slept on concrete floors and were locked in small cells 23 hours per day. Maximum-security inmates were allowed outside for exercise 4 days a week for 1 hour per day. Prison officials estimated that approximately 8 percent of the prison population was infected with the HIV virus and one-third suffered from tuberculosis. Amnesty International (AI) stated in a 2003 report that the HIV infection rate was closer to 20 percent.” [Bahamian activists put those disease rates even higher].

So... once again, for all those out there following your story, Colt, from the "fans," to those folks who think you're just a crook who needs to be caught but they still have the humanity not to wish you harm, on their behalf, I'd strongly suggest not escalating this to the point where the Bahamians feel compelled to keep you for awhile.

As wonderful and friendly and welcoming as the Bahamian people are, their prison is not.


Colton Harris-Moore: I’ll See You at Nippers

My first foreign trip, back when I was 18, was a flight to the Bahamas via an ancient DC-3 (its door fell open just as we were taking off from Ft. Lauderdale). Since then, I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve been back to the Bahamas. I’ve crossed the Gulf Stream from Florida on boats of all sizes dozens of times. And done scores more trips on puddle jumper planes buzzing over to just about every coral cay worth landing on. I've loved the Bahamas, especially the Out Islands, ever since that first trip. And, apparently, so does 19-year-old Colton Harris-Moore. So, now’s a good time for me to head back yet again.

The latest word from friends on Great Abaco is that the security tape of Colt shows he did, indeed, finish shaving his head. He’d been going for a Mr. Clean look a couple weeks ago but was interrupted by a Yankton, South Dakota, family who came home at 3 a.m. and surprised Colt just after he’d finished showering in their basement bathroom and had started to shave his head. Colt dropped the razor, ran upstairs, surprised the hell out of the family, and when the dad chased a naked Colt back into the basement, Colt aimed a red laser at him and said he had a gun. The guy wisely backed away and got his family out of the house. Colt grabbed his wet clothes out of the washing machine and bolted out a window.

And Colt, we really hope that wasn’t a handgun with a laser sight... Remember: Do anything with a gun involved and forget about it.

Anyway, perhaps knowing he was heading for warmer climes, Colt finally did crop his hair before flying a Cessna 400 to near its maximum range, leaving the plane in three feet of water near Sandy Point, Great Abaco. Which has excellent bonefishing, by the way.

If Colt did as much planning and research as I think he always does, he probably knew he was getting there during the big regatta -- party crazy time for the Abacos, which is boater crazy central. The Abaco Regatta is a bunch of salty people on a lot of boats racing every day to get to be the first ones at the next bar (Those aren’t the official rules, but in practice… oh yeah… And it’s wonderful fun). Lots of cool boats, lots of great people, lots of wild parties.

Last night was the big regatta party in Marsh Harbour, the little town where Colt may be hiding out now if he hasn't made it up to Treasure Cay. He’s the talk of the island, so he probably didn’t attend the awards ceremony. A tall, sunburned 19-year-old wouldn’t have stuck out so much with so many visitors around, but one with a shaved head? Yeah.

I hope Colt remembered to bring a hat, along with suntan lotion and some good shades — polarized are best for the glare off the water. The July sun can be brutal in the Bahamas, but the water is usually flat calm and the snorkeling and diving superlative. I’m definitely packing my mask and fins.

Outside of Regatta week and a few holidays, things are very laid-back in the Abacos… except on Sundays, when everyone who can catch a ferry, bum a boat or paddle a kayak heads across the Sea of Abaco to Nippers Bar on Great Guana Cay. I plan on getting to the Abacos in time for that weekly pig roast/blowout. Yes, I’m going there to work, but I can always start my reporting on Monday… as we say in the islands, “Soon come,” as in “I’ll get to it… someday.”

So Colt, if you’re there to really enjoy the Abacos: Nippers on Sunday. I know you don’t drink much, but the music is great, there’s an amazing beach right out front with warm, clear water, and the people watching is the best (2,500 people there last Sunday because of the regatta crowds). We'll all be barefoot, so you should feel right at home.

If you don’t make it over, do me a favor and don’t start any trouble on Sunday… we’ll all be doing what the Out Islands were made for: relaxing, soaking up the sun and sipping some rum.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Colton Harris-Moore May Be the Only Non-Rum-Drinker in the Bahamas Today

So who do you call when you need information about something in the Bahamas but it’s after midnight local time? Well, last night I called an old drinking buddy who owns one of the world’s best beach bars in the Abacos, which are Out Islands in the northern Bahamas (I’ll name his bar once the rest of the media have the story… no sense in having him bothered all day with phone calls; he’s busy handling the music mix). I’d gotten wind that the stolen plane — which the FBI now says is tied to Colton Harris-Moore — splashed down off Great Abaco, and nothing happens in the Abacos without Johnny knowing about it. I called the bar and the party was still going full blast, but Johnny got on the horn and told me what he knew.

So, here’s what we have so far: The Cessna 400 did a controlled crash, a water landing in three feet of water off Sandy Point, which is at the southern tip of Great Abaco. The Abacos are an archipelago within the larger Bahamas archipelago, with a big-ass island called Great Abaco and a long string of barrier islands to its east that face the Atlantic atop an amazing reef. In the pantheon of the world’s best boating areas (at least in this hemisphere), the Abacos ranks right up there along with the British Virgin Islands, the Grenadines and the San Juan Islands. Colt’s now hit two of the four.

