'Barefoot Bandit' Possibly Linked To Indiana Plane Theft

Aircraft Found In Shallow Water Off Coast Of Bahamas

A plane that was stolen from the Monroe County Airport over the weekend may be connected to the elusive "Barefoot Bandit," authorities said Monday.

The 2009 Cessna 400 Corvalis was found in shallow water off the coast of the Bahamas on Sunday afternoon.

More: Plane Theft Calls Small Airport Security Into Question

The bandit, who police identified as Colton Harris-Moore, 19, of Washington, has been implicated in a crime spree across the western and central U.S., and appeared to be moving east in recent weeks. The nickname stuck because many of the crimes were committed sans footwear.

A stolen car that was found near the airport was believed to be linked to the bandit, authorities said.

"This vehicle was located that seemed to fit the pattern," said Bruce Payton, the airport's manager. "It's my understanding there is no hard evidence at this time that it connects."

The car, which was taken from Illinois, was found in a church parking lot near the airport days before the plane incident.

"The pattern and details of this stolen vehicle seemed to fit that of the MO of the Barefoot Bandit," Payton said.

Thinking it could be related and knowing Harris had stolen planes before, Payton said he put hangar clients on alert three days before the plane was stolen.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Department said the plane was taken from a locked hangar at the airport sometime between 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

The plane, which is owned by John Miller, was identified by its emergency alert signal.

The U.S. Coast Guard said that it flew over the crashed plane but that the investigation is being handled by Bahamian officials.

"The aircraft was recovered nose-down in the ocean, and only a small portion was sticking out of the water," Payton said.

Investigators said the rogue pilot pried the door off the plane before taking it on a 4½ hour joyride. Airport officials said the keys were likely in the plane, inside the locked hangar, and that the airport is as secure as it can be on its budget.

"We have a 10-foot chain link fence topped with three feet of barbed wire," he said. "We have coded access gates, and those that aren't coded access are locked."

The airport's air traffic tower is closed between 9:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., so it's likely the plane thief flew off undetected.

Authorities said Harris-Moore was linked to a June 19 break-in at a rural Nebraska airport. An SUV that was stolen from the airport later turned up in Iowa.

Police have been trying to catch up with him since he escaped a halfway house in April 2008. Investigators said he is linked to the thefts of several boats, cars and airplanes that had crash-landed.