"Colt is highly intelligent," his mother, Pam Kohler, said in an exclusive interview with AOL News. "He's just living his life. He's not hurting anybody really, physically, I mean. I think it's kind of neat."
Not everyone shares that view, and a hero-vs.-villain debate is playing out between law enforcement and an Internet-driven fan base.
According to Kohler, Harris-Moore grew up with her on a five-acre plot on Camano Island, Wash. His father walked out on the family when Colton was just 2 years old, but the void was filled by a stepfather whom Kohler says her son grew to love as his own.
But the father-figure did not stay in Harris-Moore's life for long: He died not long after Harris-Moore's seventh birthday. Kohler said the loss of his stepfather "devastated" her son.
Not long thereafter, Harris-Moore began to change and appeared to "disconnect" himself from the outside world, she said.
"There was no father here, so I figured I got to play both parts," Kohler said. "I did my best with him, but he has a strong mind and, when he sets it to something, he does it. We fought like hell when he was at home."
At age 12, Harris-Moore had his first taste of the justice system when he was convicted of theft. Other convictions soon followed, but Kohler says he was often accused of committing crimes for which he was not responsible.
"[The police] were always after him on Camano Island," Kohler said. "One time, I bought him a new bike, and they stopped him on the side of the road, put it in the back of the car, brought him here, and the cop opened the trunk and said, 'Is this Colt's?' I said 'Yes. I just bought it for him.' Because I am poor they did not think I could have bought it for him, and [they] thought he stole it. That's what they used to do all the time -- harass and mistreat him."
Harris-Moore's problems with the law continued, and, in 2007, he was charged with 23 felonies in Island County.
"It was ridiculous," Kohler said. "They made such a big damn deal of everything. He was blamed for everything that happened in [the] county. [The police] even took some of my jewelry, tried to say that he stole it, and put it in evidence against him."
One of the people helping in Harris-Moore's defense was Shauna Snyder, a private investigator and paralegal in Washington State.
"He was charged with residential burglaries," Snyder told AOL News. "There were 23 felonies and, like often happens, the prosecutor did not feel like they had a strong enough case on all of them, and the defense team was able to plea bargain it down. He was 16 years old at the time and sentenced to just about three years. He spent part of it in a juvenile hall and was then transferred to a group home."
There was more freedom for him at the group home, but Harris-Moore -- not one to be "confined," as his mom explained -- did not stay there long; he fled from the facility in April 2008.
Today, more than two years after his escape, Harris-Moore is suspected in countless burglaries round the country, including Washington, Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. He is also believed to have committed crimes in Canada and, most recently, the Bahamas. While some of the alleged crimes include burglaries and auto thefts, Harris-Moore is also suspected in the theft of at least three airplanes and a $450,000 yacht.
According to Harris-Moore's mother, he never learned how to fly, evident by the fact that each of the planes he is suspected of stealing has crash-landed. Authorities speculate that Harris-Moore taught himself how to fly by reading aircraft manuals and handbooks.
"I think [the plane thefts are] pretty gutsy," Kohler said. "He just needs to work on his landings. I've also said he should take a parachute."
Since many of Harris-Moore's alleged crimes were committed while he was barefoot, the media dubbed him the "Barefoot Bandit."
Those who know Harris-Moore say he's not the violent type.
"Colton dislikes guns," Kohler said. "I asked him to go to the gun range with me one time, and he didn't want to go. He said, 'No way. I'm not shooting guns.'"
"He's not a violent kid," she said, adding that recent rumors that Harris-Moore had stolen an AK-47 out of a police cruiser are just that: rumors.
"There have never been, to date, any charges filed on any crime like that," Snyder said. "So, if they had evidence of that they would have filed it. Those kinds of rumors and rhetoric have made him sound more dangerous than he is. He's been accused of about every crime this side of the Mississippi now."
Harold Copus, a former FBI agent who has worked hundreds of violent crimes over the years, also doubts claims that Harris-Moore is a violent kid.
"This is not a guy who will turn to violence," said Copus, who heads up Copus Security Consultants in Atlanta. "This is a guy who loves thumbing his nose at authorities. He's not really done anything that is more than just the average garden-variety crime. If I was a victim of that, I would probably take offense to it, but really that's what you get down to.
