Maid on Netflix explores the struggles of a young mother raising her child after leaving an abusive relationship. It’s inspired by Stephanie Land’s memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. The show’s lead character Alex Russell (played by Margaret Qualley), washes houses for a living and, in episode 5, cleans the house previously inhabited by Barefoot Billy.
The house stirs unhappy memories in Alex and forces her to confront her past trauma. In a way, she connects with Barefoot Billy’s story, though the series doesn’t quite clarify what Billy experienced.
Let’s look at Barefoot Billy’s story and its possible connection to a real-life Barefoot Burglar.
Alex believes that Billy suffered an abusive childhood
Louise Alva Ritchie is the mother of William Harlan Ritchie, aka Barefoot Billy. In four years, Billy robbed 50 homes leaving behind the signature muddy footprints that earned him the name Barefoot.
Yolanda tries to paint Barefoot Billy as a dangerous burglar, but Alex explains that Barefoot Billy only stole Doritos.
Alex sees the numerous locks in the house as a sign that Billy’s mother locked him in. Why else would his room have locks on the outside?
The cleaners also discover locks on the pantry and cupboards.
Alex opines that Billy’s mother locked him up and hid food from him. Therefore, Billy developed an obsession with junk food, and to get his fix, he broke into people’s houses to steal Doritos.
Billy’s mother is dead, and he remains at large.
Billy’s trauma, though unconfirmed, has a telling effect on Alex’s life. She has a severe panic attack after she’s locked in the dark for a second, as it reminds her of the times she locked herself in a dark kitchen cabinet as her father hit her mother.
The real Barefoot Bandit was arrested in 2012 and released in 2016
Anyone who knows the real Barefoot Bandit can point out the similarities between his and Barefoot Billy’s story.
Colton Harris-Moore, aka the Barefoot Bandit, started a cross-country crime spree that would make him a folk hero. Harris-Moore, then a teenager, broke into houses in Camano Island, stole and crash-landed three small aircraft despite lacking formal pilot training.
The Barefoot Bandit left chalk footprints at his crime scenes and committed some of his crimes barefoot. Police apprehended him in the Bahamas following a brief boat chase. “In an effort to avoid capture, the suspect engaged in a high-speed chase, by boat, with police,” an official told reporters.
During his sentencing, the Barefoot Bandit revealed that he had a tough childhood that he wouldn’t wish on his ‘darkest enemies.’ Judge Vickie Churchill described Colton’s childhood as a ‘mind-numbing absence of hope.’
“This case is a tragedy in many ways, but a triumph if the human spirit in other ways,” judge Vickie added.
Like Barefoot Billy, the Barefoot Bandit experienced a childhood deprived of food. Billy’s mother locked up the food while Bandit’s mom couldn’t afford it. They both delved into crime to fill their bellies.
“He started down a path of criminality, if we can call it, literally to eat,” John Henry Browne, Bandit’s attorney, said. “When he was younger, his mother was not taking care of him, and was using food stamps for beer and things.”
Colton harbored no resentment for his mom: He wanted to have her cryogenically frozen so scientists could revive her after finding a cure for lung cancer. Sadly, Colton’s mother passed away before he could acquire the money.
We also don’t believe that Barefoot Billy resented his mother. Alex always felt that someone in the woods kept an eye on the house, and she thought them to be Billy.