Israel Keyes murder spree
Serial killer Israel Keyes is the type of serial killer the public, and police, fear: one that is so wily and meticulous, the complete story of his murders may never be known. Keyes is believed to have embarked on a decades-long murder spree which may have included more than a dozen murder victims. He murdered his first victim in 2001 and his last in 2012 when he kidnapped 18-year-old Samantha Koenig of Anchorage, strangled her, and dumped her remains in an icy Alaskan lake. Thus far only three of Keyes’ victims have been positively identified even though while in custody, Keyes admitted to eight murders. The FBI has linked Keyes to at least 11 killings, and likely many more, and feel that they may never know the true body count.
Several factors contribute to the difficulty in identifying the victims of the unusually careful serial killer. Because Keyes chose victims with little or nothing in common, identification of additional victims based on modus operandem, common traits that link victims to each other, is all but impossible. In addition, although Keyes admitted to several killings, he was reluctant to give many details on the murders he confessed to. FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez told reporters,
“He gave us a number of clues. He talked openly about some of the homicides, but much of what he said only hinted at the things he had done.”
Who was Israel Keyes?
Israel Keyes was born January 7, 1978 in Richmond, Utah, the second of ten children. He was raised in a Mormon family and attended a Christian Identity church known for their radical racist and anti-Semtic views. At some point in adulthood, Keyes rejected religion altogether and proclaimed himself an atheist. When Keyes was just a child, his family moved to the Aladdin Road area, north of Colville, Washington. During their time in Washington, the Keyes family became friends with their neighbors, Chevie and Cheyne Kehoe, self-proclaimed white supremacist who were later convicted of murder and attempted murder.
Keyes begins his life of violent crime
At age 20, Keyes enlisted in the U.S. Army and served at Fort Lewis, Fort Hood, and in Egypt. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 2000. It is believed that Keyes began his life of crime some time before his armed services enlistment. For instance, we know that between 1996 and 1998, when Keyes was younger than 20 years old, he admitted to separating a young girl from her friends who were tubing on a river, and raping her. He told investigators that he considered killing her but decided not to at the last moment.
After leaving the Army, Keyes established his own company (Keyes Construction) in Alaska and began working as a construction contractor, construction worker, and handyman. It was during his stay in Alaska that Keyes ventured out into almost every region of the United States to plan, set up, and commit his many murders. Keyes traveled throughout the country looking for victims and setting up “kill kits”, buried caches of money, weapons and tools needed to kill and dispose of the victims’ bodies. His trips were not financed with money from his construction business, a money-flow that could be tracked, but from money he obtained from robbing banks. It is believed Keyes may have robbed up to three-dozen banks throughout the country during his decades-long murder spree.
Keyes meticulous method of operation
FBI Special Agent Jolen Goeden said that the biggest surprise to her in the case, was how detailed Keyes was. She told reporters, “Keyes was very methodical, very detailed. There was a tremendous amount of planning that went into these crimes.”
According to Keyes, his usual routine would be to fly to some area of the country, rent a vehicle, and then drive thousands of miles to find victims (investigators have proven that Keyes traveled to Canada often, to Mexico in 2007 and 2008, and to Belize in 2005). Keyes said he often found his victims in campgrounds, parks, rural unpopulated areas and even cemeteries. While in the area of the murder, Keyes would turn off his mobile cell phone and paid for all items with cash. His victims were always random, differing in sex, age, and appearance.
Before committing a murder, Keyes would set up and bury murder kits near the targeted area – stashing items like shovels, plastic bags, fasteners, photography equipment, flashlights, money, weapons, weapon parts, gun silencers, ammunition and bottles of Drano; items he would use to dispose of the bodies. Sometimes these kits would remain hidden for several years before they were used in a murder. His murders kits have been found in Alaska and New York, but he admitted to having others in Washington, Wyoming, Texas, and Arizona. After Keyes murdered a victim, he left the area immediately and moved the victim’s body across state lines for disposal.
Keyes confessed that his first victims were killed in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s. During this time, he killed four people in Washington State (possibly while he was stationed at Fort Lewis). At this time, his criminal record included minor violations – driving without a valid license and driving under the influence – even though it is believed that he was already committing much more serious crimes, including robbing homes and banks, and committing arson.