I’ve been to the Abacos more than 20 times. Great bonefishing and diving, and it’s where I caught my biggest blue marlin to date (Blood, Sweat and Beers). I've got other Bahamas stories on my website and you can also look up the Abacos on the official Out Islands website (, where I did most of the photography and a lot of the text.

Colt made it out of the plane and waded ashore, then stole a car and travelled north to the main town of Marsh Harbour. Marsh is like a miniature Florida town in that on summer weekends it’s got as many Floridians as Bahamians. There are loads of expats, hundreds of vacation homes, a few resorts and probably five times as many boats as cars. Small ferry boats run from Marsh across the Sea of Abaco out to the barrier islands like Elbow Cay, Guana Cay, Green Turtle Cay and Man-o-War.

Last night, someone broke into at least two places in Marsh Harbour, the Fedex office and a restaurant called Curly Tails (great harbor view, and I highly recommend the conch fritters, crusted grouper and mahi mahi). Apparently they have video showing someone who looks a lot like Colt with a shaved head breaking into Curly Tails.

There isn’t much police presence in the Abacos, but The Royal Bahamian Police Force is sending reinforcements up from New Providence.


In some ways, yes, Cuba would be a better spot. It's a huge island with lots of room to roam. It's also much more lush and fertile than the coral islands of the Bahamas, so it's much easier to find food. You could easily live off mangoes and bananas supplemented with some fresh-caught fish along with swiped eggs since many people there raise chickens.

If a fugitive with a similar m.o. wanted to go unnoticed, though, and didn't want to live in the forests, he’d have a tough time because there aren’t the selection of vacant vacation homes in Cuba that you find in the Bahamas or almost any other Caribbean destination.

Cuba has maintained draconian real estate laws since la revolution in 1959. That applies to locals as well as foreigners. Only now are they so strapped for cash that they’re about to allow foreigners to develop golf course communities that will eventually include lots of large, opulent vacation villas. They won’t be ready for years, though.

Right now, any foreigner acting furtively in Cuba would very quickly be picked up. A fat bank account might allow you to make a deal and stay there (a la Robert Vesco during a different part of his run), but I don’t think Colt has that kind of baksheesh to spread around.

All of that is moot, though, if any fugitive tried to make it to Cuba in an airplane. While there have been five small private planes stolen and flown around with impunity here in the States during all this, Cuba keeps an extremely close watch on its airspace and has actually shot down private planes that entered without permission.

By boat? Maybe… the Cuban navy is just as serious about smuggling, though, and would likely intercept a boat.

But there are some hints that Colt’s been studying a foreign language, maybe Spanish… so anything’s possible.

Again, there is no evidence that I know that says this is Colton Harris-Moore who stole the plane from Indiana and splash landed it in the Bahamas… these are just all “what ifs” at this point.


Colton Harris-Moore Suspected of Going Sub-Tropical

Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to post much day-to-day stuff on Colton right now, especially when it’s speculative in nature, but this is just getting too interesting. The news that he’s a suspect in another theft of a private plane — this one flown from Indiana to the Bahamas — is remarkable... so I'll remark.

I know the Bahamas extremely well from travelling there often over the past 30 years. I’ve done something like 50 magazine articles on the country, and did a photo book called Underwater Bahamas. I have a lot of friends there, and hearing that Colt may now be visiting had me wondering if he’d hacked into my address book, or at least been reading my Bahamas stories extolling all the things he likes: boating, snorkeling, fishing, island-hopping, magnificent vacation homes, and lots of small airports.

Again, as far as I know at this point there is no direct evidence that this is Colt. Playing connect the dots with stolen vehicles, though, does provide some circumstantial support to the theory it’s him. If it is, why did he go to the Bahamas and what chance does he have of staying free in an archipelago made up of some 700 mostly small islands where the locals have all known each other for generations?

Most people only know the Bahamas from a cruise stop at Nassau or Freeport. The real Bahamas, though are the Out Islands — also known as the Family Islands — slow-paced, sandy and sunny cays where life revolves around the water. Details are coming in sluggishly so far, but from the Bahamian police I spoke to last night, it sounds like whoever splashed down in this plane (a high-performance Cessna 400 flown 1,200 miles), made it to the Out Islands. I’ll report exactly where as soon as I can confirm it.

The Bahamas have a long history of acting as refuge for fascinating characters such as the pirate Blackbeard, cocaine kingpin Carlos Lehder, fugitive financier Robert Vesco, and uber-rich recluse Howard Hughes. The capital island, New Providence, was even declared the “Pirate Republic” for a short, swashbuckling period of the 18th Century.

So is Colt the latest character to attempt to hide away in the beautiful Bahamian cays? Stay tuned. To answer the first question on many minds, though: Yes, the U.S. has an extradition treaty with the Bahamas.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


By all accounts, Colton Harris-Moore is on the move, emphatically heading east after a short run south from Washington into Oregon.

FBI and local law enforcement labs in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota are testing evidence — including DNA and fingerprints — to see if it is indeed Colt who has left a trail of stolen vehicles, burgled homes and airport break-ins all the way from the Pacific Northwest islands to the Midwest plains.

The latest development is that South Dakota police have issued a BOLO (Be On the Lookout) for a young white male with a freshly shaved head driving a white, 2008 Toyota Sequoia stolen early Saturday morning and believed to be heading southeast into Iowa.

