Notorious Camano Island teen back on the run

CAMANO ISLAND — Colton Harris-Moore is on the run again.

About 14 months after his arrest and conviction for a string of Camano Island burglaries, the 17-year-old slipped out of a Renton group home Tuesday night, the latest place he was serving a minimum three-year sentence.

His mother said he should turn himself in. Others think the boy needs help.

And Island County Sheriff Mark Brown wants the boy back in custody.

He doesn’t want Harris-Moore to return to Camano to break into empty vacation homes and stay there, stealing property and raiding kitchens of the absent owners.

“I don’t want them being terrorized,” he said Wednesday.

Island County officials believe Harris-Moore may be heading from Renton back to Camano Island. The state issued a felony warrant for his arrest.

Brown wants to avoid a repeat of the situation that led police in early 2007 to put up wanted posters featuring the boy’s mug all over Camano Island.

That’s when the 6-foot, 2-inch teenager, then 15, successfully eluded capture for months and was suspected in dozens of break-ins and other property crimes.

Each time deputies came close to putting the lanky teenager in cuffs, he fled, often running into the woods. That lead many to believe he was actually living in the wild.

The reality is that he often was staying in the vacation homes he was breaking into.

On Tuesday night he was missing from Griffin House in Renton, a group home for juvenile offenders. Authorities realized Harris-Moore had escaped after a 9:30 p.m. bed check.

Renton police were called about 10:40 to investigate, spokeswoman Penny Bartley said.

“I hope he turns himself in and gets this over with so he can go on with his life,” his mother, Pamela Kohler, 57, said.

She last spoke with her son Monday, she said. He told her he had a problem with his eyes and needed to wear sunglasses, but the group home wasn’t allowing him to wear the glasses and was preventing him from getting proper medical attention, she said.

That may be why he ran away, she said.

Steve Williams, a Department of Social and Health Services spokesman, said officials will look into the boy’s complaint to his mother.

Meanwhile, news of the boy’s escape didn’t surprise Josh Flickner, the manager of the Elger Bay Grocery on the south end of Camano Island.

“He just seemed so far gone, it just seems like he doesn’t have the capacity to change,” Flickner said. If he sees Harris-Moore, he’ll call 911.

The boy has a history of getting in trouble with police since he was 10, court records show.

He was suspected of a variety of juvenile crimes and served time in juvenile custody in 2006. Police believe he began his burglary spree in July 2006, and he eluded police until Feb. 9, 2007, after someone noticed a light on in a south Camano Island home and called 911. After negotiating with deputies, Harris-Moore surrendered to police.

In June, Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to three counts of residential burglary and was ordered to serve at least three years in confinement, said Colleen Kenimond, the chief criminal prosecutor for the Island County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

The teenager first was sent to Green Hill School, a juvenile lock-up near Chehalis, Kohler said.

Green Hill is described as a medium-maximum security, fenced facility that provides older teenage boys academic education and prepares them for vocational training, according to the state’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration’s Web site.

On Feb. 14, he was moved to Griffin Home in Renton, Kohler said.

The home, which contracts with the state, is a secure facility, Williams said.

Kids earn their way out of the more restrictive lock-ups through good behavior, he said. While there’s no barbed wire surrounding the Renton home, there are alarms on the doors.

Some on Camano hope the teenager starts making good choices.

“I just hope his path leads him to somewhere he can get help, because he needs help,” said David Rodenberger, 42. Rodenberger said he has known the teen since Harris-Moore was waist high.

He once caught the teenager trying to break into his office and the boy fled. Rodenberger has since spent $800 to install locks and increase security on his home.

Rather than punishment, Rodenberger wants to find a way to help Harris-Moore turn his life around.

“We don’t need Colton out running amok,” he said. “There are people that want to help.”

Harris-Moore faces an additional 28 days in custody if convicted of escape, Williams said. He’ll also be returned to a more secure detention center.

“I’m concerned because of the magnitude of what he did,” Sheriff Brown said. “I don’t want that to happen again. I’m doing everything I can to get him back into custody.”

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

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