Israel Keyes has been called "one of the most methodical serial killers of all-time." However, investigators still have no idea how many crimes Keyes committed. In this episode, I detail his movements throughout the country, and speculate on the mindset of a psychopath.
November 13th, 2015 Micheal Whelan
When we usually talk about unsolved murders, we're thinking about the perpetrator, the unknown suspect that's still out there, awaiting justice. But every now and then, police uncover a story that is almost too chilling to be true, a story that makes you wonder if we ever know the full story.
This is one of those cases that perplexes and terrifies you to the bone. In this case, we know the name and the identity of the killer, but the victims remain a mystery. This is the story of Israel Keyes.
Israel Keyes was born in Richmond, Utah, on January 7th, 1978. Richmond is a small town of about 2000 people, most notable for its Pepperidge Farm factory that produces Goldfish crackers. It's also known for being quite strong in the Mormon faith, a handful of its citizens going on to represent the faith of the LDS church in its leadership. The cult classic movie Napolean Dynamite even shot some scenes in Richmond, which helped add to its small-town feel.
But, unfortunately, for a lot of people, Richmond will be known as the birthplace of what investigators would call the most meticulous serial killer of all-time.
Born to a larger Mormom family, Israel had many sisters. He was just one of ten children born to his parents, and they were an incredibly religious household. Israel was home-schooled by his parents, who undoubtedly tried to shelter their religious household from outside influences.
Many people have tried to theorize how this sheltered, religious upbringing could have shaped Israel Keyes into the man he would later become, but his upbringing would take an interesting turn later in his youth.
At some point in his youth, Israel and his family relocated from the small-town of Richmond, Utah, to an area just north of Colville, Washington.
Many people don't realize this about Washington state, but it's a rather big state. Where most of the western side of the state encapsulates the view of Washington that you see in movies: aka the Starbucks, the flannel, the constant rain, the trees; the eastern side is far different.
Eastern Washington is comprised of many small towns, most of which are separated by many dozens or hundreds of miles. Eastern Washington has much more in common with nearby states Idaho or Montana than it does with Western Washington. The Cascade Mountains do a good job of not only helping hold off much of the rain that plagues the western half of the state, but they also stem most of the state's population.
So it wasn't too much of a change when the Keyes family relocated to Eastern Washington. It wasn't too big of a jump from their origins in Utah, as the area they moved to, just north of Colville, encapsulates just as much of a small-town feel as Richmond.
Shortly after moving to this area of north-eastern Washington State, the Keyes family began attending a church known as "the Ark," and now more commonly referred to as "Our Place Fellowship." The Ark has become well-known throughout the area for its racist viewpoints, which are driven not only by the white supremacy viewpoints found in this area of Cascadia, but also by the strong religious roots in the British Israelism faith. The Ark was just one of many Christian Identity religious movements that uprooted in the area.
Many of the followers of the Ark, now followers of the Our Place Fellowship, believe that they, the descendants of Anglo-Saxons and other northern European groups, are the true chosen people of God. Over the years, this has attracted many anti-Semitic people from the surrounding area, and led to a lot of hostility towards those of other beliefs or races.
We can only theorize how much this viewpoint affected Israel and sculpted his mindset, since we don't truly know how involved the Keyes family was in this church. But we can surmise that being raised in a culture that promotes hostility towards other ethnic groups and the glorification of one's self above all can't be good for an easily-emboldened narcissistic mind.
When the Keyes family moved to the Colville area, they became friendly with a neighboring family known as the Kehoes. While at the time, this may have looked like two neighboring families in a small-town community getting to know each other, a glimpse into the future can show us something much darker. Something much more sinister at play.
Chevie Kehoe, a boy only five or so years older than Israel, was one of the boys that he grew up alongside, and likely looked up to. A simple Wikipedia search can show you all you need to know about Chevie Kehoe and more.
