Israel Keyes the Most Cunningly Clever Serial Killer in American History
Keyes has murdered at least 11 people before his 2012 arrest.
On 1st February 2012, Samantha Koenig had been working the late shift at the coffee hut in Anchorage. She was the daughter of a single father; many suggested her father was involved in some illegal activity. She spent the evening serving the customers who stopped for their favourite beverage and arguing with her boyfriend. She was sure that Duane was cheating on her, but he denied it.
Towards the end of her shift, a man approached the kiosk with a small gun in his hand. He stated he wanted the takings from the till; he asked her to turn around and zip-tied her hands behind her back. He then entered the kiosk and emptied the till; turning to go, he demanded Samantha go with him.
During the walk across the car park, Samantha saw her chance and tried to make a run for it. She was stopped and told if she behaved herself, the ransom would be paid and she would be released without harm. If she didn't, then she would experience untold pain. She got into the stranger's car and prayed her ordeal would be over soon. She knew her dad would pay the ransom.
Samantha never made it home. She had not been kidnapped by a kidnapper but by serial killer Israel Keyes. A man who had killed numerous people across America. A man so manipulative and cunning that he had buried kill kits throughout America, ready for a victim to present themselves. Samantha would not only be Keyes's last victim but the victim that led to his capture.
Keyes was born in Cove, Utah, on 7th January 1978. He was brought up by parents who lived off the grid; they did not believe in government interference, schools or medicine. He was one of ten children. His father, who distrusted all authority, was reluctant for any of his children to be born in a hospital. As a result, Keyes, like many of his siblings, was born at home and subsequently never legally registered.
The family would live in a tent in various locations whilst his father built and renovated houses for them to live in. Keyes grew up without heat or electricity. They were a religious family who followed several different religions, whichever suited them at the time. The family lived off-grid, providing their own food, water and shelter. His father, a handyman, would make a small amount where he could.
Both parents were convinced their children loved this life of solitude. There was no school to attend and apart from helping around the house, the children were free to live in the wild. But, in truth, both Keyes and his siblings resented the lifestyle hugely. They were outcasts with no friends; they longed to experience the normal side of living.
Growing up, Keyes became obsessed with guns and hunting. He would break into homes and steal guns; he also built his own weapons. Those his own age who did befriend him soon disappeared when they observed his lust for killing and torturing animals.
I've known since I was 14 that … there were things that — that I thought were normal and that were OK that nobody else seemed to think were normal and OK. - Keyes
Keyes soon told his parents that he didn't believe in their way of life or their religious beliefs. He moved further away from his parents; although his mother Heidi would maintain they stayed close, there is little to prove this.
At twenty years of age, Keyes joined the army. He took to the discipline and routine of the military well and was considered a good soldier. He spent time in various stations within the US as well as Egypt. Keyes's army career increased his obsession with guns. He made few friends in the army; he would comment after the arrest that the only person he became close to was a soldier who shared his love of torture.
After he was honourably discharged in July 2001, he went to live on Makah Reservation with the mother of his daughter. He met her whilst in the army and started a relationship with her despite being engaged to a woman from home. The relationship would be on and off for many years. It is suggested that even when he moved in with another woman in Anchorage, he was still seeing her.
A Hidden Serial Killer
Keyes was extremely clever and knew that it would take longer for authorities to find him if he moved around a lot. He would travel to many locations and murder random people who would cross his path. He was an extremely organised killer, having buried kill kits and guns around the country for use later.
However, his selection of victims points to a disorganised killer. Sometimes he would take as many as two victims at a time. To fund this travel and killing lifestyle, he would rob remote banks.
To further avoid capture, he would remove the battery from his cell phone when he was murdering so that he could not be traced to the area. This method helped investigators link other missing persons to Keyes, as they had gone missing whilst his phone was dead.
This was an extremely advanced technique as few serial killers knew they could be tracked via phone; Keyes was one of America's most intelligent serial killers. He read widely, books on Ted Bundy, who he greatly admired, and books on forensic investigation and profiling. It is fair to say that America would not have known they had a serial killer or found him if it had not been for his greed.
