Teen suspect held on $20,000 bail in Camano break-ins

COUPEVILLE – For months Colton Harris-Moore has been on the run from police, sleeping on couches, in empty homes and tents.

Now, the 15-year-old is sleeping in a Coupeville jail.

In the south Camano Island neighborhoods where police allege the teenager has been breaking into homes, people’s shattered nerves were settling Saturday.

“We can sleep now without worrying about our children and our homes,” Veronica McCleary said. “I can sleep without a baseball bat under my pillow.”

Since July, Island County sheriff’s deputies have been hunting Harris-Moore, who was arrested Friday night, Sheriff Mark Brown told reporters Saturday at a press conference outside the jail.

The 6-foot-2-inch boy was wanted on felony warrants for theft and possession of stolen property.

Police believe Harris-Moore is responsible for a rash of break-ins, Brown said. Police have forwarded Island County prosecutors probable cause for charges in 10 burglaries, the sheriff said. That number likely will rise and Harris-Moore also is being investigated for alleged identity theft, he said.

Harris-Moore was booked into the Island County Juvenile Detention Center in Coupeville for investigation of one count of residential burglary. On Saturday, a judge ordered the boy held on $20,000 bail.

“He’s broken into homes, he’s used their computers, he’s violated their security and well-being,” Brown said. “It’s time to put a stop to it.”

Just after 8 p.m. Friday, a neighbor noticed a light on in a Camano Island house that was supposed to be empty and called 911, police said.

“I think Colt did that on purpose so he would be noticed and he would be caught,” the boy’s mother, Pamela Kohler, 55, said. “He wants to come home.”

Within minutes, Brown said, police knew Harris-Moore was inside. Deputies were able to see the teenager inside the house. They not only recognized him, but also noticed that he was wearing a headlamp, something that he had been spotted doing previously.

The two deputies who were first on the scene made it appear as if there were more officers outside, swinging around their flashlights and shouting commands to each other in the dark, Brown said.

Several times in the past, Harris-Moore has slipped away from deputies.

In minutes, about 10 deputies surrounded the small, vacation home in the 3200 block of S. Camano Drive, including help from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and Stanwood police, Brown said.

From inside the house, Harris-Moore telephoned his mother, who drove to the scene.

The boy asked her to ask for deputy Luke Planbeck, Kohler said.

Planbeck is the same deputy who arrested Harris-Moore in June when police created a ruse and tricked the boy, Brown said. Planbeck had gone undercover as a pizza deliveryman.

After about 45 minutes Friday, Harris-Moore came out of the house and was arrested without incident, deputies said.

“A few people joined hands and said a prayer for Colt’s safety,” his mother said.

Kohler spoke with her son as he waited in handcuffs in the back of a patrol car. She said she told him he needs to come home to open his Christmas presents, and answered his questions about his dog, Melanie.

“He just loves that dog,” she said.

Police had said they feared Harris-Moore might be armed with a pistol and bear-strength pepper spray. The pepper spray was found at the scene, Brown said.

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am to talk about a happy ending to a potentially dangerous situation,” he said.

Deputies still are looking for an alleged teenage accomplice, a Stanwood teen, Brown said.

Still, people on the island are relieved and life is returning to normal, Elger Bay Grocery manager Deidre Chamberlain said.

“A sense of calm has now taken over,” she said.

Deputies still plan to meet with south Camano Island residents Monday to talk about the burglaries.

“A lot of people’s privacy was violated, their homes entered, their home burglarized, their computers used,” the sheriff said. “This is a huge impact on the citizens of the island and I want to make sure I treat it properly and address their needs.”

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

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