Chevie grew up to be a violent white supremacist, and a serial criminal offender. Now serving three life sentences in a supermax federal prison, Chevie was convicted on charges of kidnapping, torture, and murder, among many others. His victims were a gun dealer, his wife, and their 8-year old daughter, whom they all kidnapped, tortured, murdered, and disposed of their bodies in a swamp.
Chevie's younger brother, Cheyne, wasn't involved in the murder of the three victims, but would later get involved with his brother's criminal antics.
Cheyne was closer in age to Israel, and it reasons to think that the two of them were friends at one point in their lives.
When the police eventually caught up with Chevie, in Wilmington, Ohio in 1997, Cheyne was with him and the two engaged police officers in a shootout. Video of this incident can be found in multiple Youtube clips, and was featured in many television cop shows.
Chevie would go on to get life in prison without the possibility in parole for his heinous crimes, but his white supremacist viewpoints have never faltered. He was also found guilty of other crimes, ranging from bombing a city hall in Spokane, WA, to ordering the murder of romantic rival. Needless to say, his despicable reputation is well-deserved.
His younger brother Cheyne, and his father Kirby, were later arrested in Arizona for illegally stockpiling weapons and ammunition to carry out some ethnocentric, anti-government goals.
As you can see, the mindset of the people that were attracted to the hyper-religious Ark community were a bit... off. While this is painting with a broad brush, it's easy to see the type of hateful fervor that the Keyes family raised their children alongside.
While Israel would go on to eschew religion later in life, it's possible that some of these ideas helped shape his mind into what it would later become. He would grow up to become incredibly narcissistic, intelligent, methodical, and excited by the idea of violence.
Israel Keyes was unstable as a youth, to say the least. He was excited by the idea of violence, and over time, he became enamored with the idea of inflicting pain on others.
He admitted, later on in life, that he would torture animals like cats for fun, and he had his own myriad of emotional and mental issues. But all of the theories about his origins can possible traced back to the murder of a 12-year old girl just outside of Colville, Washington.
Julie Harris was a 12-year old girl, a double amputee that had become a Special Olympics champion. She, of course, lived in Colville, the small town that the Keyes family lived just outside of.
Sometime in 1996, little Julie Harris went missing, and many suspected that she had run away from home, according to reports from her mother's live-in boyfriend. Her prosthetic legs would later be found nearby a river bed, which turned the investigation from her disappearance to her murder.
While many have long-suspected her mother's volatile boyfriend to be the main suspect, the proximity to Keyes and his origins can't be overlooked. It was around this time that Israel came of age, and left the Colville area behind.
No one is sure when Israel began exhibiting violent tendencies, but over the years, he started to become enamored with stories of serial killers. His idol, by his own admission, was the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. Israel admired Bundy's tenacity to kill, and his desire to inflict pain on others. No one is sure when this violent admiration began, but it undoubtedly help inspire Israel Keyes to create his own modus operandi for crime.
When he was 17, Israel moved east for a short period of time. We can't be sure whether he moved there with family or by himself, but he did admit to living in New York State for a few months in 1997 or so. He would later go on to own a large track of land in upstate New York, just outside the town of Constable. Little is know of when or how he acquired this land, but it becomes relevant later on.
At around the time he was 18, Israel moved again and entered another part of the Pacific Northwest. He moved to an area nearby Maupin, Oregon, an area well-renowned for its outdoor activities. Two hours east of Portland, Maupin has a population of just a few hundred, and again, is considered a very small town by almost every single metric.
This is where the mystery of Israel Keyes begins...
In either the summer of 1997 or 1998, a group of teenagers were inner-tubing along the nearby Deschutes River. In an area where temperatures often exceed 100 degrees during the summer, this is to be an expected activity for a group of bored and easily-excited teens.
But for one unknown teenager, this day would become a nightmare.
At sometime in the late afternoon and early evening, of a late summer day, Israel Keyes must have spotted these teenagers and taken note. He patiently waited for one of the teenagers, a young girl between the age of 14 and 18, to become separated from the group.
