Profile of Serial Killer Israel Keyes

Israel Keyes

On March 16, 2012, Israel Keyes was arrested in Lufkin, Texas after he used a debit card that belonged to an 18-year-old Alaska woman that he killed and dismembered in February. During the following months, while awaiting trial for the murder of Samantha Koenig, Keyes confessed to seven other murders during more than 40 hours of interviews with the FBI.

Investigators believe there are at least three more victims and possibly much more.

Early Influences

Keyes was born Jan. 7, 1978 in Richmond, Utah to parents who were Mormon and homeschooled their children. When the family moved to Stevens County, Washington north of Colville, they attended The Ark, a Christian Identity church which is known for racist and anti-Semitic views.

During that time, the Keyes family was friends and neighbors with the Kehoe family. Israel Keyes was childhood friends of Chevie and Cheyne Kehoe, known racists who were later convicted of murder and attempted murder.

Military Service

At age 20, Keyes joined the U.S. Army and served at Fort Lewis, Fort Hood and in Egypt until he was honorably discharged in 2000. At some point during his young adult years, he rejected religion completely and proclaimed he was an atheist.

Keyes life of crime had begun before he joined the military, however. He admitted to raping a young girl in Oregon sometime between 1996 and 1998 when he would have been 18 to 20 years old. He told FBI agents that he separated a girl from her friends and raped, but not killed her.

He told investigators that he planned to kill her, but decided not to.

It was the beginning of a long list of crimes, including burglaries and robberies that authorities are now trying to piece together into a timeline of Keyes' criminal career.

Sets up Base in Alaska

By 2007, Keyes established Keyes Construction in Alaska and began working as a construction contractor. It was from his base in Alaska that Keyes ventured out into almost every region of the United States to plan and commit his murders. He traveled many times since 2004, looking for victims and setting up buried caches of money, weapons, and tools needed to kill and dispose of the bodies.

His trips, he told the FBI, were not financed with money from his construction business, but from the money he got from robbing banks. Investigators are trying to determine how many bank robberies that he may have been responsible for during his many trips across the country.

It is also unknown at what point Keyes escalated to committing random murders. Investigators suspect it began 11 years before his arrest, shortly after he left the military.

Modus Operandi

According to Keyes, his usual routine would be to fly to some area of the country, rent a vehicle and then drive sometimes hundreds of miles to find victims. He would set up and bury murder kits somewhere in the targeted area - stashing items like shovels, plastic bags, money, weapons, ammunition and bottles of Drano, to help dispose of the bodies.

His murders kits have been found in Alaska and New York, but he admitted to having others in Washington, Wyoming, Texas and possibly Arizona.

He would look for victims in remote areas like parks, campgrounds, walking trials, or boating areas. If he was targeting a home he looked for a house with an attached garage, no car in the driveway, no children or dogs, he told investigators.

Finally, after committing the murder, he would leave the geographic area immediately.

Keyes Makes Mistakes

In February 2012, Keyes broke his rules and made two mistakes. First, he kidnapped and killed someone in his hometown, which he had never done before. Secondly, he let his rental car be photographed by an ATM camera while using a victim's debit card.

On Feb. 2, 2012, Keyes kidnapped 18-year-old Samantha Koenig who was working as a barista at one of the many coffee stands around Anchorage. He was planning to wait for her boyfriend to pick her up and kidnap both of them, but for some reason decided against it and just grabbed Samantha.

Koenig's abduction was caught on video, and a massive search for her was conducted by authorities, friends, and family for weeks, but she was killed shortly after she was abducted.

He took her to a shed at his Anchorage home, sexually assaulted her and strangled her to death. He then immediately left the area and went on a two-week cruise, leaving her body in the shed.

When he returned, he dismembered her body and dumped it in Matanuska Lake north of Anchorage.

About a month later, Keyes used Koenig's debit card to get money from an ATM in Texas. The camera in the ATM captured a picture of the rental car Keyes was driving, linking him to the card and the murder. He was arrested in Lufkin, Texas on March 16, 2012.