Keyes confesses to some of the murders
Another of the murders that Keyes confessed to was the killing of Bill and Lorraine Currier. On June 2, 2011, Keyes flew to Chicago, rented a car and drove nearly 1,000 miles to Essex, Vermont. After carefully targeting the home of Bill and Lorraine (he specifically looked for a home that had a detached garage, no children, and no dog), on June 8, 2011, he conducted what he called a “blitz” attack on their home Keyes tied them up with zip ties and moved them to an abandoned house. He left Lorraine in the car while he took Bill to the basement of the home and tied him up. When he returned, he found that Lorraine had tried to escape but he caught her and took her to the second floor of the home. There, he returned to the basement and after beating him with a shovel, shot Bill Currier to death. Keys then returned to the second floor, sexually assaulted Lorraine, and then strangled her. Their bodies were never found (Keyes refused to tell authorities where he buried the bodies). In an act of careful planning, two years prior to the Curriers’ deaths, Keyes had hidden a “murder kit” near their home. Authorities believe Keyes gave them details on this murder because he believed they already had evidence linking him to the case.
On Feb. 2, 2012, Keyes planned to kidnap 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, who worked as a barista at a coffee stand in Anchorage, Alaska. He originally planned to kidnap both Samantha and her boyfriend but for some reason, at the last minute, Keyes decided against kidnapping the boyfriend and wearing a hooded sweatshirt, sunglasses, fake mustache and beard, abducted Koenig from her place of employment. The kidnapping was caught on video and a massive search for her was initiated by authorities.
Following the abduction, Keyes took Koenig to a shed behind his Anchorage, Alaska home where he sexually assaulted her and strangled her to death. He then immediately left the area and went on a two-week cruise out of New Orleans, leaving her body in the shed. When he returned, he took a photograph of the body with a 4-day old issue of the Anchorage Daily news (in order to maintain that she was still alive). He then dismembered her body and dumped it in Matanuska Lake north of Anchorage. He next sent a text message from her cellphone in an attempt to confuse the police, and using the photograph, demanded $300,000 in ransom for return of the young girl.
The ransom demand was paid to Keyes and investigators began tracking withdrawals from the account as Keyes moved across the southwestern area of the United States. About a month after the kidnapping, in a bizarre act of stupidity (or a purposeful, clever act of self destruction), Keyes used Koenig’s debit card (her PIN was scratched on the back) to get money from an ATM machine in Arizona. The ATM camera captured a picture of the rental car Keyes was driving (but not the license plate number), linking him to the card and Koenig’s murder.
Keyes was arrested in Lufkin, Texas on March 13, 2012 after an observant State Trooper noticed a car parked in a hotel parking lot, a white Ford Focus, that fit the description of an all-points-bulletin regarding Keyes. When Keyes drove the vehicle out of the parking lot, the State Trooper followed the car and pulled Keyes over for speeding. When Keyes gave him an Alaska driver’s license, the trooper called for backup.
Keyes was charged with credit card fraud and extradited from Texas to Anchorage. It was in Anchorage that Keyes confessed to the murder of Koenig. On April 2, 2012, a forensic dive team found Koenig’s body in Matanuska Lake. On April 18, an Anchorage grand jury indicted Keyes for the kidnapping and murder of Samantha Koenig.
While awaiting trial in a Anchorage jail, Keyes was interviewed for more than 40 hours by Anchorage police detective Jeff Bell and FBI Special Agent Jolene Goeden. Although he was not completely forthcoming with many details, he continued to confess to some of the murders that he committed over the past 11 years.
On December 2, 2012, Keyes was found dead in his Anchorage jail cell. He had cut his wrists and strangled himself with a bed sheet. He was survived by at least one child, a young daughter. Under his body was a blood-soaked four-page suicide letter (see the complete letter below). An analysis of the enhanced letter concluded that it contained no evidence or clues, but was merely a “creepy” Ode to Murder, written by a serial killer who loved to kill.
