FBI releases new details on Alaska serial killer Keyes

Casey Grove

Trying desperately to identify Alaska-based serial killer Israel Keyes' unknown victims, federal authorities released new information from the Keyes investigation files Monday.

Once a self-employed carpenter living in Anchorage, Keyes is thought to have killed 11 people across the United States from 2001 to 2012, the FBI said in a written statement Monday. Keyes burglarized 20 to 30 homes across the country and robbed several banks during that time period to fund his hobby of killing people, according to the FBI.

"In a series of interviews with law enforcement, Keyes described significant planning and preparation for his murders, reflecting a meticulous and organized approach to his crimes," the FBI statement says. "Investigators believe Keyes did not know any of his victims prior to their abductions."

His last known victim -- the one that got him caught -- was Anchorage resident Samantha Koenig. Keyes abducted the 18-year-old from a coffee hut in Midtown Anchorage the night of Feb. 1, 2012, and strangled her in a shed outside his girlfriend's house in West Anchorage, where he lived, according to police and federal prosecutors.

The FBI revealed Monday that Keyes is thought to have killed another person in Texas following the Koenig murder.

While in Texas, Keyes made repeated bank withdrawals using a debit card he stole from Koenig. Authorities tracked him down and arrested him there in March 2012, and federal agents extradited Keyes back to Anchorage. Keyes told investigators that prior to killing Koenig, he had slain a couple in Vermont -- Bill and Lorraine Currier -- in June 2011.

Keyes also talked about committing other prior abductions and murders, offering varying degrees of detail about each, but the investigators were never able to determine the names of the victims in those cases, FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said Monday.

"He described several remote locations that he frequented to look for victims -- parks, campgrounds, trail heads, cemeteries, boating areas, etc.," the FBI statement says. "Keyes also admitted to frequenting prostitutes during his travels and it is unknown at this time if he met any of his victims in this manner."

Keyes claimed the slayings occurred in fewer than 10 states, though "it is not unlikely" that he flew to one state, drove to another and disposed of the victims' bodies somewhere else, Gonzalez said. Other than the Curriers and Koenig, none of the other cases drew much media attention, Keyes told the investigators.

Other crimes Keyes committed might not have even happened in the U.S., the FBI said. He is thought to have traveled internationally and, while living in upstate New York for a time, might have entered Canada.

"He reported several trips to Montreal in which he sought out prostitutes," the FBI said.

Unfortunately, Gonzalez said, Keyes took his own life and the secrets of his crimes went to the grave with him.

"At this point, this investigation is all about identifying the possible victims and bringing closure to their families," Gonzalez said. "What makes this difficult is that, when it comes to the victims, it could be anyone. Male, female, young, old. They were more victims of opportunity than, say, fitting a certain victimology profile."

"I guess people expect a serial killer to behave a certain way," Gonzalez said. "But they're all different."

After months of investigation by the FBI and Anchorage police, the decision to release the four-page statement on the Keyes investigation Monday is "our last best hope of identifying victims," Gonzalez said.

"At this point, we've exhausted all of our investigative leads, so there was no investigative advantage to holding onto this information," Gonzalez said.

According to the FBI, this is what the investigators have pieced together so far about Keyes' crimes:

During either the summer of 1997 or 1998, Keyes grabbed a girl floating the Deschutes River in Oregon on an inflatable tube. He lived in Maupin, Ore. at the time, and the abduction is thought to have occurred near there.

It was late afternoon or early evening and the girl, described as between 14 and 18, was with friends.

"Keyes sexually assaulted the female. He let her go and sent her on her tube back down the river," the Monday statement from the FBI says.

Keyes joined the Army in 1998 and was discharged in 2001, when he began living in Washington state. He later told investigators that he killed a couple in Washington sometime between 2001 and 2005. Keyes might have moved the couple's car to distance it from where he killed them, and he alluded to having buried them near a valley.

"It is unknown if the victims were residents of Washington, tourists, or residents he abducted from a nearby state and transported to Washington," the FBI said.

