Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Cold-Blooded Crimes of Serial Murderer Israel Keyes

Israel Keyes. Police photo.

On December 2, 2012 officers in an Anchorage, Alaska jail found confessed serial murderer Israel Keyes, 34, dead in his cell. He had committed suicide, apparently by first slashing his wrists and then strangling himself.

His suicide brought an end to a criminal career that had included rape, burglary and bank robbery as well as murder. However, it left many questions about his crimes unanswered.

Israel Keyes (he was apparently not given a middle name) was born on January 7, 1978, in Richmond, Utah. The first child of a married couple, he would eventually have nine siblings. His parents were members of the Mormon Church during his early years and Israel was home-schooled.

He was still a child when the Keyes family moved to a rural area north of Colville, Washington. The move coincided with the family’s departure from the Mormon church. In Washington, they occasionally attended a church of Christian Identity, a tiny denomination preaching white separatist and anti-Semitic doctrines.

Keyes joined the United States Army in 1998. He served at Fort Lewis and Fort Hood and in Egypt. While at Fort Lewis in 2001 he pleaded guilty to DUI. He received an “Army Achievement Medal” but was never in combat. He was honorably discharged in 2001.

Lanky and athletic, Keyes ran a marathon in Olympia, Washington in 2007. He performed carpentry work for an American Indian tribe in Washington before relocating to Anchorage in late 2007. He also founded Keyes Construction, a contracting firm of which he was apparently both boss and sole employee.

His criminal career may have begun while he was in the military. According to Keyes, he raped a female in late 1990 but did not murder her. She may have been as young as 12 at the time of the assault. He said the murders started sometime after this attack.

In January 2002, Keyes was cited for driving with a suspended license in Washington State.

In order to avoid detection, he often traveled far from home to murder. He financed his travels through Keyes Construction and through thefts including bank robberies. In April 2009, he robbed a Community Bank branch in Tupper Lake, New York. He brandished a handgun but no one was harmed in the hold-up.

Keyes was an especially methodical and organized murderer. In 2011, he boarded a plane that took him from the West Coast to Chicago. There he rented a car and drove 1,000 miles to Vermont.

During this and similar trips, he turned off his cell phone and paid with cash to avoid leaving clues. He also buried what he described as “murder kits” in various spots. These kits included weapons and items such as Drano to hasten a corpse’s decomposition.

The Curriers. Family photo.

In the town of Essex, Keyes selected a couple at random to victimize. They were Bill Currier, 50, and Lorraine Currier, 55. He chose them in part because their house had an attached garage and because they appeared to have neither child nor dog.

Just before attacking the Curriers, Keyes retrieved a box filled with murder tools that he had buried in Vermont in 2009.

In the evening of June 8, 2011, Keyes cut the phone lines of the Currier house. Then he used a crowbar from the Currier garage to smash a window. Wearing a headlamp, Keyes ran into the main bedroom. He tied the Curriers with zip ties and demanded to know if they had a gun. They admitted they had a .38 Ruger. Keyes took that weapon. He forced the couple into their own car and drove them to an abandoned farmhouse that he had previously scouted out.

Leaving Lorraine in the car, Keyes forced Bill to go to the farmhouse basement. Keyes tied him to a stool. Returning to the car, Keyes saw that Lorraine had gotten out of the car and was running. He tackled her and took her to the second floor of the farmhouse and left her bound.

Keyes went to the basement where Bill shrieked, “Where’s my wife?” Keyes struck him with a shovel and then shot him.

Keyes returned to the second floor, raped Lorraine, and then took her down to the basement where he strangled her. He put the Curriers in separate garbage bags. What he did with the bodies after that is unclear and their bodies have not been recovered.

Vermont Chittendon County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan commented, “They fought to the end” and observed that the Curriers demonstrated “extraordinary bravery and love for each other.”

After murdering the couple, he buried the Currier handgun together with the original “murder kit” in a wooded area close to Vermont’s Winooski River.

On February 1, 2012, Samantha Koenig, 18, a barista, was closing up her stand at the Common Grounds Espresso in Midtown Anchorage at about 8:00 p.m. when a masked and hooded Keyes brandished a gun at her. He bound her hands with zip ties. Even with her hands tied, she made a desperate attempt to escape, running across the coffee bar’s parking lot. Keyes tackled her.

