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2/04/2014 2:50 pm  #11


Re: Serial killer Israel Keyes/Q&A

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TRUE CRIME

American Monster: The Hunt For Serial Killer Israel Keyes
October 30, 2013
David Kushner
Excerpt

When Samantha Koenig disappeared from this coffee shop in Alaska, authorities didn’t know was that they were after the most notorious serial killer in a generation.

It was only Detective Monique Doll’s second day on the Anchorage Police Department’s homicide squad when the first call came in. On February 2, 2012, at 12:30 p.m., a patrol officer phoned to say an 18-year-old barista, Samantha Koenig, was missing. James Koenig had called in to say his daughter never came home the night before from her job at Common Grounds Espresso, one of the many ramshackle coffee kiosks around town.
The patrol officer had been asking questions in the area, but with no signs of a break-in, no struggle, and no blood, he told Doll, something just didn’t feel right. “The more time you have on this job, the more comfortable you become listening to your gut instinct,” Doll tells me one afternoon as we sit in a conference room at the police department. “That’s what kept our ancestors from being eaten by dinosaurs.”
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Doll is a tough, tall young blonde with razor-sharp instincts. A third-generation cop raised in Upper Michigan, she spent a decade with the DEA busting smack dealers and meth-heads. “I like solving the puzzle, solving the mystery,” she says. “That’s why investigations called to me.”
When she saw the surveillance video of a masked man jumping through the window of Common Grounds and leading Samantha away, she knew this was serious. “It was like being punched in the gut,” she recalls. “We had to get all hands on deck and do everything we could to find this girl.”

From the get-go the case couldn’t have been stranger. Doll noticed that the kidnapper was holding a cup of coffee when he jumped through the window, and he had Samantha make him an Americano before they left. He’d also chosen a surprisingly conspicuous location: The coffee kiosk was outside a popular gym on a busy road. “It was so unusual,” she recalls. “Everything we touched with this case broke weird.”

For James Koenig the mystery wasn’t just weird—it was a nightmare. He was a single father who scraped by as a trucker; his daughter had seen hard times but was getting her life back on track. She was earning money with the hope of joining the service or becoming a veterinarian. Koenig feared the worst when, the night Samantha went missing, her boyfriend received a text from her phone saying she was angry at her father and staying at a friend’s. “It wasn’t like her,” Koenig says. “She would have called me directly.” While Doll and her team canvassed the area, Koenig took the search into his own hands, staking out the coffee kiosk and rallying his friends around town. “I’m not just going to sit on my couch and let the cops do their job,” he tells me. “I’m going to be out there making sure they’re doing it, and I’m going to be doing everything I possibly can.”
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On February 24, three weeks after Samantha went missing, Koenig got another text from her phone—but this time it was a ransom note. The note was a kind of scavenger hunt, telling Koenig to go to Connors Bog, a park near the airport, and look for “Ralph.” Koenig called 911 and sped to the park, where he found a poster for a missing dog named Ralph, tacked to a pole. Taped to the poster was a Ziploc bag with a note demanding $30,000 for Samantha’s release. The kidnapper wanted the money deposited into Samantha’s bank account. There was also a Polaroid inside showing Samantha naked and bound—and possibly dead.
His mind reeling, Koenig fired off a text. “Fuck you,” he wrote. “I’ll put $5,000 in. You won’t get a penny more until you prove that my daughter’s still alive.”

As Doll and her team pored fruitlessly over the clues, the kidnapper began making withdrawals around town using Samantha’s ATM card, but security cameras captured only a man disguised in a hooded jacket and ski mask. Then, on March 6, they got a surprise: a report that someone using Samantha’s card had made a withdrawal from an ATM in Arizona. They checked the surveillance footage and saw, again, a man in disguise.

The following day the man made a withdrawal in Texas, and this time, when the surveillance footage was enhanced, Doll saw a couple of clues. The kidnapper was wearing white tennis shoes, and in the distance there was a white 2012 Ford Focus. An APB went out across Texas to be on the lookout. On March 13, Corporal Bryan Henry was driving past a motel in Lufkin, Texas, when he saw a white Ford Focus with Arizona plates parked outside. As Henry called for backup, he noticed something unexpected: another white Focus—this one with Alaska plates—parked across the street. Which car, if either, might be the kidnapper’s?
As the Texas Rangers closed in on the Ford with Alaska plates, Henry saw a lanky man emerge from the motel, climb into the car from Arizona, and drive off. With no time to waste, Henry took chase and, the moment the man broke the speed limit on Henry’s radar, pulled him over. As he cautiously approached the driver’s window, Henry spotted a pair of white sneakers under the passenger seat. The man handed over his Alaska driver’s license. His name was Israel Keyes.

The next day Doll was sitting across from Keyes in a Texas jailhouse. Despite his prison garb, Keyes seemed like a regular guy, calm and cooperative. She took out the ransom note and set it on the table in front of him. “I initially thought that whoever wrote this was a monster,” she told him. “But the more I read it, the more I came to realize that monsters aren’t born; they’re created. And that people who start off on one path end up on a radically different path because of things that people do to them.”
Keyes didn’t flinch. But when Doll, who knew that Keyes had a daughter, talked about James Koenig’s suffering, she saw Keyes’ chin quiver for a moment, as if he were holding back tears. Two weeks later Doll was having lunch when her cell phone rang. “He did it,” her colleague told her. “He killed her.” And Keyes wanted to confess his full story to one person, Doll, for whom he had this message: “Tell her she’s got her monster.”

When he heard the news, Koenig could barely fathom the horror of what had happened to his daughter. Keyes had picked her at random after staking out the conspicuous location. He bound Samantha, then sexually abused and strangled her, leaving her corpse in a shed while—to the cops’ horror—he went on a cruise. When he returned, he dismembered the body and disposed of it in a hole he’d cut in a frozen lake nearby.

But Samantha wasn’t Keyes’ only victim. He also confessed to killing Bill and Lorraine Currier, a couple in Vermont (shooting the husband and sexually assaulting and strangling the wife), and suggested that he had as many as 11 other victims strewn across the country. Four were said to be in Washington State and another on the East Coast. He told police he had left what he called “kill kits” buried near his victims’ locales, which he would retrieve during his spree. Where the other victims were, however, he wouldn’t say.
But secretly he was living a double life: traversing the country and feeding his bloodlust. During an interview with investigators, Keyes said he had been feeling like Jekyll and Hyde for years. “There is no one who knows me—or who has ever known me—who knows anything about me, really,” he told them. “They’re gonna tell you something that does not line up with anything I tell you because I’m two different people, basic­ally. And the only person who knows about what I’m telling you, the kind of things I’m telling you, is me.” But Keyes soon stopped offering up any clues of his own. On December 2, guards found him in a pool of blood in his cell, his wrists slit with a razor blade, a bedsheet noose around his neck.

As the sun sets over the icy waters off Anchorage, Koenig drives his truck past one of the many coffee kiosks that dot the city. Since Samantha’s dis­appearance, he has quit his job as a trucker and now delivers water to the coffee stands—a way to both make a living and keep an eye on the baristas alone behind the counters. There’s just one place he can’t bring himself to visit: Common Grounds. “It’s still hard to go by there,” he says as he stares solemnly out his windshield.

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