According to his later testimony, Israel Keyes abducted this lone girl, and led her away from the rest of her group. He would go on to sexually assault this poor girl, before eventually letting her go and eventually making his getaway.
The identity of this girl has never been found, because she never came forward to police. Whether this was a made-up story created in Israel Keyes' mind is anyone's guess, but this is the first crime Keyes recalled committing.
Following his stint living in Oregon, Israel Keyes enlisted in the United States Army. During his time in the US Army, he reached the rank of specialist, and was given three different duty stations: Fort Hood, in Texas; somewhere overseas in Egypt; and Fort Lewis, located in Western Washington.
He spent a large chunk of his enlistment in Fort Lewis, located nearby Tacoma, Washington, a major part of the well-populated Seattle area.
One of the things that is noticeably different about Keyes is that he never wanted the renown that his idol, Ted Bundy, received. While most serial offenders commit their crime to gain some type of reputation, Keyes shied away from the spotlight and never wanted his name to become associated with the crimes he would later commit.
Keyes would never confess to any crimes during his enlistment. He claims that he would go on to later commit multiple crimes, following his honorable discharge in 2001, but he never admitted to committing a single crime while enlisted.
Following his discharge from the United States Army in 2001, Israel Keyes would move to Neah Bay, a small community right on the northwestern tip of Washington State.
Neah Bay is a small fishing community, right on the edge of Washington State. Right across the bay lays Vancouver Island, leaving it right at the border between the continental United States and Canada.
Comprised of a predominant Native American population, Israel Keyes would have stuck out like a sore thumb, but he soon found himself becoming a productive citizen of Neah Bay. In this small town of 800 or so people, Keyes began to work for the Makah tribe as a landscaper, a construction worker, a handyman... just about everything a jack-of-all-trades could be expected to be.
Many of his fellow Neah bay residents never recalled anything suspicious about him, seeing him as just another capable member of society that they could count on to fix just about anything, and who seemed to be a likable guy that everyone remembered as having a good sense of humor.
Shortly after moving to Neah Bay, Israel had himself a girlfriend, a great role in society, and shortly afterwards... a daughter.
While being a father didn't deter Israel Keyes from committing any of his future heinous crimes, it did deter him from targeting children. He would later go on to make it a point to target victims that didn't have any children present, which we can surmise as being part of his criminal code.
Keyes would go on to admit murdering his first victim at some point between July and October of 2001. We do not know the identity or location of this victim, but this is when the FBI believes Israel Keyes began his killing spree.
Keyes would admit to killing one victim in the second half of 2001, but the next few years are almost a total mystery. Not only to the people that knew Keyes, but the FBI investigators that have spent months and years trying to retrace his footsteps.
This is the time-frame where Keyes became a serial offender. Before this era, he had committed rather spontaneous crimes, but this is when Keyes began to focus in on his MO, specifying it to the point of procedure.
Sometime between 2001 and 2005, Keyes killed a couple in Washington State, but he would refuse to give up any details. We don't know whether this was a married couple, a couple of young lovers, a family pairing, siblings, friends. Keyes would later be rather scarce in giving out details, and all we know is that in the four years following his first murder he killed again.
Investigators couldn't even be sure that the couple were Washington State residents, or whether he had abducted them and driven them into Washington. Their identities have never been discovered, and there is no evidence that Keyes committed these murders other than his word.
In the interviews that Keyes would give investigators, he would imply that this couple was buried in or nearby a valley. Investigators also surmised, based on his later crimes, that he had taken the car belonging to the couple and driven it a good distance away from the crime scene, to separate the two and make their bodies almost unrecoverable.
Keyes would go on to admit, years later, that his main way of finding victims was to let them come to him. He would prefer to find them in public parks, camp sites, hiking trails, the sort of places where people might naturally go missing. We have no way of knowing if this first couple was a married couple that he had singled out ahead of time, or if they were an unlucky pair of outdoorsmen that had stumbled upon this unlucky fate.
