Hunt for Colton Harris-Moore closes in on island

  • Thu Jul 8th, 2010 6:51am
  • News

By Jackson Holtz and Scott North Herald Writers

Police in the Bahamas on Wednesday were trying to lock down the small island where Colton Harris-Moore is believed to be hiding and again committing property crimes.

“We have taken steps to neutralize the areas he may try to use to leave the island,” said Hulan Hanna, an assistant superintendent of police in the small island nation. Officials believe Harris-Moore was still hiding on Abaco Island on Wednesday.

Bahamian authorities were working with the FBI to try to nab the fugitive, 19, of Camano Island, who is suspected of crashing a stolen plane off the coast Sunday.

At least seven burglaries have been reported this week in a community where crime typically doesn’t occur, officials said.

“If he stays on the island long enough, police will probably catch him,” said Alistair McDonald, a restaurant owner whose business was burglarized early Tuesday. McDonald said police believe Harris-Moore broke into his Curly Tails bar. He said surveillance cameras captured a glimpse of the 6-foot, 5-inch serial burglar before the intruder turned the cameras toward the walls.

The burglar didn’t take anything, McDonald said Wednesday.

The lanky Harris-Moore likely will have a hard time going unnoticed on the small island.

“It’s hard to blend in if you’re not from here,” McDonald said.

Police on the island handed out FBI wanted posters featuring several photos of Harris-Moore. The poster was added to the FBI’s Seattle Web site alongside other local most-wanted men including arsonists and murderers. The FBI has not added Harris-Moore to its famed top-10 list, which includes Osama bin Laden.

The wanted poster alleges that Harris-Moore piloted a Cessna 400 from Indiana to the Bahamas and is a suspect in at least 70 other crimes.

Everett defense attorney Pete Mazzone only knows what he’s read about Harris-Moore, but he finds the case intriguing from a professional standpoint.

The young burglar clearly is in deep legal trouble, Mazzone said, but just how much won’t be known until prosecutors reveal all the evidence they’ve got against him.

“I think there is a lot of room for possibilities here, despite what I’ve been hearing,” Mazzone said.

A federal criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday says that Harris-Moore is the focus of more than five dozen different investigations around the country.

It’s the quality of the evidence, not the number of allegations, that matters most, Mazzone said.

Harris-Moore could have difficulty overcoming charges where there is physical evidence linking him to the incident, particularly DNA. Police tested droplets of blood to pin his DNA to a 2009 burglary on Orcas Island. DNA evidence also allegedly links Harris-Moore to a plane theft from Idaho.

Anyone representing Harris-Moore in court would need to pore over thousands of pages of police reports from police departments in several states and two other nations.

“Certainly this is the kind of case that would keep somebody like me busy for a long, long time,” Mazzone said.

Meanwhile, people in the Bahamas were busy with The Regatta Time, an annual sailing event that draws thousands of tourists. It’s possible Harris-Moore could blend in with the crowds.

Tommy Turnquest, the National Security Minister in the Bahamas, said his forces were working with U.S. agents to track him down.

“If he is there to be caught our police will catch him,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

View The suspected travels of Colton Harris-Moore in a larger map

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437; jholtz@heraldnet.com.