The crime spree of a teenager who has alternately terrorized a group of small islands in the Pacific Northwest and won an international fanbase as an anti-hero may eventually make it to the silver screen.
Bob Friel, an Orcas Island writer whose article on teen bandit Colton Harris-Moore was featured in Outside Magazine, told ABCNews.com that he's close to inking a book deal with Hyperion Books. He's alsoin talks with 20th Century Fox and Hollywood director David Gordon Green about a movie based on his book proposal, he said.
"This story kind of washed up in my lap so it's only natural I'd be interested in it," Friel said. "He has all of us feeling paranoid."
Gregg Brilliant, vice president of corporate communications for 20th Century Fox, confirmed that the studio has optioned the film rights and that Green is attached to the project, though nothing had been finalized.
Harris-Moore, 18, is suspected in dozens of burglaries of homes and businesses and the thefts of four planes, each of which he crashed. Police, aided by federal agents, closed in on him last month in San Juan County, but he evaded capture yet again, sneaking off into the woods he has become so adept at disappearing into.
Officials have told ABC's Seattle affiliate KOMO that his haul may total $1.5 million.
He's done most of his damage in Orcas and Camano islands, frustrating and exhausting the bare bones police force that have also had to contend with persistent questions about why they can't keep up with an 18-year-old kid.
"It's changed, and not in a good way, our life style," Friel said of Harris-Moore's capers. "The crime level is extremely low and then suddenly you've got kind of this boogeyman who moves around in the woods at night and breaks into people's houses."
Harris-Moore is suspected in the Feb. 11 break-in at Kyle Ater's Homegrown Market & Gourmet Delicatessen on Orcas Island where he allegedly left a drawing of bare feet in an apparent homage to his nickname the "Barefoot Bandit."
Ater is wary of a Hollywood movie about the kid who says caused a $6,500 loss at his store, including the destruction of his security system. Ater said that when the intruder was unable to remove the hard drive from the security system, he simply put the monitor in the sink and drowned it.
"I think news is one thing and Hollywood glamour is another thing," Ater said. "If they're trying to glamorize him, it's wrong."
Colton Harris-Moore: the Next John Dillinger?
Despite the alleged victims' objection to glamorizing Harris-Moore, Friel has been contacted by eight movie producers and numerous publishers for the rights to the teenager's story. He expects to sign a contract for a book due out in the fall of 2011, though "the story doesn't have an ending."
Since police can't get their hands on the elusive Harris-Moore, it is unlikely he will see any money from the Hollywood deals.
He compared Harris-Moore's escapades to those of famed bank robber John Dillinger who earned the ire of police but a cult-like following from everyday Americans during the Depression.
But Friel is quick to note that Harris-Moore isn't robbing banks, he's robbing hard-working Americans.
He hopes his book will clear up a lot of the fantasy brewing about the young man who grew up with his single mother in a beat-up single-wide trailer on Camano Island.
"One of the worst misconceptions is he's only hurting rich people," he said. "These are small business owners."
Die-hard fans are hoping the teen never gets caught. There are online fan clubs and tributes posted on YouTube. A Seattle printing company last year began printing T-shirts with his name and likeness.
A Facebook page in his honor boasts more than 27,000 fans. There are some comments denouncing his alleged crimes and pleading with him to turn himself in, but most encourage Harris-Moore.
"Keep going, Colton. The world is your oyster," one poster wrote.
"So long as you don't hurt anybody kiddo you're OK in my book," another wrote. "Property's just property and it's all insured. We're all rooting for you and stay free!"
Bold Burglar Makes Off With Cash, Croissants
Ater said he believes Harris-Moore has broken into his store twice, though he has no evidence of the first hit two years ago.
When police were investigating a string of burglaries that could possibly be tied to the teen over the summer, Ater said he slept in his store with his gun and 70-pound dogs. He didn't expect to be burglarized in February, the off-season in the mostly tourist town.
The attack on his store in February came the same night a stolen plane came down on Orcas Island. Ater said he's heard Harris-Moore allegedly kills the engine and glides in as to not alert anyone to his presence.
Officials have said the planes were all damaged from hard landings and that it appears Harris-Moore's only training comes from a flight instruction manual that he allegedly bought with a stolen credit card.
In addition to $1,200 from the cash register, Ater's burglar also made off with a blueberry cheesecake, water, organic produce, meat and a baker's tray of uncooked croissants filled with meat and cheese.
"How do you carry that?" Ater wondered.
Ater said he has since installed an upgraded security system to replace the one that Harris-Moore allegedly drowned. The store owner said that put a serious crimp in his budget.
"But that doesn't mean anything," Ater said, "when dealing with him."