Colt has been moving fast since the middle of May when he left Orcas Island where he’d been wintering. Beginning May 13, there have been reports — some apparently confirmed by fingerprints or surveillance video that may ultimately prove it’s Colt, others are just crimes allegedly with Colt-ish M.O.s — on San Juan Island, Lopez Island, Camano Island, Whidbey Island, Kitsap County, Raymond Washington (the now famous note and C-note left at a veterinary clinic), Ilwaco, WA, Astoria, Oregon, Dayton, OR, McMinnville, OR, Boise, ID, Cody, WY, Yankton, SD and Norfolk, Nebraska.

Also in this last month, the reward for Colt has grown (listed at as $9,000), and he’s ignored a $50,000 offer to turn himself in. As recently as June 16, a team of bounty hunters was combing Camano Island — accompanied by TV news crews — looking for Colt. The bounty hunters claim they were working off a hot tip that Colt was back on the island. Police, though, believe that Colt was, at that moment, relaxing, showering and eating in a South Dakota home while the owners were on vacation.

With all the movement and with Colt far away from the islands and forests he knows so well -- and with law enforcement dialed in on his modus operandi -- the risk of capture has reached an all time high for Colt. Supporters are now preparing for the eventual end of Colt’s run by donating to a legal defense fund set up by his mother, Pam Kohler.

Conceived by Kohler as a way to ensure her son receives the best legal help possible, she says that just a few bucks from each of Colt’s many fans worldwide (there are 60,000-plus following him on Facebook alone) would go a long way to paying for what promises to be a lengthy and expensive legal process as Colt fights his way through what may ultimately end up being dozens of charges in two countries, six states (and counting), and at least six Washington State counties.

The Colton Harris-Moore Defense Fund (supporters can use Paypal and credit cards) is hosted by Skepteon Investigations, a private investigation firm that specializes in criminal defense that worked on Colt’s last court case. Shauna Snyder, lead investigator, says she strongly believes in the concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” and wants to make sure that all the media attention hasn’t caused a presumption of guilt before Colt’s had his day in court.

You gotta love Skepteon’s motto: “Reasonable doubt for a reasonable price.”


Monday, June 7, 2010


In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups, the police and the district attorneys…

On the other side of the criminal justice system are defense attorneys, and “justice” can sometimes depend on just how good a defendant’s lawyer is. And here’s a big news flash: John Henry Browne, a criminal defense attorney who many people consider the best in the entire state of Washington, says that he’s willing to represent Colton Harris-Moore.

Colt, I don’t know if you realize the significance of this, but it’s huge. Look Browne up at, and then call him on his cell at 206-595-1092. Anything you say to him or ask him about is 100% confidential.

We know you could run forever, Colt. The problem with that, though, is exactly that: You’ll be running forever, always looking over your shoulder. Now, however, you know you can end this on your terms and have your own “dream team” lawyer to give you the best defense possible.

You’ve still got choices, and this seems like an easy one.




Interesting times for Colt. Three weeks ago, he starred in a surveillance video taken at a Lopez Island marina just before a boat was stolen and navigated, at night, down to the south end of Camano Island. It appeared that Colt had come home. The welcome he received was a public meeting attended by more than 200 Island County locals, three TV production trucks, and a team of Russian commando-trained fugitive recovery specialists (or, if you prefer, bounty hunters).

The most widely played soundbite from the meeting was delivered by a guy who any fans of the movie Jeremiah Johnson will remember as Del Gue, the mountain man who shaved his head so the Indians wouldn’t have a scalp to take. Camano Del said, “Most of us want him [Colt] dead!”

What only played on one of the TV reports was the resounding groans from the rest of the audience in response. No one reported that the statement was then disavowed by the organizers and the gentleman was told he was not speaking for everyone.

Mike Rocha, bail bondsman and head of the bounty hunters, promised that he and his team would be actively searching for Colt and announced he already had tips that he was sure the police don’t have. He also offered to facilitate Colt’s surrender if he wanted to turn himself in.

As of the day of the meeting, though, circumstantial evidence had Colt off Camano and onto Whidbey Island, and then off Whidbey and down to the Kitsap Penninsula, and from there points further south. No one can say for sure that Colt is still even in Washington State. For all we know, he’s heading to Mexico the hard way: 20 miles a hop.

Another strange twist in an already fascinating case came on June 3rd, when an anonymous donor offered Colt $50,000 to turn himself in through the lawyer Jim Johanson. Johanson is also offering to handle the peaceful surrender and initial court appearances for free. Colt has until tomorrow, June 8th to take them up on it.

A $9,000-or-so reward for his capture, a new website/blog that's dedicated to countering Colt's Facebook fandom and raising more reward money, a $50,000 signing bonus for turning himself in, a team of bounty hunters on his trail, and folks like cranky old Del Gue loadin' up their b'ar rifles…

Colt’s head must be spinning.

One thing I’m sure he’s wondering is: Who the hell can I trust? Well Colt, here’s a blast from your past: Remember Shauna Snyder from your last legal go round? She’s the PI ( who worked on your defense and did a great job. She’s recently talked to several lawyers and others in the justice system about your current status and can connect you with an attorney so you get the straight scoop about all of this and help you figure out how to proceed. Give her a call at 360.331.5049 or reach her through her website.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Note about Comments and Lack of Posts

I welcome comments. You agree, you disagree, you love, you hate -- all fine. You write me threats, you say that I "better hide" because you're coming to get me... Nah, I'm not going to publish those. If you can, write your issue in reasonable, non-obscene language and I'll publish it. If not, then start your own blog called "Anonymous Threats I've Written" and you can write whatever you want.