In 2005 and 2006, Keyes continued his killing spree, committing two more murders that were totally independent of one another. Again, these are crimes in which we don't know who the victims are, or how he even got them in his sights.
He would later confess to both of these crimes to investigators, but wouldn't reveal the names or even the slightest hints of identity for either set of victims. We don't know how many victims he may have piled up in this time frame, as he self-admittedly liked to strike in the summer and fall months, when tourism to Washington State is at its highest.
Keyes would admit that he used his own boat to dispose of these victims, but would only admit where one of the bodies had been submerged: deep beneath the surface of Crescent Lake, right on the border of the scenic Olympic National Park and just an hour east of his home in Neah Bay. He lightly poked at the notion that the bodies were submerged under hundreds of feet, as deep as the lake itself can get, but no bodies have been recovered from Crescent Lake up until now.
We can't tell whether this is a story fabrication of Keyes or a self-assured testimony of his evil, but Keyes wasn't the sort of criminal who liked his misdeeds to be well-known. It's likely that Keyes created these stories to simply gain renown, but it's much more likely that these crimes were just the tip of the iceberg for him.
He was just getting started.
In the first week of March 2007, Israel Keyes relocated yet again. We don't know what led to him leaving the close-knit community of Neah Bay, but he began driving north up towards Alaska.
Along the way, he made multiple stops in many towns along the Alaska-Canadian Highway. He most notably made stops to towns in British Columbia and Yukon, although we don't know the extent of these stops.
We would later learn that Keyes used every opportunity to his advantage, so he may have done some scouting or planning while visiting these towns.
He eventually arrived in Anchorage on March 9th, over a week after beginning his move north. He began to establish a new home in this norther-most state. In Anchorage, he established a business for himself, named Keyes Construction. He began to use his talents as a tradesman to cement himself as a normal guy to the citizens in his new northern home.
In October and November of 2008, Keyes traveled from Alaska to a handful of states, including North Dakota, Arizona, and Washington. We don't know where he traveled to or what he was up to during this trips, we only know the barest of details and even then, those are scarce.
Keyes rented a car in Seattle on October 31st, 2008, the car being a PT Cruiser. Where he traveled with this vehicle is anyone's guess.
On November 2nd, three days after renting a car in Seattle, Keyes flew out of Seatac Airport, headed for Boston, where he would stay for a total of three days. Needless to say, his activities during this time period are lost in time.
Israel Keyes was a methodical planner, and this is logically where his plans began to plant themselves in the ground, almost literally.
One of the most terrifying aspects about Israel Keyes is that he planned his actions months and years in advance. He would stake a claim on a future victim, entirely at random, and plan on attacking them years before doing so.
It is incredibly likely that on this voyage east, Israel began to experiment with what would later be known as his "murder-kits." These kits would include weapons, money, tools, and other supplies needed to murder his victims and dispose of their bodies. Keyes would begin burying these murder kits all around the United States, in seemingly-random areas close to the future victims. He would keep no record of what was contained in these kits, and would bury them with the location only stored inside his mind, to be repossessed later on when he enacted his crimes.
So on November 5th, three days after visiting Boston with no real motive or purpose, he returned to Seattle and then Anchorage. It's likely that he began plotting out future murders years in advance, and had buried a murder kit or two during this little vacation of his.
Israel Keyes was now in his thirties, a single man who had begun to totally eschew religion from his life. At this point, Keyes was now a devout atheist, abandoning the religious upbringing he had been given and treading his own, dark philosophical path.
Much like his idol, Ted Bundy, Keyes began to abuse alcohol. He also began to frequent prostitutes.
For all of his narcissistic tendencies, Keyes was a man of many faults. In one life, he was the witty, loving father who worked hard in his day job, was a United States Army veteran, and who traveled the world constantly. He even came from a large religious family, which may have bolstered the image he had created.