During his murder spree, it is believed that Keyes burglarized over 30 homes across the country and robbed several banks to fund his hobby of killing people. Although Keyes claimed his last victim was Samantha Koenig, police suspect he killed someone in Texas during his February 12-16 jaunt through the state, because he visited locations (e.g. cemetery) where he typically sought victims and was “dodgy” when asked specific details about his recent movements across the state.
“He made a number of statements to us that made us think that he did something in Texas. We definitely all had that impression.”
The FBI timeline
In an act of desperation, the FBI released a complete timeline of Keyes’ activities. The following timeline articulates the information provided by Keyes and known to law enforcement about Keyes’ criminal activities. It also includes travel dates/locations investigators believe Keyes may have committed a homicide.
Summer 1997 or Summer 1998: Keyes stated he abducted a female in the late afternoon or early evening while she and friends were tubing on the Deschutes River. Keyes sexually assaulted the female. He let her go and sent her on her tube back down the river. The victim in this case was between 14 and 18 years old. Investigators do not believe this sexual assault was reported to law enforcement. Keyes was living in Maupin, Oregon at the time and the abduction location is believed to be near Maupin.
July 2001: Keyes was discharged from the U.S. Army.
July 2001 to October 2001: Keyes resided in Neah Bay, Washington and committed his first homicide. The identity and location of the victim are unknown.
July 2001 to 2005: Keyes stated he murdered an unidentified couple in Washington. Keyes refused to tell law enforcement if the couple was married or what their relationship to one another was. It is unknown if the victims were residents of Washington, tourists, or residents he abducted from a nearby state and transported to Washington. Keyes alluded to the fact these victims were buried in a location near a valley. Keyes may have moved the victim’s car to place distance between where the vehicle was found and where the crime occurred.
2005 to 2006 (summer/fall months): Keyes admitted that he committed two murders independent of one another. Keyes used his boat to dispose of the bodies of these victims. Keyes stated at least one of the bodies was disposed of in Crescent Lake in Washington where he used anchors to submerge the body. Keyes reported the body was submerged in more than 100 feet of water. Keyes may have moved the victim’s car to place distance between where the vehicle was found and where the crime occurred. The identity of these victims is unknown.
March 1, 2007 to March 9, 2007: Keyes drove from Neah Bay, Washington to Anchorage, Alaska where he resided until is his arrest. Keyes traveled the Alaska-Canadian Highway making known stops in Cache Creek, British Columbia; Watson Lake, Yukon Territory; Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory; and Teslin, Yukon Territory. Keyes crossed the border into Alaska on March 9, 2007.
October 31, 2008 to November 5, 2008: Keyes flew to Seattle following travel to multiple other states, including North Dakota and Arizona. On October 31st, Keyes rented a car (2008 PT Cruiser) in Seattle. On November 2, 2008, Keyes flew from Seattle to Boston. He returned to Seattle and flew back to Anchorage on November 5, 2008. Law enforcement believes Keyes may have engaged in criminal activity on this trip and is seeking any information about Keyes activities during this timeframe.
April 9, 2009: Keyes admitted to abducting a female victim from a state on the east coast and transported that person over multiple state lines into New York. The victim is buried in upstate New York. Investigators do not believe this victim is buried on the property Keyes owns in Constable, New York.
April 10, 2009: Keyes robbed Community Bank in Tupper Lake, New York. After the bank robbery Keyes stated he parked in a nearby campground outside of the area to wait for the emergency response vehicles to pass. He stated he sat in this campground for several hours.
July 9, 2010 to July 12, 2010: Keyes flew from Anchorage to Sacramento, California and traveled to Auburn, California. He rented a vehicle (black Ford Focus) and drove approximately 280 miles during the three days. Law enforcement believes Keyes may have engaged in criminal activity during this travel and is seeking any information about Keyes activities during this trip.
April/May 2011: Keyes staked out a park near Point Woronzof in Anchorage, Alaska. He admitted he intended to shoot a couple sitting in a car but his plans were disrupted by a police officer that pulled into the parking lot. Keyes turned his attention to the police officer and almost shot the officer. Keyes stated he chose not to shoot the officer or the couple when a second police officer drove into the parking lot.
