AD Main Menu

Audio tapes reveal serial killer Israel Keyes' wish to be executed

Alaska Dispatch
Serial killer Israel Keyes speaks to the FBI in Anchorage in July 2012. After Keyes' death in December, Alaska Dispatch filed a motion in federal court requesting that previously sealed interviews with Keyes and investigators be made public. On Monday, the interviews were released. FBI photo

Before Israel Keyes killed himself in his jail cell Dec. 2, he had numerous conversations with prosecutors and investigators about his crimes, including confessing to the kidnapping and murders of 18-year-old Anchorage barista Samantha Koenig in February 2012 and couple Bill and Lorraine Currier in Vermont in 2011. As the increasingly bizarre case unfolded, many of the documents in the investigation were kept secret. After Keyes' death, Alaska Dispatch filed a motion in federal court requesting that the previously sealed materials be made public, agreeing to some caveats for sensitive details that could have a negative effect on the families of Keyes' victims or investigations that remain ongoing. On Monday, the interviews were released.

Keyes alluded to having killed as many as 11 people -- but that information hadn't come easy. Many of authorities' discussions with Keyes took the form of a negotiation, with Keyes asking for assurances that the grisly details of his crimes would not be made public, shielding his young daughter from learning about her father's murderous tendencies. In exchange, he would provide details on the identities and locations of his victims, as well as other crimes including bank robberies, arsons and burglaries around the U.S.

April 2, 2012: In this 26-minute interview, the FBI and Anchorage Police talk with Israel Keyes while he is in custody at the Anchorage Correctional Complex. They let him know dive teams are searching for Samantha Koenig's body in a Wasilla lake and that they plan to release limited information to the press once she is found, honoring earlier promises they have made to Keyes to keep details quiet. Police ask what they can do to get Keyes to talk about other killings -- which investigators refer to only as “more chapters to this book.” Keyes hints that he has “more things” to talk about -- “very serious issues.” He tells investigators “I'm happy to help but it's on my terms” and “I am not in this for the glory. I'm not trying to be on T.V.”

April 5, 2012: In this 9-minute interview, the FBI and Anchorage Police again speak with Keyes at the Anchorage Correctional Complex. Keyes is unhappy that he hasn't been able to fire his attorney. He wants to speak with federal prosecutors before he opens up to investigators about the “other things” he's willing to discuss. Keyes says some of things he has to say might be time sensitive, but adds there's not much he can do about it.

April 6, 2012: This 1.5-hour interview takes place in the U.S. Attorney's office in Anchorage. The FBI, Anchorage police and two federal prosecutors are present. Prosecutors do most of the talking with Keyes, explaining they cannot talk with Keyes about the Koenig case, but are free to talk with him about other things. In the lengthy chat, Keyes admits to killing Bill and Lorraine Currier, a husband and wife from Essex, Vt. Keyes admits to having been to Burlington, Vt., before and to burying weapons there, which he dug up in June 2011 and used in the kidnapping and killing of the Curriers. Keyes also reveals the one bargaining chip prosectors can offer that will make him talk: an execution date. “I want this whole thing wrapped up and over with as soon as possible.” He gives a one-year ultimatum for what he calls “the inevitable,” referring to the death penalty. And he reveals the reason for his urgency: “I want my kid to have a chance to grow up -- you know -- she's in a safe place and she's not going to see any of this. I want her to have a chance to grow up and not have all of this hanging over her head.”

April 12, 2012: In this 2-hour, 20-minute recording, Keyes meets with investigators from the U.S. Attorney, FBI and Anchorage Police at the Anchorage Correctional Complex. He seems happy to talk to investigators after they've given him cigars and coffee in exchange for his cooperation. The conversation focuses only on the Currier killings. Keyes admits he was surprised no one found the bodies of the Curriers sooner and is surprised to find out that the farmhouse he placed their bodies in was demolished. Keyes admits he had tentative plans to return to Vermont to burn down the farmhouse. Investigators try to bargain with Keyes to get more information related to killings. Keyes wants a guarantee he will be executed within a year, though prosecutors tell him that without more information about additional killings, it will be next to impossible to speed things up. Keyes says that he wants a quick execution because he doesn't want appeals or other “stuff hanging over my head while I sit in Supermax waiting for the next thing to come down the pipe.”  “Sitting in prison for the rest of my life is a death penalty. I'd rather go out while I still have some sanity and good memories,” Keyes says with a laugh. After a break for a cigar, Keyes spends the second half of the interview showing investigators on Google Maps where he deposited the gun he used to kill the Curriers.

