The 20 year old who became a folk hero…
Having evaded authorities for over 2 years, 20 year old Colton Harris-Moore was yesterday sentenced to a total of 7 years and 3 months for a spate of crimes that included burglary, identity theft and of course crashing an airplane in the Bahamas.
What though makes Mr Harris-Moore’s situation equally compelling and beguiling is rather than being vilified for his crimes he has as a result of his ability to keep the authorities baffled for so long and the dysfunction from which he arose from become a kind of folk hero (assuming of course you weren’t one of the ones whose planes, boats or automobiles he stole).
Damages and theft costs aside the young man has promised to pay for all the collateral he has caused with the proceeds of the $1.2 million movie rights he stands to make now that a film is to be made on his life.
Central to the crimes and the death defying feats of surviving flying planes he had no formal training in flying was as the NY Times points out was the young man’s ability to survive the self defeating behavior at the hands of his mother who it is said would rather buy alcohol and cigarettes with her disability checks as opposed to food for the family whilst growing up.
nytimes: When Mr. Harris-Moore was 10, a caseworker wrote: “The food found inside the refrigerator appeared to be spoiled with the exception of a dozen or so eggs. The freezer contained one bag of French fries and was completely covered with mold.”
Hardly a compelling way to be brought up, never mind the kind of distress inflicted on the particularly young Mr Colton-Harris. By now the young man lived a withdrawn imaginary life more so probably to deflect attention to the things that were ailing him, but he then graduated to a series of juvenile crime.
Mr. Harris-Moore fended for himself by stealing food from his neighbors’ homes, the report said. At 16, he was sentenced to three years in a juvenile group home, but he escaped within months. Moving through the evergreen woods of the San Juan Islands, north of Seattle, he sometimes went barefoot, hence the nickname.
But the adventure only got bigger and better and in some way the crimes acted as a surrogate in place of his dysfunctional family life.
By 2008, Mr. Harris-Moore squeezed his 6-foot-5 frame into his first stolen plane, which he crash-landed in central Washington State. He had no formal flight training. Two years later, the police on his trail, he journeyed to Indiana, where he stole a Cessna and flew it to the Bahamas. There, in the summer of 2010, Mr. Harris-Moore was arrested after leading authorities on a high-speed boat chase.
Yet as much as some may feel pity for Mr Harris-Moore others feel nothing but contempt for the young man:
A neighbor who lives two doors from the plot where Mr. Harris-Moore grew up put it this way: “He’s not a folk hero. He’s just a punk kid.”
Who also holds contempt for Mr Harris-Moore and one wonders contempt towards herself is Mr Harris-Moore’s own mother:
Ms. Kohler, who still lives in the trailer where she raised her son, has tacked up “No Trespassing” signs to the two cedars that flank her long driveway. She did not respond to a note left in her mailbox requesting comment. Nor did she attend Mr. Harris-Moore’s plea hearing on Friday morning.
On some level one has to wonder if the young man behaved the way he did to get his mother’s love and attention, it will be interesting to see what the movie director’s line of thought will be…