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San Juan County files charges against ‘Barefoot Bandit’
by Scott Rasmussen
Journal editor/County reporter
While he’s been biding time in a Seattle-area detention center awaiting trial on federal charges for nearly a year, local authorities have constructed what they believe is a well-documented and convincing case against Camano Island’s most infamous son.
On May 10, San Juan County prosecutors added weight to a mound of criminal charges facing Colton Harris-Moore, the so-called “Barefoot Bandit,” filing a 21-page probable cause document in San Juan County Superior Court that describes in detail the 15 felonies that local authorities contend he committed during a two-year crime spree in the San Juans.
According to Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord, that document contains evidence linking Harris-Moore to the 16 felonies and lays out a timeline of each break-in, burglary and theft that the 20-year-old is alleged to have committed. It creates a factual account of what had up until now been mostly accurate speculation, he said.
“The charges confirm what has been ‘lore’ on Orcas Island for sometime now,” Gaylord said.
Of the 15 charges, he noted 13 involve break-ins, burglaries and thefts on Orcas, the epicenter of Harris-Moore’s alleged criminal activity in the San Juans.
In all, Harris-Moore, whose exploits grabbed national headlines during an alleged two-year crime spree that spanned nine states and prompted an international manhunt, faces eight counts of second-degree burglary, four counts of first-degree theft and three counts of residential burglary, all of which are Class B felonies, in San Juan County Superior Court.
In Island County, Harris-Moore, who eluded capture for more than two years following an escape from a juvenile detention center in Renton in 2008, faces 14 criminal counts in Superior Court, which includes four new felonies filed by prosecutors there on May 17. Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks told the Whidbey News Times, a sister publication of the Journal, that authorities in Island County want to ensure that Harris-Moore is held accountable for crimes committed in their jurisdiction.
“Our victims have expressed concern that they will be lost in the shuffle if somehow the cases were all resolved in federal court. They didn’t have airplanes and yachts stolen from them,” Banks said. “They are worried that ‘mere’ burglaries won’t be taken seriously there. They have also told me that since Colton the way of life on Camano has changed. They are sad about that.”
Harris-Moore is slated to stand trial in federal court in July. His alleged string of break-ins and burglaries ended with his arrest in the Bahamas nearly a year ago. Authorities maintain that he fled the United States in a stolen airplane which he heisted in Indiana. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in November on five criminal charges, only one of which is tied to the San Juans.
Like authorities in Island County, Gaylord said prosecutors in the San Juans intend for Harris-Moore to be held accountable in the San Juans as well.
“Our goal it to make sure Mr. Colton Harris-Moore is accountable here in San Juan County, and to make sure the victims that are here have a voice and their losses are recognized,” he said.
In addition to cash, merchandise, household belongings and credit cards, Harris-Moore is also accused of stealing four boats and three airplanes as part of his alleged crime spree in the San Juans. He reportedly learned to pilot a plane by studying flight manuals ordered over the Internet.
Though the amount could change, Gaylord said a preliminary estimate of the damage and losses associated with the Harris-Moore’s alleged crimes totals roughly $250,000.