In the days after her disappearance, the Koenig family and its friends plastered Anchorage with Samantha’s photographs and put up a reward fund. Her mother, Darlene Christiansen, told a reporter, “I want her home. It’s just unbelievable – you watch it on TV [but] you never think it happens to your own child.”

On the evening of February 11, a candlelight vigil was held for her in the evening at Anchorage’s Delaney Park strip.

Keyes had raped and strangled her by the day after the kidnapping. Before killing her, he learned her PIN and scratched it on the card. In the days afterward, he used her debit card. He also used her phone to send text messages to mislead her family into thinking she was alive. Leaving her corpse in a shed outside his house, Keyes traveled to Texas. He returned to Alaska on February 17 and posed Koenig’s corpse with a newspaper to make it appear she was alive in the photograph he took. He a text message demanding ransom along with directions to a photocopy of the image, which he’d hidden in a local dog park.

Then Keyes dismembered the corpse and dropped it in the Matanuska Lake.

He began traveling again, making withdrawals from ATMs in various states with Koenig’s debit card.

In early March 2012, Keyes attended the wedding of a sister. When relatives tried to convert him to evangelical Christianity, he retorted that he did not believe in a Supreme Being. At one point, Keyes’ eyes filled with tears. He told a sister-in-law, “You don’t know what I’ve been through. You don’t know what I’ve done. I’ve got to drink every day to forget these things.”

Samantha Koenig. Handout photo.

A few days after that wedding, on March 13, 2012, a highway patrol officer in Lufkin, Texas pulled over Keyes over. The reason the cop stopped him was that the rental car Keyes drove was the white Ford Focus caught on surveillance footage near a withdrawal performed with Koenig’s debit card. The officer found that debit card, together with Koenig’s cell phone, on Keyes.

Keyes was soon extradited to Alaska where he was scheduled to go on trial in March 2013 for kidnapping and murdering Koenig. Prosecutors were still considering whether or not to request the death penalty when he rendered the question moot with his suicide.

Interrogators displayed a video from a Home Depot parking lot that showed a man and Koenig walking toward a white pickup truck. Keyes admitted he was the man.

He confessed to the murder of Koenig and other crimes to investigators. Based on information Keyes supplied, Koenig’s corpse was recovered from the lake on April 2, 2012. Hers is the only body of a Keyes murder victim to be recovered as of this writing.

Keyes had a special condition for talking to authorities about his crimes: his name was not to be publicly released. “He was very, very, very sensitive to his reputation, as odd as that sounds,” Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew observed. “We had to keep things extra quiet in order to keep him talking with us.”

Even while confessing, he withheld names of victims except for those of Koenig and the Curriers and withheld specific information about crimes. In all, Keyes said he murdered four other individuals in Washington State and one in New York State. He also said he looked for targets in out of the way locations such as parks, campgrounds, and even cemeteries to minimize possible witnesses.

Most serial murderers stick to a specific region and target a specific type of victim. By doing neither, Keyes made it more difficult for authorities to profile and catch him.

Although he sometimes stole, his primary motive appeared to be nothing more than the enjoyment of killing human beings.

Brought into a courtroom in May 2012, Keyes noticed his leg irons were loose and wriggled out of them. Then he jumped over the rail separating defendants and attorneys from spectators. Officers tasered Keyes and thwarted his escape attempt.

Keyes in a police interrogation room.

In the aftermath of Keyes’s death, police departments in the U.S. and Canada are reviewing cold cases to see if he might be connected to unsolved crimes. They have also closely scoured his Anchorage home and property Keyes owned in northern New York.

FBI spokesperson Eric Gonzalez stated, “There’s no indication that he was lying.” Gonzalez elaborated that Keyes’ DNA has been placed in an FBI database available to law enforcement agencies across the country.

Weapons and tools to dispose of corpses have been found in hiding places Keyes used outside Anchorage and close to Blakes Falls Reservoir in New York. FBI supervisor Mary Rook states, “We’re going to continue to run down leads and continue our efforts to identify his victims so we can bring some closure to the families.”

When Bill Currier’s mother, Marilyn Chates, was informed of Keyes’s suicide, she commented, “Our family has been saved the long road ahead – trials, possible plea agreements and possible appeals – and perhaps this was the best thing that could have happened.”


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