Keyes Begins to Talk

Keyes was originally extradited back from Texas to Anchorage on credit card fraud charges. On April 2, 2012, searchers found Koenig's body in the lake. On April 18, an Anchorage grand jury indicted Keyes for the kidnapping and murder of Samantha Koenig.

While awaiting trial in the Anchorage jail, Keyes was interviewed for more than 40 hours by Anchorage police detective Jeff Bell and FBI Special Agent Jolene Goeden. Although he was not completely forthcoming with many details, he began to confess to some of the murders that he committed over the past 11 years.

The Motive for Murder

The investigators tried to determine Keyes' motive for the eight murders to which he confessed.

"There were just times, a couple of times, where we would try to get a why," said Bell. "He would have this term; he would say, 'A lot of people ask why, and I would be, like, why not?' "

Keyes admitted to studying the tactics of other serial killers, and he enjoyed watching movies about killers, such as Ted Bundy, but he was careful to point out to Bell and Goeden that he used his ideas, not those of other famous killers.

In the end, the investigators concluded that Keyes' motivation was very simple. He did it because he liked it.

"He enjoyed it. He liked what he was doing," Goeden said. "He talked about getting a rush out of it, the adrenalin, the excitement out of it."

Trail of Murders

Keyes confessed to the murders of four people in three different incidents in Washington state. He killed two individuals, and he kidnapped and killed a couple. He didn't provide any names. He probably knew the names, because he liked to return to Alaska and then follow the news of his murders on the Internet.

He also killed another person on the East Coast. He buried the body in New York but killed the person in another state. He would not give Bell and Goeden any other details of that case.

The Currier Murders

On June 2, 2011, Keys flew to Chicago, rented a car and drove almost 1,000 miles to Essex, Vermont. He targeted the home of Bill and Lorraine Currier. He conducted what he called a "blitz" attack on their home, tied them up and took them to an abandoned house.

He shot Bill Currier to death, sexually assaulted Lorraine and then strangled her. Their bodies were never found.

A Double Life

Bell believes the reason that Keyes gave them more details about the Currier murders was because he knew they had evidence in that case pointing to him. So he opened up more about those murders than he did the others.

"It was chilling to listen to him. He was clearly reliving it to a degree, and I think he enjoyed talking about it," Bell said. "A couple of times, he would kind of chuckle, tell us how weird it was to be talking about this."

Bell believes their interviews with Keyes were the first time he had ever talked with anyone about what he referred to as his "double life." He thinks Keyes held back details of his other crimes because he didn't want members of his family to know anything about his secret life of crime.

How many more victims?

During the interviews, Keyes referred to other murders in addition to the eight to which he confessed. Bell told reporters that he thinks Keyes committed less than 12 murders.

However, in trying to piece together a timeline of Keyes' activities, the FBI released a list of 35 trips that Keyes made across the country from 2004 to 2012, in hopes that the public and local law enforcement agencies could match up bank robberies, disappearances and unsolved murders to times when Keyes was in the area.

'Talk Is Over'

On Dec. 2, 2012, Israel Keyes was found dead in his Anchorage jail cell. He had cut his wrists and strangled himself with a rolled-up bedsheet.

Under his body was a blood-soaked, four-page letter written on yellow legal pad paper in both pencil and ink. Investigators could not make out the writing on Keyes suicide note until the letter was enhanced at the FBI lab.​

An analysis of the enhanced letter concluded that it contained no evidence or clues, but was merely a "creepy" Ode to Murder, written by a serial killer who loved to kill.

"The FBI concluded there was no hidden code or message in the writings," the agency said in a news release. "Further, it was determined that the writings do not offer any investigative clues or leads as to the identity of other possible victims."

We may never know how many people Israel Keyes killed.

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Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Serial Killer Israel Keyes." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Montaldo, Charles. (2021, February 16). Profile of Serial Killer Israel Keyes. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Serial Killer Israel Keyes." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 14, 2021).