Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Colton Harris-Moore, Tale of a Teenage Outlaw

Cross Country Spree

Update by Paul Van Olson

On May 30, 2010, Harris-Moore resurfaced by leaving a signed, handwritten note and $100 in cash in an envelope at Vetters Animal Hospital in Raymond, Wash. Two days later, a $450,000 yacht was stolen from its slip in Ilwaco, Wash., and moved to Astoria, Ore.; Harris-Moore's fingerprints were later found on the boat. In Astoria, the Hertz rental office was burglarized, a Dodge Journey stolen and, police believe, someone attempted to break into a Cessna at the airport. The Journey was recovered in Dayton, Ore., about an hour south of Portland.

Map of Harris-Moore's recent movements
Map of Harris-Moore's recent movements

Eleven miles from Dayton, in McMinnville, Ore., the municipal airport was burglarized and a Cadillac Escalade was stolen from the Enterprise car rental on June 9. The Escalade was recovered the next day in Ontario, Ore., on the Oregon-Idaho border. In Ontario, an airport hangar was burglarized and a truck stolen. It was later recovered between Ontario and Boise, Idaho. A car stolen in Boise was then recovered in Cody, Wyo., leading investigators to conclude that Harris-Moore was indeed headed east.

In Cody, Harris-Moore's trail came to an end, until, on June 14, a break-in was discovered at the Lawrence County Airport outside Spearfish, S.D., and a vehicle stolen from Buffalo, Wyo., approximately 180 miles east of Cody, was also found abandoned near the airport. On June 16, a pickup was stolen from Spearfish and recovered near the Chan Gurney Municipal Airport in Yankton, S.D., the same day.

On June 17, a burglary was reported at the Chan Gurney Airport; someone broke into a handful of hangars but stole only some blankets. Early the next morning, the Kelly Kneifl family were surprised by a burglar in their home near the Chan Gurney Airport as they returned from vacation. Kneifl and his wife surprised a tall, nude young man, apparently just out of the shower, with a pizza baking in their oven and chased him towards their darkened basement, but he eluded them and ordered them to leave the house or he would shoot, shining a red laser dot onto Mr. Kneifl's chest, implying he had a laser-sighted weapon. The Kneifls withdrew from the house and phoned police, but the burglar fled, leaving an untidy mess and the remains of a close haircut he had evidently given himself. Fingerprints left at the scene were later identified as belonging to Harris-Moore.

Later the same day, a 2008 white Toyota Sequoia was stolen in Yankton and recovered June 20 near the Karl Stefan Memorial Airport in Norfolk, Neb., approximately 60 miles to the south. The same day, another burglary was discovered at the Karl Stefan Memorial Airport, with several office doors and a hangar door forced open. The intruder was captured on videotape and later preliminarily identified by Washington police as Colton Harris-Moore. A Cadillac Escalade was also reported stolen from the Norfolk airport and recovered on June 21 in Pella, Ia. Another car was reported stolen in Pella, and found the same day in Ottumwa, Ia., where a string of burglaries began, starting at the city's regional airport, proceeding to a Mexican restaurant, then a Frito Lay distributor and finishing June 24 at the city's water and hydro building, where yet another truck was stolen.

The truck stolen in Ottumwa was found later on June 24 near Dallas City, Ill., a town 100 miles further east, bringing the trail of Harris-Moore to a rural and wooded area on the banks of the Mississippi River, more than halfway across the country from his original Pacific Northwest stomping grounds. On June 29, an arrest warrant was issued for Colton Harris-Moore in Madison County, Neb., for the burglary at the Karl Stefan Memorial Airport and theft of the Cadillac Escalade. Police along the Iowa, Illinois and Missouri banks of the Mississippi remain vigilant for reports of stolen boats, planes or automobiles, but for the moment the trail seems to have gone cold once again.

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