"It's almost the stuff that legends are made of," Copus continued. "He's creating his own, and I'll bet you they'll be talking about him 30 or 40 years from now."
Not only have several folk-hero-style ballads been written about Harris-Moore, but he also has a huge fan following on the Internet. A Facebook fan page dedicated to him boasts more than 44,000 fans.
"He's out there doing stuff a lot of people would not dare to," said Adin Stevens, founder of the Colton Harris Moore Fan Club. "There are a lot of haves and have nots in the world. [For instance,] this kid would probably have never had the opportunity to fly airplanes, but, there he is -- doing all these things on a whim, and I think that appeals to a lot of people."
Stevens, who owns a screen printing business in Seattle, said he became a fan of Harris-Moore's about a year ago and started selling T-shirts with Harris-Moore's photo and the phrase "Momma Tried." The shirts flew off the shelves and eventually led to the creation of the fan site, which Stevens says brings in thousands of visitors every day.
"He's a modern-day outlaw," Stevens said. "He's building a name for himself, and I think he's enjoying that."
Even Copus says he can't help but chuckle whenever he reads about Harris-Moore in the news.
"You can almost draw a parallel to the times of John Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde," Copus said. "Now, what they did was obviously more violent, but, at the time, the American people were going through some bad times, and most people are going through a bad time right now, so this is a little bit of the little guys winning right now, and people are cheering him on."
Despite Harris-Moore's attraction and near folk-hero status, not everyone is laughing at his antics -- chief among them Sheriff Mark C. Brown, from the Island County Sheriff's Office.
"I don't agree with it," Brown tells AOL News. "I don't like the sensationalistic media blitz that's taken off about looking at that person as an adult hero. I think he's an adult felon who needs to be caught and sent off to prison."
Former island resident David Peters has taken it upon himself to ferret out Harris-Moore and has created a website devoted to catching him. Like Stevens, Peters also sells shirts on his site, but the message is clearly different: "I support safe communities, not fake heroes," reads one T-shirt, accompanied by Harris-Moore's police mug shot.
"[I] started the website because I noticed there were a lot of articles out there, and [Stevens'] website was contributing to this folk-hero status," Peters told AOL News. "I knew some of the people from the smaller communities in the Northwest, and I knew they did not agree with what the website was saying, and I knew they didn't look at him as a folk hero or any kind of hero."
Peters said he has received some tips via the website, which he has passed on to law enforcement, but his main goal is to continue raising the reward fund so that someone who might be assisting Harris-Moore will "do the right thing" and turn him in.
Peters speculated that Harris-Moore could be taken into custody within the month, and he may be correct.
On Tuesday, the FBI announced that they had a "solid indication" that Harris-Moore is responsible for the weekend theft of an aircraft from a hangar in Bloomington, Ind. The plane was found crashed and abandoned Sunday off the coast of Abaco Island in the Bahamas. As a result of the incident, the FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the "Barefoot Bandit."
"Colton Harris-Moore has gone from a regional nuisance to an international problem," Special Agent Steven Dean with the bureau's Seattle office told KOMO 4 News. "We need to step up our efforts to get him."
Today, authorities on Abaco Island are continuing a large-scale search for Harris-Moore and are investigating his possible connection to a vehicle theft that occurred not far from where the plane crashed.
"It was probably him," Harris-Moore's mother said, adding, "We've not talked in the last few weeks, but the last time we did he was doing good. I tried to talk him into turning himself in because I got him one of the best damn lawyers around, but because he's a kid and I'm a mother -- ya know, kids just don't listen to their mothers."
While she said she would like to see Harris-Moore again, Kohler said that, at this point, he would probably be better off heading to a non-extraditing country where he could finally live in peace.
"It's gone on so long that I pray it keeps on going; otherwise, he might get hurt," she said. "And if he gets hurt, it won't be because of him. It will be because of overzealous cops."
Despite the fact that her son is constantly on the run and keeps in touch only on a sporadic basis, Kohler said she does believe he follows articles that are written about him.
"Tell him to send me a round-trip ticket to the Bahamas," she said. "I mean it. Can you print that? I've never been there, but [I've] been wanting to go all my life. [If he does,] I'll send you a post card."