Boy sought in Camano Island crime wave

CAMANO ISLAND – It took a 15-year-old to change the way people live on Camano Island.

Many people here used to leave homes and cars unlocked. That was before police say a rogue teenager started a burglary spree in the quiet, wooded neighborhoods on the island’s south end.

Colton Harris-Moore

Now, almost everyone wants police to find Colton Harris-Moore and lock him up.

“There are a lot of people on the island that are very upset and afraid,” Island County sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Legasse said.

Police say the 15-year-old is packing a semiautomatic pistol and bear-strength pepper spray. They suspect him in multiple break-ins.

For almost a year, Colton, a convicted felon, has lived as a fugitive. He’s squatted in empty vacation homes, slept in tents in the woods and crashed on people’s couches, Legasse said.

In that time, police allege the teen has stolen many things, including credit cards, cash, food and clothing. Sometimes, they say, he’s broken in simply to take a shower.

For months, police have been looking for Colton “regularly and vigorously,” Legasse said.

In the last couple of weeks, they’ve twice come close to nabbing him. He fled into the woods both times.

“He’s young and he’s tall. He’s got a good stride,” Legasse said.

Police allege the boy has a 17-year-old accomplice, a Stanwood youth whom he joins to case homes and cars.

Patty Arnett has worked behind the counter at the Tyee Grocery store for the last 10 years. She talked Tuesday about watching Colton grow into his lanky 6-foot, 2-inch tall frame.

“As he got bigger, his belligerence grew,” she said.

Growing up on south Camano Island, Colton learned his way around the trail system that connects the roads, neighbors said.

Colton is now wanted on warrants issued because he failed to show up in court to face charges of second-degree possession of stolen property and first-degree theft.

Many customers at the Elger Bay Cafe remember the boy and used to baby-sit him, waitress Seva Dawson said.

They can’t quite believe the crime spree or that Colton could be responsible. People aren’t used to crime on the island, she said.

“It’s something new to Camano Island … people are starting to lock doors,” she said. “It’s sad, everybody’s comfort zone feels a little invaded.”

A couple of weeks ago, David Rodenberger was working in his office when he heard voices outside.

The next thing he knew, a young man he recognized as Colton was standing in the room dressed in a dark sweatshirt and flannel shirt, “what you might expect from a mountain man,” he said.

“How can I help you?” Rodenberger asked the boy, who pulled the door closed and fled.

“He’s a runner, and there are so many places to go,” he said.

Now, police have been distributing a wanted poster with Colton’s photo. Island County deputies have planned a community meeting Monday to talk about their plans for protecting the neighborhood and Colton’s capture.

They hope the increased awareness will lead to the boy’s arrest, Legasse said.

“I hope someone turns him in because they’ll be saving his life or someone else’s,” he said.

A community meeting with Island County Sheriff’s Office to discuss burglaries on south Camano Island is planned for 6 p.m. Monday, South Camano Grange, 2227 S. Camano Drive.

People with information about Colton Harris-Moore are asked to call police at 911 or 360-679-7319.

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

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