Colton Harris-Moore is said to have had psychiatric problems and a terribly volatile relationship with his mother

By Tim Nudd
July 22, 2010 09:50 AM

On the Internet, Colton Harris-Moore cut a romantic figure as a daring and mysterious fugitive. In reality, throughout a turbulent and troubled youth, he appears to have lived a much less glamorous life.

The so-called “Barefoot Bandit,” 19, captured this month in the Bahamas, was often alone and hungry growing up in squalor in Camano Island, Wash., according to The New York Times. He reportedly stole food from neighbors, bullied classmates and clashed severely with his mother, Pam Kohler, with whom he had an explosive relationship.

By age 10, officials were investigating whether he was being mistreated by his mother. By 12, he had been diagnosed with depression, attention deficit disorder and intermittent explosive disorder. And by 15, he and his mother had been visited by child-protective services at least a dozen times.

“We called him ‘Island Boy,’ ” says neighbor Linda Johnson, from whose home Harris-Moore allegedly stole food. “He came back over and over again – frozen pizza, cookies, ice cream. He was a tall boy, and he was growing.”

He was first arrested at 12. A social worker’s report from that time sheds light on the family troubles. “Colton wants Mom to stop drinking and smoking, get a job and have food in the house,” the report said. “Mom refuses.”

Kohler, who recently expressed relief that her son was captured safely, declined to speak to The Times for the story.

Monique Gomez, a lawyer who briefly represented Harris-Moore in the Bahamas, says he wasn’t seeking fame or cult-hero status. “He says he’s not into any of that,” she said. “He just wants to get this behind him.” She added: “I think if he had proper direction, he wouldn’t have done what he did.”

Harris-Moore arrived back in Washington state on Wednesday and is due in court Thursday. He is charged with one count of stealing an airplane and transporting it across state lines and could face dozens more charges.