January 27, 2013

Unlocking secrets of dead serial killer

Israel Keyes confessed to slayings in Vermont and Alaska, but before killing himself, he hinted at more.

By SHARON COHEN and RACHEL D'ORO The Associated Press

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CURRIERS
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A poster seeking information about Bill and Lorraine Currier of Essex, Vt., hangs in the window of the Richmond, Vt., Mobil station in 2011. Israel Keyes is suspected of killing the couple.

Glenn Russell/The Burlington Free Press via The Associated Press

Israel Keyes
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Israel Keyes

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Authorities aren't certain when Keyes' crime spree began or ended. But they have a haunting image of his last known victim.

Snippets of a surveillance video show the first terrifying moments of Koenig's abduction. Keyes is seen as a shadowy figure in ski mask and hood outside Common Grounds, a tiny Anchorage coffee shack then partially concealed from a busy six-lane highway by mountains of snow.

It's Feb. 1, 2012, about 8 p.m., closing time. Koenig is shown handing Keyes a cup of coffee, then backing away with her hands up, as if it's a robbery. The lights go out and Keyes next appears as a fuzzy image climbing through the drive-through window. On Feb. 2, Keyes raped and strangled Koenig. He left her in that shed, flew to Houston and embarked on a cruise, returning about two weeks later.

He then took a photo of Koenig's body holding a Feb. 13 newspaper to make it appear she was alive. Keyes wrote a ransom note on the back, demanding $30,000 be placed in her account. He texted a message, directing the family to a dog park where the note could be found. Her family deposited some money from a reward fund.

A KILLER'S DOUBLE LIFE

On Feb. 29, Keyes withdrew $500 in ransom money from an Anchorage ATM, using a debit card stolen from Koenig's boyfriend (the two shared an account). Then on March 7, far away in Willcox, Ariz., Keyes withdrew $400.

By then, authorities had a blurry ATM photo and a pattern: Keyes was driving along Interstate 10 in a rented white Ford Focus. On March 13, nearly 3,200 miles from Anchorage, police in Lufkin, Texas, pounced when they spotted Keyes driving 3 mph above the speed limit.

Inside his car was an incriminating stash: Rolls of cash in rubber bands. A piece of a gray T-shirt cut out to make a face mask. A highlighted map with routes through California, Arizona and New Mexico. The stolen debit card. And Samantha Koenig's phone.

Keyes, the second eldest in a large family, was homeschooled in a cabin without electricity near Colville, Wash., in a mountainous, sparsely populated area. The family moved in the 1990s to Smyrna, Maine, where they were involved in the maple syrup business, according to a neighbor who recalled Keyes as a nice, courteous young man.

Authorities suspect Keyes started killing more than 10 years ago after completing a three-year stint in the Army at what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash.

After leaving the Army, Keyes worked for the Makah Indian tribe in Washington, then moved to Anchorage in 2007 after his girlfriend found work there. A self-employed carpenter and handyman, he was considered competent, honest and efficient.

"I never got any bad, weird, scary, odd vibe from him in any way, shape or form," says Paul Adelman, an Anchorage attorney who first hired Keyes as a handyman in 2008.

Keyes' live-in girlfriend also was floored to learn of his double life, according to David Kanters, her friend. "He had everyone fooled," Kanters told The Associated Press in an email. "THAT is the scary part. He came across as a nice normal guy." (She did not respond to numerous requests for comment.)

Keyes was proud he'd gone undetected so long. When asked for a motive, Anchorage police officer Bell recalls, Keyes said, "'A lot of people ask why and I would be like: Why not?'"

"He liked what he was doing," says FBI Special Agent Jolene Goeden. "He talked about getting a rush out of it, the adrenaline, the excitement."

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Samantha Koenig

  


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