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.



  1. Hi, Mr. Friel!

    It's Chelle again. I just wanted to say thank you for this update. I'm in Georgia and we never get news from your area. I spend a lot of time Googling Colton because I'm genuinely concerned. Not just for Colton, but for the residents of Orcas Island.

    You're absolutely correct with everything you said in this post. It would be much more "heroic" or whatever the fans want to call it ... if Colton surrendered on his own terms. He'd still be calling the shots up to the very end and that's more than just about anyone else can say in life. We are all accountable to someone.

    It was one thing to have only the local police pursuing Colton. Now that the Feds have come in with their high dollar equipment and point to prove ... this entire situation could grow ugly very fast. I am in no way belittling the crimes that Colton has committed. Stealing from citizens, businesses, and even stealing planes has only hurt bank accounts and feelings up to this point, though. I don't think he should die for it.

    This game that Colton continues to play has taken a very deadly turn now. Play time is over. And if they shoot and kill him, no one is going to care that he was smart enough to live off the land, hide himself well, teach himself to fly a plane or effectively play cat and mouse with the authorities. All people will care about is the NEXT news story that comes along because an abrupt ending is never satisfying.

    You and I both know that Colton's fifteen minutes of fame (should he be killed) will leave a sour taste in a few mouths and not much more. Unfortunately, that's how it works for us. We glamorize this person or that ... but the second they're gone, we move right along to the next "notorious" person.

    I don't want to see Colton become a one page story in some Washington History Book. I want to see him rise above the trailer he grew up in and the rough life he has lived to make something of himself. He's clearly smart enough to do that. And he can't do that if they are zipping him into a body bag. He'll be a blurb on the National News and nothing more.

    I'm not an overly spiritual person, Mr. Friel, but I want you to know that you, your family, and your neighbors are in my thoughts and prayers. The tone of this post conveys the stress, aggravation, and desperation all of you on that island must feel. You not only have to worry about your possessions being stolen at this point ... you have to deal with your privacy and the charm of the island being trampled on by the Feds.

    I will never know exactly what it is that drew me into Colton's story. As I write my novel, I know that I never could have imagined a 'character' like Colton. I'm all too aware that the people I put on the page and the tall, gangly 'wild boy' who grew up in the woods out there near you are very different beings. The paper can't bleed. The paper can't die.

    Colton can.

    I hope with every fiber of my being that it doesn't happen.

    Because his death would surely taint the Pacific Northwest more than his antics ever did.

    All the best to you and yours, sir.

    As always ... thank you for this blog.

    PS, I'm sorry this was so verbose. I tend to babble when I'm nervous.

  2. I've known more than one young man who got in trouble with the law around here. Orcas' electric eco-terrorist, Gabe Mandragon, Port Angeles/Colorado's missing Marine Nine (aka Lance Herring) and I all lived on the same farm at one time or another, and those two weren't the only ones who had trouble with the law. A lot of the folks there never had a chance, they were just born into shitty circumstances, like Colt was. There are plenty ways to run afoul of the law when you have nothing, but running from it just sets you up for more trouble.

    Even if he never gets caught, (and Colt WILL get caught) he'll never be able to have a normal life. He'll always be running and hiding, always stealing or working shitty, under the table jobs. He'll never be able to go to the doctor, buy shoes that fit, or live in his own home. This is a horrible way to live.

    This doesn't have to end badly, Colt has enough brains and fame going for him that he can still have a life, if he does the smart thing, and turns himself in.

  3. This is a great post and I hope Colton reads it. His life is just starting and he'll be out in no time. He can write a book during his stay. This can all end well. Colton, if you are reading this, I hope you will contact someone who can put you in touch with a lawyer and surrender peacefully and life WILL go on for you. You just might even have a great life!

  4. forget all that.
    if Colton is tired of doing what he has been doing he should pack up and cross over to the other side of the country or somewhere where no one will recognize him and live there.

    I certainly hope he doesnt willingly go to prison. I've been to jail, I most certainly would never take any sort of deal that had me going to prison.

  5. he should surrender, write a book, sell the movie rights, and live happily ever after.

    if even half of the shit he's allegedly done is true, he'd be smart to quit while he still has a chance to take advantage of it later in life.

  6. This was a really good article sans media hype. I personally think people are missing the bigger point here. Shouldn't they be more frustrated that their police department here, to whom their tax dollars go, can't catch a child? Come on now. This has been blown way out of proportion and I think the police and media are partially to blame.

  7. The police and media are to blame. But the feds are the real problem, never ending stream of stolen tax money they will not get be insulted for to long. Yet the money never ends, they are studying all his moves, just as they did gangsters/mob that is what the feds have become.NAZIS. They may kill him, they Will lie, about circumstances, and they will profit in the end. Feel for his Mother. Greed = us gov.