But underneath this facade was a man that was broken, and shielded to everyone except for himself and his victims. This was a man who didn't believe in any higher power, who abused alcohol, who frequented women he'd likely look down upon, who enjoyed inflicting pain upon others. This was a part of himself that he didn't want known, as he had seen what had happened to his idol, Ted Bundy, and the scrutiny that his life had received under the microscope of the media.
Keyes began to imagine a world where he inflicted pain on as many people as possible, for his own enjoyment, and he didn't plan on seeing the ramifications of his actions. He had dreamed of going out in an epic gun-battle with police, but he didn't want his living relatives to learn about his actions.
Debra Feldman was a woman at the end of her rope. She was approaching 50, and was the worse for wear. Debra was addicted to many narcotics, and despite the best intentions of her adult son, Matthew, she wasn't getting any better.
Debra was addicted to heroic and cocaine, among other substances. Debra lost custody of her only child, Matthew, when he was in his teenage years, and she seemed to spiral down from there. Even when she grew estranged from everyone in her life, she kept coming to her adult son for help financially, only to be rebuffed.
In their last conversation, Debra had come to visit Matthew, and demanded that he give up the $400 he had just received as payment for his fast food job. She would go on and threaten to kill herself if her son didn't give up his paycheck to her, and he refused. At first. He offered her a nearby knife, calling her bluff.
Debra put down the knife, and withdrew her threat. But then she broke down, telling her son that she needed the money to keep from getting evicted.
Matthew eventually gave in to his mother's request, and gave her the money. "That's what family does," he would later say.
Debra J. Feldman, a resident of New Jersey, would go missing just days afterwards. She was known by all in her life to have a serious issue with drugs and alcohol, and even her family wouldn't have been surprised to find out that she had likely been moonlighting as a prostitute before her disappearance. To this date, her fate and her whereabouts remain unknown, but her son hasn't forgotten about his missing mother.
The FBI would later piece together the narrative that Israel Keyes abducted a woman in New Jersey, whom he later transported over to upstate New York, where she was murdered and buried. They do not believe that she was buried on his plot of land nearby Constable, but the likelihood of the body being buried nearby is high.
They have linked this to the disappearance of Debra Feldman not only through happenstance, but by the near-admission of Keyes.
While being interrogated by the FBI, Keyes was shown photos of many of the missing men and women from the states he had visited, in the hopes that he would identify some just to bring the families closure. He gestured "no" to most of the photos, but when he was shown a picture of Debra Feldman, he paused. His response to the photo may be the only closure the family of Debra Feldman will ever receive.
"I'm not ready to talk about her," he would say, before dropping the subject forever.
Just a day after the disappearance of Debra Feldman, on April 10th of 2009, Keyes began to expand his criminal activities. Wearing a fake mustache, a fake goatee, sunglasses, and a hooded Carrhardt Jacket, he walked into a Community Bank with a silver handgun and demanded money.
He got away with an undisclosed amount of money, and even though his picture was displayed across the local news and the town of Tupper Lake shut down all of the roads leading in and out of town, Keyes wasn't apprehended or even identified. Nobody in the area recognized him, since he was a complete outsider, and he hid out at a local campground until the heat had died down enough to make his getaway.
Investigators would later find that this was just one of several bank robberies perpetrated by Keyes, as a means of funding his constant expeditions around the United States. Little is know of how he got back to Anchorage, but it's likely that he may have driven the entire way and paid his way in cash, so that no records would be maintained of his whereabouts. This would become an important aspect of his future travels, so it's possible that it started here.
A year passed, but Keyes gave no sign of slowing down. On July 9th, 2010, Keyes flew from Anchorage to Sacramento, Callifornia. He then traveled from Sacramento to Auburn, California, where he rented a vehicle, a black Ford Focus, and traveled close to 280 miles over the next few days.
We can only guess to the extent of his activities in California, but it's likely that he may have buried another one of his "murder-kits" or even committed a crime during his time there.