Also a note to those who've expressed disappointment that I haven't been posting much: Sorry about that. The reason is simple, though: I don't want to feed the beast. All there is right now is speculation about Colt, and the newspapers are doing a fine job with that. Every burglary or theft in the San Juans and Island County now gets Colt's name attached to it as a possible suspect. Frankly, every rustle in the woods has people wondering if that's him -- I know he's got me thinking that way. Last night, there was a sound under my cabin at dusk. When I went to investigate, I found... a peacock. After two years of Colt being on the run around here, I would have been much less surprised to find him under my cabin then I was to find a big ol' male peacock. Apparently there are a couple running wild here on Orcas these days.

Or maybe Colt had this one as a pet and when he (possibly) took off island-hopping in stolen boats from here to San Juan Island to Lopez and then to Camano last week, he left the bird here. If so: Colt, what the hell should I feed him?

Anyway, I don't want to post Colt news every day. As I've explained, I'm totally against sensationalizing this story because I believe there's a lot of tragedy in it. If I had to write something here every day then I'd naturally have to speculate and pontificate, and that would just add to the senseless chatter that surrounds this. There is an important story here, though, and a lot of important issues that Colt's story brings to light. What I am doing every day is examining things such as child development issues, mental health issues, the school system, Child Protective Services, State versus parental versus child rights, foster parenting, the juvenile justice system, etc.

I'm not looking at these issues to make excuses for Colt. He's made his decision to run outside of society, and for that he has the law on his tail. But his tale IS important because there are plenty of other, younger, Colts out there, and unless we want more of them out here breaking into our homes and businesses, we need to make sure the systems we have in place give every kid the chance for a normal life -- and the chance to find his place IN society, even if it's on the eccentric, anti-authority, alternative fringe.

All my reporting on these issues will be in a book (yes, it's now official) for Hyperion, which will be out sometime next year. It may be titled "Taking Flight" or maybe "COLT"... not sure yet. And yes, once I have all the facts or as many as I can gather, it will tell about Colt's life and the important issues it illuminates. Of course since not enough people read books these days and the last thing I want is a boring book, it will also tell the true story behind Colt's amazing ability to boost boats, planes and to elude law enforcement for over two years, along with the reasons behind the remarkable worldwide response to his story.

Hopefully -- and most importantly -- it will also tell how this all came to a peaceful conclusion, with no one hurt (despite all the wishes from anonymous commenters rooting for the ugly death of a 19-year-old property thief).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hey Colt

Your mom's worried about you and wants you to get in touch with her any way possible to let her know you're okay.

Thursday, April 29, 2010



Colton Harris-Moore escaped the Griffin Home two years ago today. Since then he’s suspected of stealing four airplanes and several boats, and breaking into dozens of homes and businesses. We believe he’s been back here on Orcas Island since February, and the island occasionally buzzes with a possible new sighting: He’s in a resort hot tub, in a vacant house eating popcorn, paddling a kayak down the coast, fleeing out the back door of a home with Federal agents in hot pursuit, leaving a bare footprint in the mud near a chicken coop…

High-tech helicopters have searched the island repeatedly, while camouflaged SWAT teams stalked the forests. Black government SUVs appear and disappear. Still, Colt remains at large, an irritant to islanders, a frustration to law enforcement, a symptom of a flawed system to some, a hero or anti-hero to others.

So what’s Colt doing on his second anniversary of false freedom? It’s another beautiful day here on Orcas. Many seem to think he’s in survivalist mode in the woods, others believe he has a secret network of safe houses. In reality, though, he’s probably hunkered down in a vacant cabin. If the electricity and satellite service were left on, maybe he’s watching TV. If they left a computer, he’s surfing the web.

How long will this go on, Colt? How will it end? Do you have a plan or is your only idea just surviving and staying out of jail?

Even though he personifies the elusive needle in a haystack, it seems inconceivable that he can remain a phantom moving through the woods, living in other people’s homes, stealing from small businesses, forever.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010



There’s a lot of press in the last couple of days, a lot of messages from newspapers, radio and television reporters asking about books and movies. Here are the facts:

My story about Colton Harris-Moore in Outside Magazine received a lot of attention from movie producers and book publishers — as a lot of magazine stories do, especially when they concern a topic as interesting as this one. A great many non-fiction books start life as magazine features. A great many movies are based on books… a circle of life that every freelance writer hopes for, especially any writer that’s been doing this professionally for over 25 years (ouch).

As soon as there are signed contracts, I’ll report the news here and lay out what the issues and angles that the proposed book will explore.

As for the current reports: Yes, it is 20th Century Fox and Rough House Pictures that want the story based on my article and book proposal. One of the principals of Rough House is director/writer David Gordon Green. I think David would be terrific for this story. If you only know him by Pineapple Express, then go rent George Washington, Snow Angels and Undertow.

As for one reporter who joked that he reached me at my “palatial estate” on Orcas Island… Bad joke. There are some palatial estates out here, but I live in a 400-square-foot rustic cabin — and a significant portion of that is taken up by my big ol’ dog, Murphy. And no, unfortunately neither a book deal nor movie option would earn enough to buy us that palatial estate -- Murphy is very disappointed.

As for actual Colt news: A helicopter was hovering less than a mile from my cabin two nights ago, searching the woods. That’s the first possible Colt action since the big St. Paddy’s night manhunt.

I’m still hoping that Colt makes a deal and turns himself in, safely. Colt, you’ve done it: You got all the attention you could ever want. There might even be a movie now. Why continue to risk so much? If someone ever gets hurt during any of this, then you’ll be facing a hell of a lot more trouble and time behind bars — and you’ll lose your supporters.