April 17, 2012: This nearly two-hour-long interview takes place at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage. When questioned about his competency, Keyes tells prosecutors, the FBI and Anchorage police “I'm more sane than most Americans.” He talks about feeling like he'd started to get out of control in recent years, especially with the Koenig killing. The calm that used to come after a big crime no longer was enough to sustain him long-term, he says. He began losing interest in work and looking for new, more brazen crimes to give him the boost he craved. He offers details about crimes he committed while in Texas after Koenig's death. He talks about how, while in Anchorage, he'd search maps from other states looking for small communities with banks and police stations that weren't nearby. While in Texas, he also thought about committing another kidnapping and killing. But he concluded the state had too many police. He also admitted he never had any intention of “being taken alive,” and that he carried a sawed-off .22 rifle and many rounds with him in anticipation of a shoot-out with local police. He says he wanted to find churches to burn in Vermont and Texas. He explains his method for choosing victims and that since the birth of his daughter, he'd decided he would never “mess with kids.” Investigators press to know whether he committed more killings in or near Texas or Vermont between 2011-2012. Keyes refuses to discuss anything that happened before he killed the Curriers in Vermont (2011), and indicates Koenig, who was killed in February 2012, was his last murder victim. Keyes mentions his childhood and says he knew as early as age 14 that he was different from other people. He'd once shot a cat or a dog (he couldn't remember) and on a separate occasion tortured and shot a cat, to the horror of the other teenagers with him. “That was pretty much the last time anybody went into the woods with me,” he says. He also explains the secret pleasure he got not only from his crimes, but in getting away with them. “It was all like a mind game with me. That was all I needed. That was my adrenaline. That's where I got my kicks, I guess, was being able to live two different lives and have no one have a clue,” he says.

Monday, April 30: Special agent Jay Sherman and Thom King from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fire Arms, and U.S. Assistant Attorney Kevin Feldis interview Keyes in this one hour, 17 minute audio file. They talk about a medical evaluation determining Keyes is competent for trial. Keyes is amazed authorities haven't yet found the Curriers' bodies, and speaks fondly of a homemade silencer he'd created. “I was pretty proud of that one,” Keyes says. “It was my baby, one of my babies,” saying he had “big plans for that gun.” Then, he reveals he'd set up target practice in the Chugach mountain range, with a moving target, so he could practice shooting out tires – one way he'd planned to detain a future kidnap victim. He talks about how dating back to Spring 2011 he'd scoped out various sites to abduct people in Anchorage. Keyes reveals he'd actually thought about shooting at a police officer who unknowingly interrupted him while he sat in ambush at Point Woronzof, theorizing it would have fulfilled a lifelong fantasy he attributed to his “white supremacist roots.” He tells investigators if they want him to keep talking, they'll let him see crime scene photos from the search for the Curriers, ideally photos of the remains, and that he wants his girlfriend's phone, cameras and car returned to her.

May 16, 2012: In this 2-hour, 19-minute interview, federal prosecutors Kevin Feldis and Frank Russo interview Keyes at the FBI’s office in Anchorage. Russo lays out a plan in which Keyes gives them information on victims in exchange for them working with other U.S. attorneys to keep Keyes’ case in federal jurisdiction and keep Keyes’ name out of the public sphere -- two things that Keyes wants. “I have no delusions how this is going to turn out for my end," Keyes says. "I already know what the bottom line is for me. So all this other stuff between now and what ultimately happens … I could take it or leave it, at this point.” He later admits that there are remains of a body in New York, though he leaves out specifics. He also admits to robbing a bank in Tupper Lake, N.Y., and says that it was during the same trip that he traveled to Vermont and buried the guns he later used in the Currier killings.

May 24, 2012: This 30-minute interview takes place at the FBI's office in Anchorage, one day after Keyes made an escape attempt during a court hearing. Agents want to know why Keyes broke out of his leg irons and made a run for it, forcing U.S. Marshals to Taser him. Keyes says he'd become frustrated at what he'd heard at the hearing. Prosecutors told the judge they'd like to get to trial within a year, while Keyes' defense attorneys thought two years was more reasonable, given the possibility that Keyes would face the death penalty. Keyes tells agents he doesn't want to talk until issues with the attorneys, and his desire for a speedy trial and execution, are resolved.  