In April or May of 2011, Keyes visited a park near Point Woronzof, located nearby his home city of Anchorage. He had a rifle with him, and fully intended to shoot at a couple he had spotted in the parking lot of the park.
When a police officer showed up in the parking lot, Keyes set his sights on the officer. He only refrained when a second officer was revealed to be there, as well.
Just weeks later, Keyes was stalking a nearby trail-head with the sole intention of abducting someone.
He had even buried an improvised "murder-kit" containing many bottles of Drain-O and a shovel, which he would use to dispose of his potential victim's body.
He ended up coming up empty on both accounts, but his most well-known atrocities were yet to come.
On June 2nd, of 2011, Israel Keyes flew out of Anchorage. His flight arrived in Chicago, but he had his sights set further east. He rented a car at the Chicago airport, which he then drove all the way east to Essex, Vermont.
During this trip, he took the battery out of his cell phone so that there would be no trace of his travels, and he paid his entire way in cash: money he had saved up from his handyman business and also the money he had left over from the robberies he had committed.
Years beforehand, during one of his many trips east, Keyes had buried one of his "murder-kits" in the woods outside of a house. The house belonged to Bill and Lorraine Currier, an older couple that was adored by all that knew them.
Bill and Lorraine Currier were longtime citizens of the area, and had both been working their respective jobs for over twenty years. So when they were both absent from work the next morning, questions were asked and flags were raised.
On the evening before, June 8th, Keyes has broken into the house of Bill and Lorraine Currier and surprised the both of them. He had bound both, and abducted them using their own vehicle to do so.
He drove this terrified older couple to a nearby abandoned house, where he led Bill into the basement. He kept Lorraine upstairs, where he began to sexually assault her, purely to cause pain. Bill began to struggle downstairs, and this loving husband tried to free himself to rescue his wife.
Unfortunately, Keyes had come prepared for that, utilizing the murder-kit he had buried years prior. He shot and killed Bill Currier, and later strangled Lorraine to death.
He took both of their bodies to the basement of the abandoned house, where he covered them in trash bags. He then poured Drain-O all over the two, hoping that the bodies would seriously decompose before anyone would find them. Israel Keyes covered them up with as much debris as possible, to hide the bodies, and simply left.
Unfortunately, the bodies of Bill and Lorraine Currier were never found. The abandoned house they had been left in would later be demolished. The demolition crew noted that the basement smelled heavily of decomposition, but just assumed that the previous tenants had been hunters of some type, as hunting was very common in this area.
The debris and the remains of the abandoned house were sent to a local landfill, and the only evidence proving that Bill and Lorraine Currier had been murdered was the testimony of a proven psychopath.
In the week following the murder of Bill and Lorraine Currier, Israel Keyes traveled along the east coast, before returning to Chicago. In Chicago, he returned the rental car he had now driven thousands of miles in, before flying to San Francisco.
He would stay in the Bay Area for only a single night, before flying back to Anchorage on June 16th. He had been gone only two weeks, but the damage had been done.
Bill and Lorraine Currier remain only two of three victims that can be absolutely attributed to Israel Keyes, with the third yet to come. Israel Keyes now had a taste for blood, and he was beginning to feel invincible.
It was less than a year later that Israel Keyes would commit his most notorious act. He went against his usual M.O., and decided to strike close to home.
Samantha Koenig was a beautiful 18-year old woman with the rest of her life in front of her. She worked at a local coffee stand as a barista, and was working the evening shift on this particular night. Surveillance footage can be seen of her working at the stand rather dutifully... cleaning and tidying things up, as it was a rather slow Wednesday night on February 1st.
A man in a ski mask approaches the stand, and asks Samantha to make him a coffee. You can see Samantha get to work on the coffee, but when she goes to hand it to him, he reveals a gun. He orders her to give him the money from the coffee stand, and then he enters the stand. He zip ties her hands, and begins to lead her away from the coffee stand.