Monday, March 22, 2010



It’s been 691 days since Colt climbed out a window at the Renton group home where he was serving out the remainder of his sentence for burglary and possession of stolen property. And today is his birthday. How is he celebrating?

Apparently his plan is to spend his special day here on Orcas Island in Washington State’s Puget Sound. It’s a gorgeous day, so far, with brilliant blue skies and a temp near 50 degrees. We’ve had an early spring thanks to El Nino, with many clear, almost summer-like days mixed amid periods of sopping rain and a few near-freezing morning lows. We don’t know if Colt’s been camping in the woods or squatting in vacant homes, sneaking into islander’s sheds, or maybe holed up with an accomplice, but if he’s outside, he’s gone through quite a number of cold, wet nights since he came back.

Twice now law enforcement has put together serious manhunts for Colt, including helicopters, FBI agents and SWAT teams. The most recent was St. Paddy’s night, when just as many of us were headed home from parties at around 2 a.m., the alarm went out, the choppers lifted off and the shit hit the fan. They felt they had Colt cornered here on the west side of Orcas. He had his back to the cold waters of Puget Sound, and the only place he could run was across rugged and ridiculously steep terrain.

The search went on, full-bore, for 14 hours before finally being scaled back. He got away again, and earned another stretch of freedom that looks like it will at least run through his 19th birthday.  

One note to add to previous barefoot speculation: Reportedly there were bare footprints found during this latest chase, evidence that Colt is, indeed, running around the woods barefoot, even in winter.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010



It looks like Colt has purposely put himself back on Orcas Island, 58-square-miles of rolling fir and cedar forests, farmed valleys, and one small town. The only ways off Orcas are by boat or small plane. Is this his ultimate "game"?

Colton Harris-Moore has gone from troubled youth to petty crook, to basically living off the land — stealing food and finding shelter — to stealing whatever he wanted out of homes and businesses, to boosting cars, boats and, allegedly, planes in order to get around. Now, in a troubling escalation, he’s gone from being a cat burglar who always took great pains to avoid notice, to someone who, apparently, is openly taunting local residents and police.

Oddly, whoever drew the goofy foots in Homegrown Market also tried to destroy the security system hard drive… Why go to all the trouble of wrecking a computer video system if you’re also leaving a calling card that’s a big “Here I am and F.U. all!”? Maybe it’s not Colt, just a method-acting copycat. Or maybe he’s not acting alone, but has local help… Who knows at this point. However, if this is Colt, then he’s escalated what he thinks of as a game -- but everyone else involved is taking very seriously -- to all-new dangerous levels.

Hunting Colt here on Orcas are uniformed and undercover police, occasionally Federal agents, and for one long day that got real annoying for locals, a department of Homeland Security Blackhawk circling endlessly trying to spot suspects using its FLIR. But wait, there’s more: Any unusually tall young men who show up on Orcas at night these days have the chance to meet some of our very own vigilantes and get a taser shoved up their asses.

How long does Colt plan to play? Really bad “media” reports speculate that he has nothing to lose and that since he’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison, why stop now. His mom says that Colt himself has in his mind that he’s looking at 20 years no matter how this ends. Wrong and wrong. Wrong and only making all this more dangerous for Colt and everyone else.

Here’s some sober speculation, based on interviews with lawyers and law enforcement.

IF Colt gets CAUGHT, the indictments could definitely total a lifetime — but that’s at retail. Nobody ever serves retail. Counties will make deals to clear crimes off their books; a lot of the charges will be from when he was a juvenile and probably get tossed; all the jurisdictions will come together to see who really wants to prosecute him; and it’s standard for a lot of sentences to be served concurrently, i.e. three three-year sentences for felony burglary could all be served at the same time.

Yes, everything could still easily add up to 20 years plus a shitload of restitution (Colt’s young: he’ll have a lot of years to pay back the insurance companies for those planes if he’s convicted of stealing and breaking them). And, obviously, that’s only if he gets caught before someone gets physically hurt — by accident or not — or Colt’s caught committing a crime with a gun. If either of those happen, then all bets are off and it’s going to be a long hard time in big boy prison for Colt.

BUT all that’s only if he gets CAUGHT.

IF, however, Colt holes up, gets in touch with someone to arrange a lawyer (Colt, there are lawyers who will work on this for free; get in touch) and make a deal BEFORE they catch him, the calculations change considerably.

Some media and fanboys play up that Colt’s such a bad ass because he took a shot at the cops. Well, no one’s going to be able to prove that, so all this “Dead or Alive” crap is bullshit. (If Colt is playing with guns, however, this is all going to end very badly for him anyway, either dead or in jail for a long time because of minimum sentencing guidelines… so Colt shouldn’t touch any guns.) As for the possibly 100 other crimes he’s suspected of committing while he’s been on the lam: Maybe there’s slam-dunk proof in a dozen or so.

Here’s the amazing thing: After all this worldwide attention and all the games and all the chases, Colt still has a hand to play. None of the jurisdictions want to waste more money chasing him (except the Feds; they’ll chase him forever no matter what it costs). And a judge should certainly look favorably on a negotiated surrender meant to stop the madness and explain the extenuating circumstances.

Right now, in my opinion, Colt could make a pretty sweet deal that would have him out of prison as a very young man and ready to start his career as a bush pilot with Fly Colt Airways.