May 2011: Keyes reported he staked out the North Fork Trailhead in Eagle River, Alaska with the intention of abducting someone. He prepared a cache a short distance up the road that contained Drano and a shovel which he intended to use to dispose of the body. Keyes denied taking a victim from this location.
June 8, 2011: Keyes flew from Anchorage to Chicago on June 2, 2011. He rented a car and drove to Essex, Vermont. On June 8, 2011, Keyes admitted to the abduction and murder of Bill and Lorraine Currier. Keyes disposed of a weapon stolen from the Currier home and the gun he used to shoot Bill Currier in Blakes River Falls Reservoir. These weapons and a nearby cache were recovered by the FBI. Following the murder, Keyes traveled around the east coast before driving back to Chicago. On June 15, 2011, Keyes flew from Chicago to San Francisco, only staying one night, returning to Anchorage on June 16, 2011.
February 1, 2012: Keyes admitted to the abduction and murder of Samantha Koenig in Anchorage, Alaska. He disposed of her body in Matanuska Lake near Palmer, Alaska.
February 2, 2012 to February 18, 2012: Keyes flew to New Orleans where he went on a cruise until February 11th. After the cruise, he drove from New Orleans to Texas. Although he denied it, investigators believe Keyes may be responsible for a homicide in Texas or a surrounding state during this time. In the morning hours of February 16, 2012, Keyes set a home on fire in Aledo, Texas. Following the arson, he robbed National Bank of Texas in Azle, Texas.
Keyes admitted to burying a cache of money and guns near Green River, Wyoming. Known dates of travel to the Wyoming area are September 2007, July 2008, and September 2011. Keyes admitted to burying a cache near Port Angeles, WA. Date unknown.
Keyes provided additional details regarding the abduction and murder of a female. The female is described as having pale skin, possibly having a wealthy grandmother, and driving an older car at the time of her abduction.
Keyes indicated he committed only one murder in addition to Samantha Koenig in which the body was recovered. In this homicide, Keyes reported doing something to the victim’s body or moving the body to a location where, if found, it would appear as though the victim died from an accident. In this situation, the body was recovered and authorities ruled the death accidental.
Keyes traveled internationally and it is unknown if he committed any homicides while outside of the United States. In addition to the specific dates below, it is important to note that while living in New York, Keyes was in close proximity to the border with Canada and may have crossed into Canada on multiple occasions. He reported several trips to Montreal in which he sought out prostitutes. In addition, on his way to Alaska in 2007, Keyes drove alone through Canada.
Law enforcement is aware of the following dates of international travel:
04/20/2005 to 04/25/2005 British Columbia
10/3/2001 to 10/31/2005 Belize
03/01/2007 to 03/09/2007 Canada (drove to Alaska)
04/24/2007 to 05/04/2007 Mexico
12/11/2008 to 12/25/2008 Mexico
Below is the barely-legible four-page suicide note left by Israel Keyes in his jail cell in which he tells a poetic tale of a twisted mind. One part of the note reads,
“You may have been free, you loved living your life, fate had its own scheme, crushed like a bug, you still die. … Family and friends will shed a few tears, pretend it’s off to heaven you go. But the reality is you were just bones and meat and with your brain died also your soul”
Additional Notes and Updates
Crimes in Texas?
It is still believed that Keyes committed crimes in Texas shortly before he was caught. He visited the state frequently – his mother and sister live in the eastern section of the state (and attend a Fundamentalist church there).
Keyes study of historical serial killers
Keyes studied fellow serial killers, including Ted Bundy, and he learned to make up stories so that he could disappear for long periods of time without raising suspicion. His travels to kill mimicked Bundy, whose victims stretched from Washington state to Florida
At the time of his death, he was a acknowledged alcoholic.
Did family members know Keyes was a serial killer?
It is believed that at least some of Keyes’ family members were aware of his murderous ways.
On his last Texas visit to see his family one of his sisters tried to get him to accept Christ. But Jake Gardner, a pastor at the Church of Wells in Cherokee County where the attempted intervention occurred, told a reporter that Keyes tearfully rebuffed her. Gardner told reporters that Keyes told the sister,
“You don’t know the depths of darkness that I’ve gone to. You don’t know what I’ve done. I’ve got to drink every day to forget these things.”