ORCAS ISLAND, Wash. (CBS) I'm working a fascinating story about a fugitive most of America hasn't heard about - "The Barefoot Bandit," Colton Harris-Moore. He's a 19-year-old who's believed to be living like Rambo (without the violence) in the forests of Orcas Island, Washington. Colton, or Colt as his friends call him, is believed to be responsible for more than 100 break-ins of residences and businesses here on Orcas, as well as Camano Island, about 35 miles away.
This story is very personal for me. I've been coming up to Orcas since I was a baby. I have relatives buried on this island. Orcas is one of the most beautiful places on earth, with old growth forests, beautiful lakes, hiking trails and scenic vistas that are simply jaw dropping. Orcas has always been my escape from the real world. Now the real world has kicked in the door.
Colton Harris-Moore has sadly become a folk hero to some, a modern day D.B. Cooper. What cemented his legend were at least three incidents involving aircraft. Colton broke into a restaurant in Eastsound, Wash., the largest town on Orcas. He allegedly stole $18,000 from a safe, along with the restaurant's corporate credit card. Unknown to the business, Colton used that credit card to order a flight instruction DVD over the Internet. Authorities believed he tracked the shipment of the DVD. One day, this DVD arrives at the restaurant. The owner had no idea why it had been delivered. She also had no idea that Colton would allegedly break back into her restaurant that night to pick it up.
Investigators believe Colton then used the DVD to instruct himself on how to fly an airplane, which had been a life long dream of Colton's. Several months later, locals say Colton stole an airplane from the Eastsound airport. In his first solo flight, Colton flew east from Orcas, climbed over the Cascade Mountains, and crash-landed the Cessna in a field near Yakima, Washington. Remarkably, he survived. But it must have been a harrowing flight. Investigators found vomit inside the plane.
That 150 mile flight helped create the legend of Colton. Not only had he never flown before - he'd never been in a plane.
And he didn't stop there. Locals believe Colton may have stolen three other aircraft. One was stolen from nearby San Juan Island and flown back to Orcas. That same night, there was a break-in at Orcas Homegrown Market, an organic specialty market. The next morning, when the owner arrived, he was shocked to see 39 footprints drawn in chalk all over his floor. The last footprint, heading out the door, had the words, "C-ya!" written next to it. The legend of the "Barefoot Bandit" had begun.
But this guy is no legend or modern day Robin Hood. It seems he takes from the middle class-borderline poor and gives to himself. Many on this beautiful island now live in fear that they may be the next victim. A few have armed themselves. Others have purchased expensive security systems. At least two families have moved off the island.
Where is Colton? Investigators believe he has a base in the woods, likely among the thousands of acres of Turtleback Mountain. Several homes at the base of that mountain have been burglarized. Other locals think Colton lives in unoccupied summer homes, moving from one to the other every few days. When he allegedly raided Orcas Homegrown Market (you can still see some of the footprints on the floor) he stole a pan full of unbaked ham and cheese croissants. That convinced people here that he's in a house with access to an oven. Many here on Orcas fear he's getting help from some locals, who may be driving him around and helping find hideouts.
We're doing our own investigation and have already had one extraordinary find. For now, I can only tease you about what we discovered. But needless to say, local investigators were quick to follow up.
Look, I want Colton captured. I hope he turns himself in. He has financially hurt dozens of people and frightened thousands more. Everyone around here is looking over their shoulders. Anyone who is tall gets thoroughly looked over. Colton is 6 foot 5 inches tall. There are rumors here that Colton may be armed. Sheriff's deputies have heard the same information. He once outran a deputy, running off into the woods, laughing all the way. Next time, he may not be so lucky.
There's lots of understandable worry here that we in the media are just feeding Colton's ego and helping to build his legend. A production company recently announced it's going to make a movie about his life. But we're not here to glorify. We want to get as many eyes on Colton as we can. Hopefully, that will pay off soon.
"The Barefoot Bandit" will be featured on an upcoming episode of 48 HOURS | MYSTERY.
Peter Van Sant is a correspondent for 48 HOURS | MYSTERY. Van Sant has reported on 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Virginia Tech shootings for 48 HOURS. His hour-long report on terrorists seizing and destroying a school in Beslan, Russia, won him both his fourth Emmy Award and the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award.