CAMANO ISLAND — Notorious teenage fugitive Colton Harris-Moore may be island hopping, using stolen planes and boats in a continuing crime wave.
Police in five counties haven’t been able to arrest the 18-year-old, who has been on the run since last year.
Harris-Moore is suspected in dozens of break-ins on Camano Island and now is being investigated for similar crimes on the San Juan Islands and in Point Roberts.
San Juan County sheriff’s officials Tuesday said a string of burglaries and other crimes on the islands since 2008 may be the work of the young fugitive.
News reports there have the teenager stealing planes, breaking into convenience stores and pirating boats.
A boat Harris-Moore is believed to have taken was found washed up at Point Roberts, the small peninsula that is part of Whatcom County but is only reachable by water or through Canada.
Evidence now is being tested to positively link the teen to the crimes, according to news reports.
Sheriff’s officials in Island, San Juan and Whatcom counties are working together with federal border agents to try to capture the elusive teen.
“I hope he’s caught and I hope he goes to prison for this,” Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said. He’s in daily contact with sheriffs in San Juan and Whatcom counties.
Officials also have put U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents on alert to watch for the teen.
The teenager’s mother, Pam Kohler, who lives in a rural home on south Camano Island, said she doesn’t believe the stories she’s hearing about a new crime spree.
“Anytime anything is stolen they blame it on Colt,” Kohler said.
The tall, lanky teenager has been on the run from law enforcement since he broke out of a Renton group home in April 2008. He was there after being ordered to serve a three-year sentence for residential burglary on Camano Island.
Since then, he’s been spotted on the island, once after allegedly stealing a Mercedes sports car and leading police on a chase. Detectives recovered a stolen digital camera in the car that included photos Harris-Moore apparently shot of himself in the woods.
“There’s several strong similarities on Camano as to what’s gone on on the San Juans,” Brown said.
Harris-Moore was captured following a wave of break-ins of empty vacation homes, where he helped himself to food and computers and slept on couches.
Lore about the 6-foot-2 teen grew, and stories were spread that he ran barefoot through the woods, hiding in trees as police tried to find him.
Now there are reports he may have stolen airplanes and flown them from island to island. Brown said he could not comment about San Juan County’s investigation.
Kohler said her son doesn’t know how to fly an airplane, and hasn’t been to flight school.
“I know for a fact that he hasn’t; I’m his mother,” she said. “Let’s say you’re the smartest person in the world, wouldn’t you need a little bit of training in flying a plane? They’re not easy.”
Brown refused to say whether detectives have solid information that Harris-Moore can pilot a plane. Right now, the focus is on putting Harris-Moore in handcuffs, he said.
“Hopefully we’ll catch the guy,” he said.
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, firstname.lastname@example.org.