Stolen plane checked for evidence of infamous teen burglar

Stolen plane checked for evidence of infamous teen burglar
SEATTLE - Experts from the Washington State Patrol crime lab are on Orcas Island processing a stolen airplane for evidence that it may have been taken by elusive teen "Barefoot Bandit" Colton Harris-Moore.

The plane was stolen from Skagit County late Wednesday night.

The Federal Aviation Administration says it noticed the Cirrus SR22 on radar as it skirted - but did not violate - a restricted flight zone set up for the Olympics in Vancouver. The plane got the attention of aviation officials because it was using the wrong transponder code.

San Juan County Sheriff Bill Cumming says his office didn't learn about the plane until Thursday morning, when it was found at the Orcas Island airport.

Investigators also learned that someone had broken into a nearby grocery store, damaged equipment, snatched $1,200 in cash and a dessert tray, and had drawn cartoonish chalk-outline bare feet all over the floor.

The sheriff says the stolen plane and break-in match the M.O. of 18-year-old Harris-Moore, who has a long history of burglarizing homes in Washington state and Canada, only to disappear into the woods without a trace.

Police suspect he's stolen planes, boats and luxury cars, and broken into dozens of homes and businesses, including several on Orcas Island during a previous crime spree there.

Now, the stolen plane and grocery store break-in may signal that he is back on Orcas Island after an absence of several months, says Cumming.

"The incidents we're investigating have many of the earmarks of his past activity in this county and elsewhere, so he would be a person of interest," Cumming told KOMO News.

Harris-Moore has been gaining attention and fame since he escaped in 2008 from a group home and then allegedly started stealing airplanes last September.

T-shirts were made, featuring Harris-Moore's self-portrait. Time magazine dubbed him "America's Most Wanted Teen Bandit," and others called him the "Barefoot Bandit" after he appeared shoeless on some surveillance videos. A Facebook fan page has attracted more than 18,000 people.

But business people on Orcas Island, who already have lost thousands of dollars in theft and damage from previous break-ins, are no fans of his.

After the most recent Wednesday night incidents, the Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce sent a message to all members warning them to take precautionary measures.

The San Juan County Sheriff's office is investigating both the plane theft and store break-in, and the sheriff told business owners to take precautions in case Harris-Moore is back.

The teen fugitive is believed responsible for break-ins at many Orcas Island businesses last fall, after a stolen small plane crash-landed at the airport. Harris-Moore later was caught on surveillance video breaking into a grocery store. Other stores also were broken into in the days following.

A few weeks later, a Cessna was stolen from a rural airport in Idaho and crash-landed near Granite Falls, Wash.

The plane's owner found found bare footprints, including some on a wall, inside the hangar, where the thief apparently had put his feet up while eating.

In 2007, Harris-Moore was arrested in connection with several burglaries on Camano Island and later sentenced to three years behind bars. He escaped from group home for juvenile offenders in Renton in April 2008.