Israel Keyes is alone in the infamous realm of American serial killers. No, it’s not a household name like Ted Bundy, whom he sought and admired, or Jeffrey Dahmer. Keys was still called “one of the most ambitious and terrifying serial killers in modern history.”
Before killing himself nearly a decade ago while in custody for the kidnapping and murder of an 18-year-old Alaskan barista Samantha KoenigKeyes, 34, confessed to killing 11 people in the United States.
But authorities believe Keyes downplayed his gruesome exploits and killed even more lives as he criss-crossed the country on hikes he regularly took from his home base in Alaska. This is where Keyes, who worked in construction, led a double life.
On one side was his ordinary, mundane world with his girlfriend and daughter. Like others, they were unaware that Keyes was, like Monique Doll, an Anchorage homicide detective in 2012. described it“living that kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde lifestyle.”
Who was Keyes? How was he caught? What drove him to murder?
A killer comes of age
Israel Keyes was born in Richmond, Utah in 1978, the second of 10 children. His upbringing was unconventional. His parents, California nonconformists who eventually left the Mormon Church, raised their offspring in Colville, Washington, in a cabin in the woods with no electricity or running water.
Keyes, 12, ‘had a strong interest’ in an ‘anti-Semitic white supremacist-based militia church called the Ark’, wrote Maureen Callahan in “American Predator: The hunt for the most meticulous serial killer of the 21st century.” He was obsessed with guns and stole them from his neighbors. Fires and Satanism were other disturbing fascinations.
Keyes’ twisted concerns escalated into torturing and shooting animals, including a family cat. He tied the doomed creature to a tree before wounding it with a .22 revolver, according to Callahan. More sadistic acts followed: Keyes admitted to gutting a deer while it was alive, cbsnews.com reported.
In a chilling admission about what makes him tick, Keyes revealed, “I would chase anything with a heartbeat,” according to Callahan. By the age of 18, Keyes had set his sights on people.
A Murderer’s “Unwritten Rule”
Keyes told federal agents in Alaska that he raped – but did not kill – his first victim in Oregon between 1996 and 1998, according to FBI records. The girl was between 14 and 18 years old.
“Keyes was able to quietly separate her” from her group of friends having fun before sexually assaulting her on the Deschutes River near Maupin, Oregon. He lived there at the time. reported the Alaska Native News. Keyes eventually freed the girl after the attack.
IIt is not known if this victim reported the crime, but the crime established a “unwritten rule” for Keyes, who claimed his victims far from home. He told investigators that he regularly traveled great distances and “enjoyed finding his victims along hiking trails, in campgrounds, and in other remote areas,” according to the FBI report. Likewise, he would dispose of the victims’ bodies away from the murder scenes to add distance between him and the crimes.
Keyes chose victims with no particular pattern to avoid connection and detection. Vthe victims encountered a “pure evil force acting at random”, said Tristram Coffinthe American attorney from Vermont.
Kill buried kits for future crimes
In addition to intentional chance, Keyes relied on detailed planning that led to him being called “the most meticulous serial killer”.
After his arrest, Keyes told investigators that while on the move he would bury “murder kits » containing weapons and supplies to dispose of the bodies of its victims for future crimes close to where he planned to attack later. Hiding places included duct tape, shovels, guns, rope, Drano, and laundry detergent.
“The caches provided additional cover as Keyes did not have to risk boarding a plane with a weapon or using credit cards that could later connect him to a crime in a particular area. according to the FBI.
Keyes said he has as many as 12 kill kits buried across the country. Officials believe more of his hideouts are buried across the country and may contain evidence of other unsolved murders.
Military service followed by multiple murders
Keyes joined the US Army in 1998. He was discharged in 2001 and moved to Washington state – that’s when the slaughter began. Keyes confessed to murdering 11 people across the United States between 2001 and 2012, although only three of his victims have been identified.
A FBI Timeline showed that Keyes made about three dozen trips between 2004 and 2012. His trips spanned the entire country, including Hawaii. Trips to Canada and Mexico were also listed.
Keyes, who is suspected of killing two teenage girls between 1996 and 1998, told authorities he committed his first murder in 2001. The victim’s identity and whereabouts are unknown. He also admitted committing a double homicide between July 2001 and 2005 in Washington State. Keyes also spoke of two additional murders during this period.
A killer’s home – and his capture – in Alaska
Keyes moved to Anchorage, Alaska in 2007. He started a construction business, using practical skills he had developed in his youth. Keyes often left Anchorage and his family behind, using work or visiting relatives as an excuse. Instead, he continued to kill residents of Washington, Vermont and several other states.
He said that in April 2009 he abducted a female victim from an east coast and killed and dumped her body in a place of New York.
In June 2011 Keyes flew from Alaska to Chicago. He rented a car and drove to Essex, Vermont, where he spent three days searching for his next victims. Keyes had hid a kill kit in the area years earlier.
Keyes admitted to breaking into the home of Bill and Lorraine Currier in June 2011. He abducted them and took them to an abandoned farmhouse, where he shot Bill, 49, and sexually assaulted Lorraine, 55 , before strangling him.
Keyes told the FBI that he disposed of the gun at Blakes River Reservoir. the The FBI recovered the murder weapon and a cache left by Keyes nearby.
A killer’s rule is broken
Keyes admitted to killing Samantha Koenig, an 18-year-old barista, in 2012 in Alaska. He broke his own rule of never choosing a victim who lived near him. The line between his main life and his ghost life has blurred.
He had abducted her at gunpoint from the cafe where she worked before sexually assaulting and strangling her.
Keyes left Koenig’s body in his shed as he went on vacation with his girlfriend and daughter. When he returned, he plotted for ransom: he made up Koenig’s body and sewed her eyes shut before taking a picture of her. Then Keyes dismembered her body and thrown into a lake.
He made a mistake, however: he used Koenig’s credit card at an ATM, which informed authorities of the car he was driving and his whereabouts. On March 13, a a state trooper noticed a vehicle fitting the description of the one Keyes was driving into a Texas hotel parking lot.
Keyes was arrested. A search of the car revealed Koenig’s ID, debit card, cell phone and a firearm, as well as a disguise worn by the individual in the ATM security photo.
Chat and mouse with the authorities
Keyes agreed to be interviewed by investigators within seven months of his arrest. However, he was selective and evasive about what information he revealed and kept hidden.
Investigators believe there may be seven other victims based on comments made by Keyes during interviews and drawings of skulls found in Keyes’ cell that he made with his own blood.
However, they couldn’t get more responses from Keyes. Officials have determined that Keyes cut his left wrist with a disposable razor blade that had been stuck in a pencil and used some of the bedding in his cell to strangle himself.
The question that arises is why Keyes killed. A widely held theory is that the motive was pure pleasure. In “American Predator”, Callahan considers that Keyes even underwent elective surgeries to become a more effective killer.
“He provided some motivation, but I don’t think it was really [possible] to file why he did that,” Tristram Coffin, U.S. Attorney for Vermont, said in December 2012. “He described to investigators that it was a voluntary act on his part… It was something he could control and enjoyed doing. Why anyone likes to act like that, no one knows.
For more on Keyes’ story, watch Oxygen’s “Method of a Serial Killer.”