Yes, I can remember what it feels like to be 18 and on top of the world — invincible. But you’re not. And luck always runs out. I’ve also witnessed what it does to a person to spend years looking over your shoulder wondering if this was the day they found you. Sure, it’s an exciting, challenging game for awhile, but it gets old fast and then starts to twist your mind. It’s easy for those sitting at home to type “Keep running! Never stop!” You’re providing entertainment and vicarious thrills for them. When you die, shot in someone else’s home or broken in a plane crash, or you’re sitting alone in a cell, they’ll just go back to playing their video games.

When it comes down to this simple math: Get caught and do a dozen hard, or make a deal right now and maybe get out at the same age people graduate college and start living their lives… the answer for Colt seems pretty obvious.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010


ABC News reports today in this post that somebody may have been trying to steal another airplane on Orcas Island this past Friday. Unsubstantiated at this point, but if true it could mean that Colton Harris-Moore remains on the island and didn't make a quick getaway back to the mainland after allegedly leaving a calling card for us during a break-in at the Homegrown Market.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010


Dateline Orcas Island, WA: Where in the world is Colton Harris-Moore?

Rumors last week of his capture by the Coast Guard were quickly deemed false (unless that was just a cover because they immediately renditioned Colt to Guantanamo... see if that false rumor gains traction).

There have, so far, been no other reports of break-ins or thefts on the island that fit Colt's m.o., leaving authorities -- and all of us residents -- to wonder if he did a hit and run on us. A mystery boat buzzed along the island at 1:45 a.m. last Thursday. Was it Colt making a quick getaway after leaving the taunting footprints? Or maybe just a Coast Guard patrol boat making a midnight sweep? We have increased water patrols because of the Olympics being held just north of us in Vancouver.

Down on Camano Island, where Colt was born and first became an outlaw, there continue to be sporadic break-ins. As I've reported in Outside Magazine and here, though, many if not all of them appear to be the work of other thiefs, with some possibly acting as Colt copycats. Naturally, though, since Colton Harris-Moore gets all the press, everyone first thinks of him whenever there is a residential or commercial burglary.

As for residents, it's not just burglaries, but every bump in the night that we have to wonder "Is it Colt?" It's not a nice way to live. I'm also getting a lot of feedback from residents on Orcas and Camano that they wish people would stop thinking of Colt as a "Robin Hood" who steals from the rich. Yes, there are rich people who live on these islands, but the majority of us are not, and instead vary from the poor conditions Colt grew up in, to typical middle classers struggling to make it in tough times.

So, from what we know now, whoever stole the plane and rode it to Orcas Island then robbed the Homegrown Market may still be on the loose here on the island, hiding out with a belly full of cheesecake, trying to figure out how to cook croissants over a camp fire. Or... he's hiding in one of our neighbor's houses. Or... he's back on the mainland.

Basically, we don't know much other than we're watching the woods.


Friday, February 12, 2010


Colt or not, whoever stole the small plane and flew it to Orcas probably doesn't know how lucky he (or she, but we all know it's probably a he, don't we?) is. According to this story on HeraldNet the plane flew an erratic course on its way to Orcas Island and may have blundered into restricted airspace.

The Vancouver Olympics begin tonight and are, naturally, a big fat terrorist target. Airspace around Vancouver is being strictly and seriously controlled. We can see the lights of Vancouver from here on Orcas, and the restricted zone extends almost to the north end of the island. The pirated Cirrus apparently crossed over the line, though I don't have any information yet whether its transponder was on or ATC tried to contact the pilot.

So, beyond the danger of flying to a tiny island airstrip at night (especially if you're not instrument trained), you have to add the threat of a Sidewinder suppository fired from an F-15.

[UPDATE: FAA says the plane did not cross into the Olympic airspace, though they were watching it closely because if was using the wrong transponder code.]


Some info on the latest act of airplane piracy to hit Western Washington. There have now been four small aircraft stolen and believed connected to Colton Harris-Moore. To put that number into perspective, in an average year, there are a total of six general aviation planes stolen in North America -- and most of those are near the southern border, taken and used by drug dealers.  

This plane was a Cirrus SR22, the same popular model as one stolen last summer from San Juan Island. That plane was also hard-landed on Orcas Island.  

Both times, the planes were taken at night and landed in the dark (Orcas does have runway lights that stay on all night). Both planes hit the runway, but then quickly ran off onto the grass.

This most recent plane was heisted from a locked hangar, as were the first and third planes (those were both Cessna 182s). Hangared planes give the thief time to check out the aircraft, see if it has enough fuel, check for the keys, etc.

The Cirrus is faster than the 182 and reportedly somewhat trickier to fly. That initially led some experts to doubt that someone like Colt, who had no formal training, could have flown one. Now, with a second Cirrus taken, and hints (in the form of tauntingly drawn "barefoots") that Colt has suddenly landed back on Orcas, those experts are having to admit that the connection looks stronger. Officially, though, Colt hasn't been tied to that first Cirrus theft. He is officially a suspect in this latest one.

The Cirrus is known for its airframe parachute, which in case of engine failure, deploys and slows the plane's fall to a survivable speed. It's not a magic carpet, though. This plane was stolen from Anacortes then flown across the cold waters of Puget Sound to Orcas. If a plane went into the drink out here and the pilot survived the hit, he'd only last about a half hour in the 46-degree water before losing conciousness.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Follow this link for a news report about the latest Colt sighting...

KOMO News on Orcas Island


Here's the message someone left at the main door of Homegrown Market. There were a couple dozen similar footprints drawn on the floor creating an entire trail around the store.

Missing from the market: A cheesecake, some organic veggies and uncooked meat-and-cheese croissants...