In either 2005 or 2006, during the summer or fall, Keyes killed again in two separate encounters, he told investigators. Keyes said he tied anchors to at least one of the bodies, which he dumped in Washington's Crescent Lake, leaving it in more than 100 feet of water.

Since learning about the deaths, the FBI has not searched the lake, Gonzalez said.

"The lake is too large and deep," he said. "Keyes was not specific enough to allow a search."

Keyes moved to Alaska in 2007, driving north on the Alaska-Canada Highway. He flew to Seattle on Oct. 31, 2008 and traveled to "multiple other states," the FBI said. Keyes rented a 2008 PT Cruiser in Seattle, then flew from Seattle to Boston on Nov. 2. Keyes flew back to Seattle and home to Anchorage on Nov. 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 time frame," the FBI statement says.

Keyes admitted to abducting and killing a girl or woman in an East Coast state April 9, 2009, and robbing a bank the next day. He told investigators he crossed multiple state lines to bury the body in upstate New York, then robbed Community Bank in Tupper Lake, N.Y., on April 10.

"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."

From July 9 to July 12, 2010, Keyes went on a trip from Anchorage to Sacramento and Auburn, Calif., renting a black Ford Focus car. Keyes drove about 280 miles in those three days, and the FBI is looking for any information on what he did on that trip.

Back in Anchorage in April or May 2011, Keyes hid near Point Woronzof with plans to shoot a couple sitting in a car, he told investigators.

"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," the FBI statement says.

Also that May, Keyes "staked out" the North Fork Eagle River trail head with plans to abduct somebody. He buried a shovel and Drano clog remover up the road that he said he intended to use to get rid of the body. However, Keyes claimed he had not killed at that location.

Keyes flew to Chicago the next month, on June 2, 2011, and drove to Essex, Vermont, where he abducted and killed Bill and Lorraine Currier on June 8.

"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."

Afterward, Keyes drove around the East Coast before returning to Chicago. He then flew to San Francisco on June 15, stayed the night there, and returned to Anchorage the next day.

On Feb. 1, 2012, Keyes abducted Samantha Koenig at gunpoint. After raping and strangling her in a shed outside his home, Keyes dismembered Koenig's body and dumped it in a hole in the ice covering Matanuska Lake near Palmer.

Keyes flew to New Orleans on Feb. 2 and went on a cruise until Feb. 11. He returned and drove to Texas.

"Although he denied it, investigators believe Keyes may be responsible for a homicide in Texas or a surrounding state during this time," the FBI statement says.

Gonzalez, the FBI spokesman, declined to comment on why investigators think Keyes killed someone in Texas. Keyes set fire to a home in Aledo, Texas, on Feb. 16 and robbed National Bank of Texas in Azle, Texas, according to the FBI.

Anchorage police announced in March 2012 that a highway patrol officer had pulled over Keyes' rental car and found him with rolls of cash, a disguise used in the robbery and the debit card stolen from Koenig.

A series of interviews with law enforcement followed, in which Keyes told them about the Curriers and gave details of his other crimes.

According to the state Department of Corrections, Keyes slit his wrist with a sliver of a razor embedded in a pencil and used a bed sheet to choke himself late Dec. 1 or early Dec. 2, 2012 while he was held in a segregation unit at the Anchorage Jail. A corrections officer found Keyes dead in a pool of blood the morning of Dec. 2. The FBI later revealed a bloody note -- a poem of no investigative value -- had been found under Keyes.

Keyes, who described himself as an atheist, was buried in Washington following a private memorial service, according to his mother's pastor.

"With the killer dead, the victims could be anyone," Gonzalez said. "Those are challenges we've had to overcome."

Gonzalez said the FBI would release an interactive map of Keyes' travels and videos of his interrogations on Tuesday.

The FBI asks anyone with information on Keyes, his travels or his crimes to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.


FBI web page on Israel Keyes investigation
Past stories on Israel Keyes