Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Born to Run: Inside the Mind of the Barefoot Burglar

Unhappy home


Accounts by people who know him, psychologist reports and social worker records paint a clear picture of a boy growing up in an environment that would at the very least cause emotional difficulties for anyone raised in such a home. Harris-Moore's mother, Pam Kohler, raised him in the family trailer where he reportedly endured her alcoholic rants and a succession of her live-in partners who shared her hard-partying lifestyle. His biological father left before Harris-Moore was six, but he was later reportedly accused of choking 12-year-old Harris-Moore at a family picnic. The one boyfriend of his mother with whom Harris-Moore bonded as a child was reportedly a heroin addict who died when Harris-Moore was 10.

Colton Harris-Moore
Colton Harris-Moore
Kohler was reportedly often drunk and verbally abusive. The police were summoned many times on domestic disturbance calls. Still, Det. Sgt.Beech, who first responded to calls from neighbors when Harris-Moore was six or seven, told truTV that Colton as a little boy didn't exhibit any behavior that was out of the ordinary:

"He seemed like a normal little guy," Beech told truTV, "The best thing I can remember is this big gigantic white dog that jumped up on my car all of the time and put his paws up on the window."

Despite a handmade sign at the front of the driveway leading to her trailer reading "If you go past this sign you will be shot," Kohler definitely was not a backwoods militia type, Beech told truTV.

"She is a little different and a little eccentric, maybe," Beech related. "She is one of those people who doesn't care what other people think. They are living their own life." Calls made to an attorney representing Kohler were not returned.

Before Harris-Moore reached junior high school, he was diagnosed with depression, attention-deficit disorder, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. The extent to which the cocktail of drugs he was prescribed helped him is unclear, while his antisocial behavior escalated. As he grew older, he started breaking into houses and eventually into his school. At age 12, he was arrested and spent 12 days in jail for theft. Reports also show that he attended school less and lessby the time he was in middle school, he was showing up for class about half of the time.

Mariah Campbell, who claimed she had been his friend in fifth grade, was quoted by several news outlets as saying that the other kids had teased Harris-Moore about his dirty clothes.

One of Harris-Moore's few friends in middle school was Harley Davidson Ironwing. Ironwing, who now is serving a stretch in a correctional facility in the state of Washington, only helped Harris-Moore get into more trouble. According to a report in The Herald of Everett, Ironwing bragged about how he taught Harris-Moore to survive by theft. By the time he was 15, Harris-Moore had faced over 20 criminal charges ranging from theft to truancy, according to court records.

"This Harley Davidson Ironwing brought him a long a little bit," Beech told truTV. "It is a natural progression for kids that start out with a little shoplifting stuff and then move on from there. Whether or not some of it in the beginning was merely to eat or if it was for fun, I can't really tell you."

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