Whoever broke in wanted to leave this message, but obviously didn't want to leave their image. They got to the stores security system and tried to remove the hard drive. When they couldn't get it out, they filled a basin full of water and dumped the entire computer into it along with some tools. Unfortunately, whoever it was left the water running and it caused damage inside the store. One thing that Colt has had going for him (at least as far as having some people rooting for him) is that he's rarely done malicious damage to places he's burglarized. If this is Colt, hopefully this isn't an escalation.


I'm just back from town. The "footprints" in Homegrown (Orcas Islands very cool natural food store) were drawn on the floor with chalk. They're cartoon footprints about two feet long and lead from the service entrance around the store and out the main door. At the main door, there's a note "C-YA!" I'll post pix of the prints later today.

Colt or copycat??? It's a pretty hardcore copycat who'd go to the trouble of stealing a plane...

More details soon.


Like all islands, information here on Orcas travels fastest by coconut telegraph or jungle drum. I just got word (rumor) that they might have, indeed, found bare footprints in the health food store that was broken into last night... Doesn't sound too smart to me (see previous post about Barefootin') and that might mean it's a copycat. I'm sure that if there are prints, police will be able to know shortly if it is indeed Colt (or at least someone with the same footprints as were found at other crime scenes thought tied to Harris-Moore).


Late last night, a plane was stolen from Skagit County (mainland Western Washington) and flown here to Orcas Island, which for the past two summers has been Colton Harris-Moore’s happy hunting ground. Also last night, our health food grocery, Homegrown Market & Deli, was broken into and its security system messed with.

The plane, a Cirrus, is the same model as the second aircraft stolen in a string of what is now four plane thefts where Colt is a suspect — the other two were both Cessna 182s. Fun fact: One feature of the Cirrus is a built-in parachute that can lower the plane down in relative safety — not a bad thing to have if you don’t really know what you’re doing up there.

This latest plane landed at our Eastsound airport from the south, touched down and went off the runway into the grass. Apparently, though, there was only some minor damage to a landing wheel cowling, and the aircraft is still flyable. It’s being moved to a hangar so San Juan County detectives can go over what is now a crime scene to look for evidence. As it’s 50 degrees and drizzly today, I don’t expect them to find any bare footprints.

The information that Homegrown’s security system was tampered with also fits with Colt’s m.o.

Islanders weren’t expecting Colt to come back until spring, when the weather is much more conducive to running around the woods.

The jungle drums are beating, interesting days ahead…

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bad Times Part II

Another of the greatest hits (actually factual misses) from the Sunday Times story on Colt, which I’ve mentioned before. The main reason I’m picking on that story is that for whatever reason, it has spread virally and has been picked up by dozens of blogs causing all kind of misinformation. Again, I feel these stories as they actually happened are already audacious enough.

“He evaded a police pursuit by crashing a Mercedes-Benz into a roadside gas storage tank, using the explosion as a diversion to escape back into the woods where, he says, he feels like a Native American.”

The facts: Colt did take a Mercedes-Benz. It belonged to a neighbor, Carol Starr, in whose house Colt also found the Mercedes polo he’s wearing in the famous self-portrait seen accompanying every story. Police saw the Benz driving erratically, heading north on South Camano Drive. When they tried to pull it over, the Mercedes bolted. After crossing Mountain View Rd, the Mercedes driver braked hard and turned into the parking lot of the Elger Bay Café.

The police were approximately 100 yards behind, but arrived just in time to see the Mercedes’ door fly open and — according to an eyewitness account of a man who was in the patrol car doing a citizen “ride along” — Colt jump out. The car was still in gear and moving, but this wasn’t a 30-mph rolling dive. Colt got out of the car and ran across the street, through a field and into the woods. The car kept rolling, and there is a propane storage tank at the back end of the parking lot… but somehow, the car made a perfect shot between the tank and the corner of the building with inches to spare.

No crash into the gas tank, no explosion. Of course, Colt didn't need an explosion to get away yet again (and we don't know if that was his plan). All he needed was his speed and agility.

If it had kept rolling, the Mercedes would have probably gone off a hill that’s about 20-feet-high. It’s steep, so I guess you could call it a cliff. Instead, it hit a big plastic trash dumpster and stopped. The police ran up and turned the engine off.

As to the Injun claim: I know of no direct quote from Colt where he says the woods make him “feel like a Native American.” BUT, his mom did tell me that they do, indeed, have Sioux blood in the family on her side.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Colt Worldwide

Colt's story continues to circle the globe. This article just appeared in The National, a newspaper out of the United Arab Emirates. It's another rehash, but the reporter did a good job getting her facts straight, and even made some calls to flesh out the story.

Each time a story on Colt appears in a new place, it's amazing to see how it universally strikes a chord with people, especially young people. The reporter for The National asked me about why I think Colt's story appeals to people, whether I think there were opportunities for him to not to have turned criminal, where I think he is, and whether I think there will be a happy ending to all this.

My full answers are below -- her questions in red, my answers in black. (For those not in the media, this is pretty typical when you're asked to do an interview... you talk or write for an hour, and they wind up using 30 words in the final story. It's okay, though, I've done the same thing to people I've interviewed.... karma.)

The reporter asks about Colt's appeal:

Colt's case engenders strong feelings on both sides. People who look at the news reports or sensationalized tv reports tend to fall firmly in one of two camps on Colt: that he's an outlaw hero or that he's simply a no-good crook.

He is a threat and he is, obviously, a criminal, so it's pretty simple to understand why some people don't like him and get angry at anyone who'd support him.

