Police report some progress in case of missing barista

NO DETAILS: But officials are mum about specifics surrounding kidnapping.

Anchorage Daily NewsFebruary 8, 2012 

Anchorage police say detectives are making progress in the search for abducted 18-year-old Samantha Koenig but declined to discuss specific details from the case.

"I believe they've made some pretty good strides in the last 24 hours, but they're not ready to release that," police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said late Wednesday.

With a reward fund growing, Koenig's father said Wednesday that information was still flowing in. Still, there were no major developments reported in the week-old case.

Parker said the team of detectives working around the clock on the case has interviewed dozens of people, leading to more interviews and some potential evidence.

No arrests have been made, nor any suspects or persons of interest publicly named. And nobody has reported seeing Koenig for a week. Her last known images exist in surveillance camera footage from the Common Grounds Espresso hut where she worked, in the parking lot of the Alaska Club at 630 E. Tudor Road.

The video shows an armed man approach the coffee stand on foot, wearing a dark, hooded sweatshirt. He forced Koenig to leave with him just before 8 p.m. Feb. 1, police said. The 5-foot-5 Koenig walked west with the "significantly" taller man, a detective said.

Police say Koenig looked scared in the video. The cameras did not get a good look at her abductor's face, police said.

Koenig's boyfriend says he arrived sometime later to give her a ride home, but she was gone. Police say they have no reason to suspect him.

Common Grounds owners Tyler and Michelle Duncan said that the stand was locked up the next morning, but it was messy inside and all the cash was missing. Earlier reports that Koenig left behind her belongings at the stand were incorrect -- her purse, coat and cellphone were gone, Michelle Duncan said -- and there wasn't anything that immediately suggested an abduction, she said.

"The first baristas didn't see anything we haven't seen before (with other employees)," Tyler Duncan said. "It just looked like she did a real poor job of closing."

There was no sign of a struggle, he said. Soon after, when the Duncans watched the surveillance video, they saw something that made them call police immediately, he said. The couple would not elaborate on what triggered the call but said the video was obscured somehow.

"This perpetrator took obvious and deliberate means to avoid being captured on video," Tyler Duncan said.

The abduction was apparently so stealthy that a person seen in the video, sitting in a pickup about 50 feet from the stand, didn't appear to notice anything strange, Tyler said.

"They were just oblivious," he said.

The security system at Common Grounds, with multiple cameras and an alarm with a panic button, is better than most small businesses have in Anchorage, Tyler said. "We took it seriously. We have young women working in here."

Koenig's friends and family have made a headquarters of sorts in an RV parked near the coffee hut. They continued Wednesday to pass out fliers to keep the public aware of her kidnapping. A candlelight vigil is scheduled for Saturday.

Koenig's father, James Koenig, said he had "briefly" hired a private investigator but the man was no longer working on the case. James sounded haggard on the phone Wednesday.

"I am hitting every place I can possibly think of to get any tip or inclination," he said. "I've got to start thinking, where would I dump the ... body if I were this guy?"

Samantha Koenig's family is offering a reward of at least $41,000 for her return, though it has likely grown much larger. James Koenig said he didn't know exactly how much money had been donated to the reward fund, an account at Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union.

"I haven't had time to tally anything. That's the least of my worries," he said. "Whatever's getting deposited in there is whoever wants to bring my kid home."

People with tips, both good and bad, have been bombarding James's phone, he said. Some seem to just want the reward, he said.

"You'll get this that and the other and then, 'Don't forget the reward when you find her,' " James said.

Even psychics have offered to help, something James isn't ready to discount, he said.

"If you were in my position, you'd be taking every gamble in your life."

Anyone with information about Samantha Koenig's whereabouts is asked to call police at 786-2460.

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