Israel Keyes (January 7, 1978 – December 2, 2012) was an American serial killer, rapist, arsonist, burglar, and bank robber. Keyes admitted to violent crimes as early as 1996, with the violent sexual assault of a teenage girl in Oregon. He committed a long series of rapes and murders until his capture in 2012. He died by suicide while in custody, awaiting trial for the murder of Samantha Koenig.
Israel Keyes was born in Cove, Utah on January 7, 1978. He was the second of ten children born to Heidi Keyes (née Hakansson) and John Jeffrey Keyes. Israel and his siblings were homeschooled. When Keyes was between the ages of three and five years old, his family moved to the Colville, Washington area, where they lived in a one-room cabin without electricity or running water. In Colville, Keyes' family became neighbors and friends with the family of Chevie Kehoe (convicted of three 1996 murders).
Keyes was also known to have lived in the Makah Reservation community of Neah Bay on the Olympic Peninsula.
Keyes served in the U.S. Army from 1998 through 2001 at Fort Lewis, Fort Hood, and in Egypt. While at Fort Lewis, Keyes served on a mortar team in the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. According to his military records, Keyes entered the Army in Albany, New York, on July 9, 1998, and was discharged from Fort Lewis on July 8, 2001, at the rank of specialist.
Records indicated Keyes was awarded the following military decorations, service medals and awards: Army Achievement Medal, Army Service Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar, Expert Infantryman Badge, and Air Assault Badge.
Former Army friends of Keyes have noted his quiet demeanor and that he typically kept to himself. On weekends, he was reported to drink heavily, consuming entire bottles of his favorite drink, Wild Turkey bourbon. He was also heavily into the music group Insane Clown Posse and had several large posters hanging in his barracks room.
In 2007, Keyes started a construction business in Alaska, Keyes Construction, working as a handyman, contractor, and construction worker.
Keyes admitted to investigators that he killed four people in Washington, claims that are the subject of an active investigation by the state police and FBI. Keyes did not have a felony criminal record in Washington, although he had been cited in Thurston County for driving without a valid license and, in an earlier incident, pled guilty to driving under the influence. Authorities are reviewing unsolved murder and missing persons cases to determine which cases, if any, may be linked to Keyes.
Keyes confessed to at least one murder in New York State. Authorities have not determined the identity, age, or gender of the victim, or when and where the murder may have occurred, but regard the confession as credible. Keyes had ties to New York; he owned ten acres and a run down cabin in the town of Constable. Keyes also confessed to committing bank robberies in New York and Texas. The FBI later confirmed that Keyes robbed the Community Bank branch in Tupper Lake, New York, in April 2009. He also told authorities that he burglarized a Texas home and set it on fire.
Keyes claimed to have killed a woman in April 2009 in New Jersey and buried her near Tupper Lake in upstate New York. Keyes also admitted to killing Bill and Lorraine Currier of Essex, Vermont. Keyes broke into the Curriers' home on the night of June 8 and tied them up before driving them to an abandoned farmhouse, where he shot Bill before sexually assaulting and strangling Lorraine. Their bodies have never been found. Two years prior to the Curriers' deaths, Keyes hid a "murder kit", which he later used to kill them, near their home. After the murders, he moved most of the contents to a new hiding place in Parishville, New York, where they remained until after his arrest.
Keyes' last known victim was 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, a coffee booth employee in Anchorage, Alaska. Keyes kidnapped her from her workplace on February 1, 2012, took her debit card and other property, sexually assaulted her, then killed her the following day. He left her body in a shed and went to New Orleans where he departed on a pre-booked two-week cruise with his family in the Gulf of Mexico. When he returned to Alaska, he removed her body from the shed, applied makeup to the corpse’s face, sewed her eyes open with fishing line and snapped a picture of a four-day-old issue of the Anchorage Daily News alongside her body, posed to appear that she was still alive. After demanding $30,000 in ransom, Keyes dismembered Koenig's body and disposed of it in Matanuska Lake, north of Anchorage.
An FBI report said Keyes burglarized 20 to 30 homes across the United States and robbed several banks between 2001 and 2012. He may be linked to as many as 11 deaths in the United States, and there might be even more victims outside the country.
Investigation and arrest
After the murder of Koenig, Keyes demanded ransom and police were able to track withdrawals from the account as he moved throughout the southwestern U.S. During that time, in a controversial move, the police refused to release surveillance video of Koenig's abduction.
Keyes was arrested by Texas Highway Patrol Corporal Bryan Henry and Texas Ranger Steven Rayburn in the parking lot of the Cotton Patch Café in Lufkin, Texas, on the morning of March 13, 2012, after he had again used Koenig's debit card, which he had previously used in New Mexico and Arizona. Keyes was subsequently extradited to Alaska, where he confessed to Koenig's murder. He was represented by Alaska federal defender Rich Curtner. Keyes was indicted in the case, and his trial was scheduled to begin in March 2013.
Keyes planned murders long ahead of time and took extraordinary action to avoid detection. Unlike most serial killers, he did not have a victim profile. He usually killed far from home, and never in the same area twice. On his murder trips, he kept his mobile phone turned off and paid for items with cash. He had no connection to any of his victims. For the Currier murders, he flew to Chicago where he rented a car to drive 1,000 miles to Vermont. He then used the ‘kill kit’ he had hidden two years earlier to perform the murders.
Keyes admired Ted Bundy and shared many similarities with him: both were methodical and felt a possession over their victims. However, there are notable differences. Bundy's murders were spread throughout the country, mainly because he lived in many different areas and not as an intentional effort to avoid detection like with Keyes. Bundy targeted only attractive young women, while Keyes had no particular type of victim.
While being held in jail at the Anchorage Correctional Complex on suspicion of murder, Keyes died by suicide on December 2, 2012, via self-inflicted wrist cuts and strangulation. A suicide note, found under his body, consisted of an "ode to murder" but offered no clues about other possible victims.
In 2020 the FBI released the drawings of eleven skulls and one pentagram, those were drawn in blood and found underneath his bed in his jail cell. The FBI believes that 11 is the total number of victims.