Having murdered Samantha and dismembered her body, Keyes disposed of the corpse where he felt she would be less likely to be found. Alaska was a harsh environment; the winters were brutal. Keyes used this to his advantage. Walking out onto the frozen lake, he cut a hole in the ice with a chainsaw. He then dropped the parts of the body into the hole and weighed them down to ensure they sunk.
Samantha's father had campaigned hard for her return to him. Through social media, followers donated a large amount of money to this cause. Keyes knew this and used it to his advantage.
On the night of the abduction, he coerced Samantha into revealing the PIN to her joint account and the location of the cash card. The card was in the van that she shared with her boyfriend. Keyes broke into the truck whilst Samantha was restrained in his shed and stole the card.
With the card and PIN in his possession, he started to demand a ransom for the safe return of Samantha. He went as far as staging photos of her with a daily newspaper to convince her family she was alive. However, when arrested, he admitted that Samantha was dead during the pictures; Keyes had used make-up to help hide this fact in the photos.
Strangely Samantha's father was reluctant to part with the money that had been donated, but he did put a fraction of what was asked for into the joint account. Here Keyes started withdrawing the cash. Due to the withdrawal limit, this went on for several days.
Police started to track the card across many states. Keyes disguised his identity when he went to collect the money. However, he had failed to hide his vehicle, which was caught on CCTV. When they identified the car, it was stopped by police; in it was a wealth of incriminating evidence, including the cash card and driving license belonging to Samantha; Keyes was arrested.
At the time, the police thought they had caught a murderer, but they realised that they had a serial killer in custody as they talked to him.
Confessions and Games
Keyes was extradited to Alaska, where he was questioned extensively by the FBI and the local prosecutor's office. When confronted with the evidence, Keyes confessed. However, he also told the prosecutors he wanted a deal. In return for him telling them about other murders, he wanted two things; his name kept out of the papers for the sake of his daughter and a quick execution date. He did not want to sit on death row; he wanted to be convicted and executed as soon as possible.
Keyes stated that his first planned attack occurred in 1997 or 1998; this vague detail would be typical in his confessions. He said that he abducted a teenage girl where he raped her. His intent was then to murder her, but she convinced him otherwise.
I wasn't violent enough, I made up my mind I was never going to let that happen again. - Keyes
Keyes confessed to killing less than a dozen people. It is believed that there were eleven victims, although only three have ever been identified for sure, one of those being Samantha.
The other victims identified was that of the Curriers, who he killed in Essex, Vermont, in June 2011. The couple was selected at random; Keyes had two criteria for abduction; the couple had no children or dogs. He broke into their home, subdued them, and took them to an abandoned farmhouse where he killed Bill and raped and murdered Lorraine. He then set light to the building, hiding the couple's remains. Keyes would admit to this murder whilst in custody.
He would admit to many other murders, but the details were so vague it was impossible to identify them. Many names have been linked to him, but none conclusively. He also stated whilst being interviewed that his ultimate dream was to build a house where he could torture victims, much like the murder castle of HH Holmes, another serial killer he admired.
Keyes Final Insult
Keyes continued to be interviewed by police for many weeks. Finally, he stopped talking to the investigators when he felt that his agreement was not progressing as quickly as he wished. A letter was also discovered in his cell, written to his brother, stating that he would take his own life in prison.
The prison was contacted and informed that Keyes was to be given no razors or anything that he could tie a noose with. Despite these warnings, Keyes was provided with a razor blade. He used the blade to slash his wrists while lying under a sheet. In addition to this, he tied a sheet to his foot and around his throat, strangling himself.
Those that checked on him thought he was asleep under the covers. However, when they opened up the cell on 2nd December 2012, Keyes was found to be dead. He took to his grave the information about how many victims there were and where the bodies could be found.
Keyes was one of the most intelligent, manipulative serial killers known in records; many believe he would never have been caught had it not been for Samantha. Whether this was carelessness or Keyes wanted to be captured is one of many answers he took to his grave.