Camano teen is "in the right place now"
The first time Colton "Colt" Harris-Moore frustrated police — hiding out in the Camano Island woods he knows so well — Island...
Times Snohomish County Bureau
The first time Colton "Colt" Harris-Moore frustrated police -- hiding out in the Camano Island woods he knows so well -- Island County sheriff's deputies caught the 15-year-old using an unorthodox trick.
Deputies noticed a dozen pizza boxes at an abandoned campsite. So the next time Harris-Moore phoned in an order, during a visit to his mother's trailer, a deputy grabbed some pizza boxes, attached a pizza-delivery dome to the roof of an unmarked patrol car and knocked on the door.
Harris-Moore spent 30 days in Everett's Denney Youth Center -- his fourth juvenile-jail sentence since age 12 -- for a break-in and burglary at the Stanwood Library.
Officers involved in that arrest last spring still smile at the memory. But the smiles fade when they reach the part of the story where Harris-Moore was released from Denney -- and vanished again into the south Camano woods.
He already was suspected in a new case, involving $3,700 in purchases with a stolen credit-card number. A felony theft charge was filed one week after his release.
Colton Harris-Moore's juvenile record
Oct. 8, 2003 (age 12): Third-degree possession of stolen property. Case filed in Snohomish County. Sentenced to 11 days confinement, 16 hours of community service and six months community supervision.
Nov. 27, 2003 (age 12): Second-degree burglary, third-degree malicious mischief. He and three other boys vandalized several Stanwood buildings, including Stanwood Middle School, and took a laptop from a mortgage company. Case filed in Snohomish County. Sentenced to 10 days detention, 56 hours community service and six months community supervision.
Dec. 31, 2003 (age 12): Fourth-degree assault. Case filed in Island County. Sentenced to six months community service and ordered to pay $100 restitution to victim.
March 16, 2004 (age 12): Second-degree theft. He took a $215 walkie-talkie and a $489 video camera from Stanwood Middle School. Case filed in Snohomish County. Sentenced to 10 days confinement at Denney Youth Center in Everett.
July 2004 (age 13): Third-degree theft and possession of stolen property. Convicted in Island County.
Feb. 28, 2005 (age 13): Second-degree attempted burglary. Three windows smashed and $61 taken from a cash box at Stanwood Library; his DNA matched blood found outside one window. Case filed in Snohomish County. Sentenced to 30 days detention, with credit for time served, plus 56 hours community service and six months community supervision.
May 28, 2006 (age 15): First-degree theft and possessing stolen property. Police say he used a stolen credit-card number to purchase $3,700 worth of computer equipment. Charges filed in Island County on July 14. Arrest warrant issued July 28 for missed court date.
Sept. 6, 2006 (age 15): Island County Sheriff's Office searches his mother's five-acre property on south Camano Island and finds a wooded campsite with tarps covering computers and other items connected with about a dozen burglaries and car prowls. Charges pending.
Feb. 9, 2007 (age 15): Arrested at a Camano Island home.
This time, it took the Sheriff's Office seven months to catch the elusive teen. A public appeal for help in recent weeks reaped hundreds of tips -- including a Friday-night call about lights on in a home that should have been vacant.
More than a dozen officers from three police agencies surrounded the house, and a deputy fetched Harris-Moore's mother to talk him into surrendering.
Harris-Moore was being held at Island County's new juvenile detention center in Coupeville on $20,000 bail in connection with one burglary count. A Sheriff's Office news release said county prosecutors were being asked to consider 10 additional burglary and theft charges.
Sheriff's Office spokesman Ed Wallace said Saturday night that Harris-Moore may have had an accomplice in at least some of the crimes, but detectives had not yet positively identified that person.
Neighbors say Harris-Moore always was a "clean-cut" youth -- a nice, quiet and respectful boy who usually stayed to himself.
"He can be personable," sheriff's Sgt. Brian Legasse said. "He could win you over, convince you he needs support and resources -- and then break into your home, too."
Local residents for years warned each other about his alleged burglaries, neighbors say. When police raided his home in connection with a 2003 break-in at Stanwood Middle School, they found a camcorder from a neighbor's house, residents said.
Sheriff's officers pieced together evidence -- word-of-mouth, rumors and mounting loss reports filed by fresh burglary and theft victims -- to conclude that Harris-Moore survived the recent harsh, icy weather by breaking into vacation homes and construction sites, bunking with acquaintances and camping in the rural island's abundant woods.
They believed he amassed survival gear -- police scanners, two-way radios, flashlights, bear-strength pepper spray, a gun holster, electronic devices -- by filching credit-card data found inside homes. He ordered goods over the Internet, they said, using victims' credit-card data and computers, then intercepted the deliveries.
Meanwhile, he was skipping his sophomore year at Stanwood High School's alternative campus. He hasn't attended class since June, the school district said.
In September, deputies searched his mother's five-acre property, on a dirt road off Southeast Camano Drive, and found a campsite filled with computers and other goods stolen from homes and vehicles. Charges are pending, prosecutors said.
"The kid needs help"
Neighbors say Harris-Moore has lived since birth in his mother's ramshackle, single-wide trailer, on a wooded property littered with a half-dozen junked cars and trucks. They say they have called state Child Protective Services (CPS) numerous times with worries that he was abused or neglected. His father apparently moved out years ago, neighbors say.
"The kid needs help. He's screaming for it," said one neighbor who didn't want to be named. "Hopefully, he pulls himself out of that lifestyle before someone gets hurt."
CPS by law can't confirm or deny the existence of complaints or internal investigations, spokeswoman Kathy Spears said.
"It sounds like a very, very sad situation," she said when told of Harris-Moore's circumstances.
Absent physical evidence, "when we get an allegation, we're going to ask the child ... and if they don't say they've been abused or neglected, we can't force him to move out of his family home."
His mother, Pamela Kohler, couldn't be reached for comment. His public defender from past criminal cases, Jay Carey, didn't return a call.
Harris-Moore's record includes convictions for two burglaries at his former middle school. When the principal confronted him about his 2004 theft of classroom electronics, "he stated he could not stop stealing and did not know why," according to a court document.
Sheriff Mark Brown, who took office in January, made Harris-Moore's capture a priority.
"He said, 'I want this kid caught, because he's wreaking havoc over there,' " said Undersheriff Kelly Mauck.
Harris-Moore was nearly captured twice last week, Mauck said, but he lost his pursuers in the dark. The latest instance was Thursday night, when officers surprised him at a house where he'd been sleeping and cooking meals. Bear repellent was found next to a bed, Mauck said.
In the past, Harris-Moore never faced penalties stiffer than a month at Denney or at the Coupeville detention center. Sentences are determined using a formula that considers a youth's age and criminal history.
If convicted this time, on the theft charge or on the pending burglary counts, he could face a heavier sentence at one of the state's juvenile-rehabilitation facilities such as Echo Glen or Green Hill, said Craig Daly, assistant administrator for Snohomish County Superior Court.
"He's in the right place now," Mauck said. "From what I understand, he could be looking at being in custody until he is 21."
Diane Brooks: 425-745-7802 or email@example.com
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