Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Born to Run: Inside the Mind of the Barefoot Burglar

Brazen and more confident


Barefoot Bandit Harris-Moore left some footprints at a crime scene.
Barefoot Bandit Harris-Moore left some
footprints at a crime scene.
While hiding out in the woods and in empty houses on Camano Island after escaping from a Washington halfway house for troubled youth in 2008, Harris-Moore was, according to his mother's neighbors whom truTV contacted, mostly seen as a nuisance on the rural island where residents rarely locked their doors at night. Many saw Harris-Moore's nighttime raids on houses as a teenage mischief with little sinister, or even rational, cause. When asked why Harris-Moore had allegedly crashed into a nearby store in a stolen car, a store employee who did not wish to be identified said, "Why does he do anything?"

While some of Harris-Moore's actions may have caused seemed impulsive at the time, there was often a very rational motive behind what he did. Ms. Dettmer recounted that Harris-Moore had once stolen her mother's mailbox and that she was at a loss to explain why he had done that. However, Beech revealed to truTV that Colton had stolen the mailbox and placed it in a row of others at the end of a lane. He had then used the mailbox to set up a dummy address to which he had sent camping gear and other things he allegedly had ordered with a stolen credit card.

Before the mailbox theft, Colton had once hidden out in a neighbor's tree-house where he left behind a camping stove and wrappers from food stolen from the neighbor's garage. He had items delivered to the house with a stolen credit card and then phoned the neighbor, pretending he was another neighbor asking whether a package had mistakenly been delivered to her house. "He had ordered some stuff that he needed and this huge, huge flashlight showed up at my mom's place,"Dettmer said. "Harris-Moore was watching this the whole time."

But despite Harris-Moore's alleged criminal activities, Dettmer told truTV that her mother's physical safety never concerned Dettmer.

"He would never, never hurt my mom," Dettmer told truTV. "He is in survival mode. I feel bad for him."

Colton Harris-Moore
Colton Harris-Moore
Yet, Harris-Moore was not above taunting the police, who, along with the FBI, failed to apprehend Harris-Moore despite pursuit by helicopter, patrol car, and, in many cases, foot throughout his 20 months on the run. The photo Colton snapped of himself wearing a Mercedes shirt after escaping police in a high-speed pursuit in a stolen Benz is now famous and was on FBI wanted posters on post offices throughout the United States. The local police once found a note left behind at a campsite littered with stolen goods that read "The cops wanna play, hu!? It's war! Tell them that." For Beech, the note did not make him angry but aroused his concern.

Beech recalled, "It was like 'what is this kid doing? What is the game he is playing?"

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