May 25, 2012: In this 30-minute recording, Keyes meets with his attorneys and members of the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office at the U.S. Marshals Service in Anchorage. Keyes asks for the meeting after hearing that investigators hadn't met or scheduled a meeting with the Department of Justice's Capital Case Unit, the entity tasked with evaluating a potential death penalty. Keyes is also concerned over a piece of paper, revealed to be an agreement he, his defense attorney Rich Curtner and U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler signed on March 30, 2012, stating that the government wouldn't seek the death penalty if Keyes pleads guilty to the death of Samantha Koenig and reveals the location of her body. Keyes indicates that he no longer wants that agreement, saying it was drafted against his wishes. He says that it's not "some big secret” he's going to plead guilty, but that he wants that news to come out as close to his sentencing as possible, along with a guarantee that the prosecution will seek the death penalty.

May 29, 2012: In this nearly hour-long interview, FBI Special Agent Steve Payne, Anchorage Police officer Jeff Bell and Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Russo interview Keyes at the FBI’s Anchorage office. They discuss a letter from Vermont state investigators agreeing to keep Keyes’ name out of the media in exchange for him giving information about other crimes. The investigators ask about the New York murder, but Keyes refuses. They then ask Keyes about his Washington "trips," but Keyes says he’d be “better served to wait” before giving more details until he sees how things play out in the Vermont case. Regarding the search for bodies in Vermont: “I almost feel guilty. (Laughs) I’m costing the taxpayers a lot of money ... if I had just kept my mouth shut. (Laughs)" At the end of the interview, he says his brothers are visiting, and with them in town he doesn’t want to worry about talking to investigators. Keyes also says he's unhappy with the level of restriction at the jail and with having to wear leg chains. “If they keep me in my cell enough, I’ll get fat and I won’t want to run anymore. (Laughs)."

June 7, 2012: In an interview at the Anchorage FBI office lasting just under an hour, Keyes comes close to revealing the name of his victim in New York under prodding from assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis, Anchorage Police Officer Jeff Bell and FBI Special Agent Steve Payne. Keyes toys with the thought of waiting until just before his execution before giving up the remaining details of his myriad crimes, saying, "They can't prosecute a dead man." Feldis asks him if he realistically expects that prosecutors would allow him the death penalty if they knew he was withholding information. They ask for more information to "move the ball forward." "Forward to what, though?” Keyes asks. “There’s no, no objective that I’m moving towards if I give you more information.”

July 26, 2012: This 1.5-hour interview comes five days after media in Vermont link Keyes to the high-profile murder of Bill and Lorraine Currier. Keyes speaks in a level tone with assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Russo, FBI Special Agent Jolene Goeden and Anchorage Police Officer Jeff Bell. Goeden shows Keyes a list of items seized presumably from his boat in Washington state, including swabs taken of possible blood stains and "a ball of unknown material." Keyes says he was "ticked off" at the release of information in Vermont, saying he wants future confessions to remain out of the public eye, particularly "different things that were done with the bodies, and the sexual assault stuff." After Keyes' suicide, it was revealed he had sexually assaulted Lorraine Currier and Samantha Koenig before killing them. "You know, if we wanted to go ahead and just try to make you a villain, we could just go and do that," Russo tells Keyes. "I'm already the villain," Keyes replies. 

July 26, 2012: This is the second recording of the day and the final recording released by the government before Keyes was found dead in his jail cell five months later. His public defender Richard Curtner has joined Keyes for the 31-minute interview as they discuss the possibility of the death penalty after Alaska's U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler has sent in a letter of recommendation to the U.S. Attorney General on whether the government would seek the death penalty in the Keyes case. Keyes again drills down on keeping information from becoming public, while prosecutors tell him that the more details they can provide to a judge or jury, the more likely the death sentence will become. They say that he could generally confess to other crimes, like the locations of bodies or names of victims, in order to prove that he killed them without giving excessive details that could come out in public hearings. But Keyes still doesn't like ceding that control, and he seems to make a chilling allusion to his ability to take matters back into his hands, perhaps predicting his own death. 

“The bottom line is … we already all know how this ends," he says with a laugh. "So all I care about is what happens between now and whenever it ends. And if things don’t go the way I want, I don’t need you guys.”

Alaska Dispatch reporters Jill Burke, Ben Anderson, Suzanna Caldwell and Laurel Andrews contributed to this report. Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com.