On the other side, it's more complex, but just as understandable. Colt absolutely fits into the mold of the classic outlaw hero, something that not just Americans but people the world over have a long history of finding fascination with, identifying with and living vicariously through. If you don't look too deep into the case, you can construct a narrative where Colt's just a poor, disadvantaged kid with a lousy home life who felt he had no choice but to run away. In this narrative, he survives by breaking into million-dollar homes to forage for food and clothing and is chased and opposed by the entire power of the government. When cornered, he acts like James Bond and jumps into the nearest car, boat or plane and escapes.

The fact that he hasn't physically hurt anyone during his latest 19-month spree makes it easy for people to believe in this narrative and easy for them to pull for Colt. In their view, Colt really isn't a "bad guy." Jesse James, Billy the Kid etc were also extensively followed in their times, and both of them actually killed people, including innocents. Billy the Kid was basically a hit man. Still, people romanticized them. With Colt, again, it's much easier because of the narrative: He's an underdog surviving on his wits in an unfair world of high unemployment, bank bailouts and corrupt systems; he's not hurting anyone; and he's only robbing from the rich to give to the poor -- himself.

I think this narrative is especially attractive to young people, who are by nature rebellious and see in Colt their own minor rebellions, whether against parents, school, the police, authority in general.

Of course the truth about Colt is much more complicated, but you have to look deeper to see it -- learn who the victims were, talk to them, talk to people who grew up with Colt, friends, neighbors, teachers, the police. Once a story like this gets clouded, gets grayer, it's harder to sensationalize, harder to soundbite, harder to make it black and white so people can take easy sides. At that point, it loses some of its mass appeal. Of course to me, that's when it just starts to get interesting and becomes a more important story in a larger sense, the whys and hows.

The reporter asks about missed opportunites that might have saved Colt, either by his mom or our social systems:

Colt's case absolutely shows failures at many levels. There were obvious parental failures. Colt was also "in the system" from an early age, and there were multiple attempts to help him, which for various reasons didn't take. In school, he was socially promoted even though in some years he failed every one of his classes.

I'm continuing to report on this story, and I'm looking at the societal side of all this (social programs, schools, parental rights versus social systems like child protective services). I've discovered that the State of Washington is relatively progressive when it comes to its juvenile justice system and social programs. There are programs in place that, when they identify a kid like Colton who is to the extreme of a risk-taking personality, they'll get them into rock climbing or motocross or something else that lets them satisfy that need as a reward for good behavior such as staying in school. Nothing like that was ever offered to Colt, though, but I don't know why yet.

Of course, most of us know people who had rough upbringings and still found their place in society. Colt made some bad decisions on his own, such as the choice to escape the group home. He was attending classes there, and by all reports doing pretty well. A promising sign for Colt is that according to the reports from forensic psychologists who've interviewed him, he understands that he's done and doing wrong, he doesn't blame society or his upbringing, and he doesn't show any of the classic signs of being a sociopath. I've also found no evidence that he's ever used drugs. Those factors, to me, are a sign that Colt could salvage a future for himself.

The reporter asked where I think he is:

He's definitely not living out in the woods. I believe he's living in a house with friends, apparently on the mainland, as he probably did last winter. It appears he was last on Camano Island in November. He tends to hibernate in the winter when it's cold and wet out here. The summers are beautiful, though, and the forests become very lush and easy to move around in unseen. The police I've talked to would not be surprised at all if Colt shows up again on Camano or in the San Juans come spring and summer.

The reporter asked if I think this will end happily...

Happily's a tough one. I sincerely hope it all ends peacefully. Colt turned 18 after he escaped, so if/when he's caught he'll go into the adult justice system. In there, unfortunately, they don't force inmates to attend classes. In juvie, they are forced.

Other then Colt or a police officer or a bystander getting hurt, the worst outcome I could imagine would be Colt going to prison and doing his time as a student of Criminal U, coming out "hardened." He is a smart kid, and I've been told a number of stories that show he's definitely not all bad -- several people I've interviewed have talked about him having "a good heart." Ideally, Colt would make a deal and turn himself in, do some time, and then all the attention this has garnered would attract someone with the means to give Colt a shot at earning a decent future once he gets out.

I've already had people contact me asking me to get word to Colt that they'd be willing to offer him a job and give him a chance when this is all over. That, to me, would be a happy ending to it: to see Colt ultimately find a place in society where he can (legally) display his talents and pursue his interests. Maybe as an Alaskan bush pilot, combining his love of flying with the great outdoors... He could have a charter company called "Fly Colton."


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Colton Harris-Moore "At Large" Clock

One of the most frequent questions I'm asked is: Is Colton Harris-Moore still at large?

Some confusion comes from the accounts of arrests made after he'd previously been on the run. At one time, Colt was wanted by the police and remained at large for seven months before being caught after a short stand-off at an unoccupied Camano Island home in which he'd been hiding. He was arrested and sentenced to a max-security juvenile prison. After a year, he was transferred to the not-so-secure group home from which he escaped. He's been at large and getting larger ever since.

All the alleged plane thefts, pirating of boats, and sprees through Island County, the San Juan Islands, Point Roberts, British Columbia, Idaho and back to Western Washington have all happened since Colt bolted the group home. For the full story, read my article in Outside Magazine, available here online and at newsstands.

When did he escape and how long has alluded capture? On the left-hand sidebar of this blog, you’ll now see a “count-up” timer set to the time Colt climbed out of the window and went on the lam. It will run for as long as he remains at large.