This masked intruder reveals that he's going to abduct Samantha and extort her for ransom, but she tries to inform him that her family doesn't have much money. This masked man says that he's planning on the community raising the funds to get her back alive, and he orders her to follow his instructions.
During this trip to his nearby truck, Samantha tries to make a break for it. Unfortunately, Keyes catches up and tackles her, putting a gun to her head and threatening to kill her with his quiet ammunition if she tries something like that again.
Once Samantha Koenig was detained in his truck, Israel Keyes returned to the coffee stand to get Samantha's cell phone. He viewed her cell phone as a vital part of his plan, as he then used it to send two text messages: one to her boss, and the other to her boyfriend. In this text message, he stated that Samantha had had a bad day at work, and needed to get away for a few days. He took the phone with him, but removed the battery so that the police wouldn't be able to trace it to him.
Despite the fact that he likely had plenty of money, Keyes demanded Samantha Koenig's debit card, which she informed him was in the truck that she shared with her boyfriend. Keyes drove Koenig to his home, where he locked her in a outdoor shed. He turned the radio up inside the shed, so that her screams couldn't be heard by any possible neighbors. He threatened her multiple times, demanding to know where her debit card was and what the PIN for the account was. She told him, so he then left to go get her debit card.
The truck that Samantha Koenig and her boyfriend shared was parked right outside their house, and Keyes attempted to break into it. This, or the previous text message, had alerted Koenig's boyfriend, who went out to confront this stranger. The two had a brief altercation, in which Keyes barely escaped, but the boyfriend went back inside to try and get help. In that time-span, Keyes managed to grab the debit card and escape, all but sealing Samantha Koenig's fate.
On the way back to his house, Keyes tested the debit card and found that it worked. He began to pull out Samantha Koenig's money, and then traveled back home.
There, he sexually assaulted Koenig before asphyxiating her. She was dead just hours after being abducted, but her family, friends, and loved ones wouldn't know of her fate for months.
Early in the morning of the very next day, February 2nd, Israel Keyes departed for New Orleans. He left Koenig in the shed in his yard, assured that she wouldn't be disturbed in the time that he was gone.
Keyes had pre-purchased a cruise leaving from New Orleans, which would take him out of the states for the next couple of weeks. This was apparently a regular occurrence for him, as he would take these small vacations not only to spend the money from the victims he had murdered, but also to escape the heat of the crime for a short time.
During this time, the Koenig family and Samantha's other loved ones began to grow desperate for any word.
The only word they had received were those two text messages, followed by the intruder that had broken into her truck and stolen her debit card. They knew nothing, and wouldn't until February 17th.
On February 17th, Samantha Koenig's boyfriend received a text message from her phone, informing her that there was a ransom note at a nearby park. Hidden under a "lost dog" flyer, the ransom note was found by Anchorage police, and demanded $30,000 for the safe return of Koenig.
On the opposite side of the ransom note was a photo of Koenig, taken just a day or so beforehand, posed to look like she was still alive. Keyes had sewn her eyelids open to make her look alive, and placed a four-day old newspaper under her arm to appear lifelike.
Believing his daughter was still alive, James Koenig began pleading to the community to raise money to save his little girl. The community did a great job of marshaling together to bring back one of their own, and began to deposit the money into Samantha's account, which Keyes still had access to.
Unfortunately, Samantha Koenig had been dead for nearly two weeks now, and Keyes was ready to get rid of the evidence.
He began to dismember her body, and drove it out to the frozen Matanuska Lake, where he had to cut holes in the surface of the lake to bury her body, piece-by-piece.
Fortunately, this would be the last violent crime that Israel Keyes would ever commit.
Police began to trace the withdrawals from Samantha Koenig's bank account to ATMs in Anchorage, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico. Now the FBI was involved with the case, along with the Texas Rangers, and they quickly found that the person making the withdrawals was driving a white Ford Focus.
