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New details emerge about Anchorage serial killer

Authorities had withheld information while they extracted partial confessions from Israel Keyes regarding as many as eight killings he may have committed since 2001.

December 05, 2012|By Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times

Serial killer Israel Keyes had already slain Anchorage barista Samantha Koenig and left town to go on a cruise more than two weeks before he began demanding ransom for her release, authorities said.

Officials said the 34-year-old self-employed construction worker kidnapped Koenig at gunpoint Feb. 1 from a Common Grounds coffee shop in Anchorage because it stayed open later than others. He sexually assaulted and asphyxiated her, leaving her body in a shed. When he returned Feb. 17, Keyes posed Koenig's corpse with a newspaper in a ruse to show she was alive, then dismembered the body and dumped it in a nearby lake, according to a statement released Tuesday by the FBI.

Keyes was arrested in Texas in March, and authorities had withheld the details of the kidnapping attack for months while they extracted partial confessions regarding as many as eight killings he may have committed since 2001.

Keyes was found dead Sunday morning, an apparent suicide that remains under investigation. Before his death, he had confessed to killing a Vermont couple on June 8, 2011, and alluded to killing four unidentified victims in Washington state and another person on the East Coast.

The attacks varied, but some similarities emerged in officials' disclosures this week.

Keyes scouted his locations and selected isolated targets to attack. He kidnapped his victims and used zip ties to tie them up. In two cases, victims nearly escaped his clutches.

Bill Currier, 49, and Lorraine Currier, 55, tried to flee after he kidnapped them from their Essex, Vt., home and brought them to a nearby barn, authorities disclosed this week. Koenig, despite having her hands bound by zip ties, fled across the parking lot where the coffee bar was located, but was tackled and subdued, officials said Tuesday.

Keyes sexually assaulted and asphyxiated both female victims. He then fled the region but later returned to the crime scenes. He also hid the bodies and apparently planned to return to dispose of them.

Whether any of these patterns were repeated in other killings remains unknown; officials have not publicly identified any potential open homicide cases that could be examined for possible links to Keyes.

Officials also disclosed that Keyes had partially funded his attacks across the U.S. with bank robberies and that he had stashed weapons, money and supplies for hiding bodies across the country in anticipation of committing future attacks.

While jailed, Keyes told investigators that he had looked for victims in remote locations, such as parks, campgrounds, trail heads, cemeteries and boating areas, the FBI said in a statement.

Keyes' plans occasionally fell into flux, particularly during his kidnapping of Koenig, who appears to be his final victim.

He tried to remove distinguishing characteristics from his white truck in preparation for Koenig's kidnapping, stripping off its license plates and mounted toolboxes, officials said. But his plan to collect ransom from Koenig's family hit snags when he realized she didn't have her phone or a debit card, which he needed to send ransom notes via text message and to collect money deposited to her account, officials said.

Keyes returned to the coffee shop to get her cellphone, hiding her in a shed in front of his house, where he left a radio playing at high volume so no one could hear any cry for help, officials said.

He also managed to get ahold of the debit card from the truck that Koenig shared with her boyfriend. After making sure the card worked, he returned to the shed, where he assaulted and killed Koenig. The next morning, he left town for a cruise from New Orleans, officials said.

After he returned Feb. 17, Keyes took a Polaroid of Koenig's body, with a copy of the Anchorage Daily News from four days earlier. He used a copy of the picture for his $30,000 ransom demand, which he left in a park, officials said. Police recovered the note and helped coordinate the transfer of money — which Koenig's father had raised from the community — to the debit card.

Officials tracked Keyes' withdrawals in Alaska and across the Southwest before he was arrested in Texas. After his confession at the end of March, he directed investigators to the location of Koenig's dismembered body, below the iced surface of Matanuska Lake north of Anchorage, officials said.

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