On a chance encounter with a couple of Texas Highway Patrolmen, Keyes was identified as the person of interest in this now-federal case, before being pulled over and detained.
I'm sure that these patrolmen that happened upon Keyes had no idea that they had detained one of the most methodical serial killers of recent times, but they were more than capable enough to not only detain Keyes peacefully, but to find Koenig's cellphone in the trunk of the car and later find her debit card in his wallet.
Now police had the random killer of Samantha Koenig, but they had no idea what kind of intricate, mysterious web they had now stumbled upon.
Israel Keyes was now behind bars, and he would later go on to admit to federal investigators that he was behind the mysterious disappeance of Bill and Lorraine Currier, who had seemingly vanished from the face of the planet a year or so prior.
He would admit to many more crimes in his time behind bars, including the arson of a house in Texas on February 16th, just a day before returning to Anchorage to demand ransom for Samantha Koenig. He also confessed to multiple bank robberies in that same Texas town and others in the state of New York, which he had never even been suspected in.
He would go on to admit killing eight or so people, but many have theorized that that number is on the lower end of the spectrum. With the crazy amount of trips he made throughout the country and even internationally, some have theorized Keyes to be involved with dozens of disappearances.
He admitted to at least one killing where the body was recovered, and hinted that police might have ruled the death an accident. Investigators leaned towards the notion that Keyes had murdered one of his victims and then started a house fire, but trying to find out exactly who this victim was without a confession would be downright impossible.
Keyes told investigators that he buried his "murder-kits" all over the United States, and to date, a handful have been found but many more are likely still buried out there.
Unfortunately, after months of interrogations and interviews with federal authorities, little information had been turned up. On December 2nd, 2012, just months after being detained for the murder of Samantha Koenig, Israel Keyes extracted a blade from a shaving razor that he used to slit his own wrist, just as he set up a series of sheets to hang himself with.
Israel Keyes killed himself, taking his secrets to the grave and leaving behind a blood-stained suicide letter, which follows.
We don't know all of the crimes Israel Keyes committed. He cowardly killed himself and took his secrets to the grave.
Unfortunately, a mind as sharp and methodical as his was used for something so nefarious, so evil, that we'll likely never get to piece together the puzzle he left investigators.
Right after his death, the FBI sent out a plea to the public, begging anyone with any information to come forward and help them fill in their gaps of knowledge. They released a handful of their interviews with Keyes, most of which consist of Keyes haggling with the investigators and dragging his feet in the mud. Keyes refused to give up much information of his crimes, so even the FBI doesn't know the true fate of his victims. Hell, they don't even know who his victims were.
Keyes surviving family members held a funeral for him in the chilly month of December of 2012, not forgiving him for any of his crimes and damning him to eternal torment. But, unlike his victims, his family got some semblance closure and know his ultimate fate. He leaves behind one daughter.
Some people have theorized that the FBI reached an agreement with Keyes and limited the amount of information about his crimes in order to get some information. I'm not sure how I feel about this theory, because its been a matter of years now with no real developments, but the theory hinges on the idea that Keyes was an even bigger monster than the FBI has built him up to be.
Unfortunately, we'll never know, because this case is likely to never be solved.
Written by Micheal Whelan
November 13, 2015
Sources and further reading
- FBI - "FBI Requests the Public's Assistance in Case of Serial Killer Israel Keyes"
- Seattle Weekly - "Israel Keyes: In Plane Sight"
- CBS News - "Israel Keyes Update: Alaska serial killer linked to at least 11 deaths, FBI says"
- CNN: "FBI: Serial killer Keyes may have killed missing New Jersey woman"
- LA Times - "Attacks by suspected serial killer Israel Keyes followed a pattern"
- Salon - "Alaska serial killer raised racist, anti-Semitic"
- AZ Family - "An inside look into the funeral of serial killer Israel Keyes"
- My Northwest - "Family of confessed serial killer Israel Keyes holds funeral in Washington State"