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Posted: 10:04 a.m. Monday, Feb. 4, 2013

WSB Exclusive: Serial killer had sights on Georgia

By Jon Lewis

Anchorage, Alaska —

He may have been one of the worst serial killers in American history and, if not for two surveillance cameras a few hundred miles apart, he might have been on the loose in our area.
 
His name was Israel Keyes.
 
"Israel Keyes didn't kidnap and kill people because he was crazy," says Anchorage, Alaska Police Detective Monique Doll.  "He didn't kidnap and kill people because his deity told him to, or because he had a bad childhood.  Israel Keyes did this because he got an immense amount of enjoyment out of it."
 
The story of Israel Keyes begins more than a dozen years ago, when he was discharged from the military. 
 
A handyman by trade, Keyes, who was 34, lived a seemingly ordinary life, moving to Alaska where he got married and had a daughter.
 
"He got up every morning and went to work, like anyone else," says FBI Special Agent Jolene Goeden.
 
That was the side of Keyes that his friends and family knew.  The darker side, that of a serial killer, remained hidden.
 
"There is no one who knows me, or who has ever known me, who knows anything about me," Keyes told his FBI interrogators while he was in custody.  "They're going to tell you something that doesn't line up with anything I tell you because I am two different people, basically."
 
The mind of a serial killer takes many forms.  Israel Keyes' mind has been described, by one FBI agent, as the most organized and methodical that he had ever seen.
 
"He was not crazy," says Goeden.  "He was very organized, very well thought out.  All of his crimes involved a significant amount of planning."
 
Goeden got to know Keyes better than anyone.  She spent months following his arrest interviewing him in the Anchorage jail, usually bringing Keyes coffee and a bagel to loosen him up so he would talk.
 
"Israel talked about that urge, that urge to go out and commit a murder," Goeden tells WSB.  "It was there and it would build.  It would build over time between crimes.  And it would build to the point where he would need to go out and do it again."
 
No one knows when Keyes killed his first victim.  In all he admitted to eight murders, but there are no doubt many more.
 
Four of his victims were in Washington State, one was in upstate New York, two lived in Vermont and his last was in Alaska.
 
Samantha Koenig was a barista at a coffee shop in Anchorage.  The 18 year old was finishing up her shift on February 1, 2012.  According to police, Keyes spotted her working alone and decided to take her.
 
He is seen on surveillance video pulling a gun on the woman, then quickly restraining her wrists with zip ties.  His face never appears in the video.
 
A second surveillance video shows Keyes leading Koenig out to his truck.  From there he drove his captive to a house where he raped, then strangled her.
 
Keyes put the body in a shed, then flew to New Orleans for a cruise.  Two weeks later he sent Koenig's parents a ransom demand, complete with a photo of the woman holding a newspaper dated February 13.
 
Police and the FBI were fooled, believing the woman was still alive.  So Koenig's parents did what they were told to do.  They deposited $30,000 in Samantha's bank account, then waited. 
 
Days later, the FBI got a hit on the woman's debit card in Wilcox, Arizona.  Hours later there was another hit in New Mexico. 
 
The ATM cameras showed someone with a mask taking out cash.  They also showed glimpses of a 2012 white Ford Focus.  Days later a police office in west Texas stopped a white Ford Focus for speeding.  Its driver, with an Alaska driver's license, was Israel Keyes.
 
Keyes was returned to Anchorage, interviewed by police and told of his life as a serial killer.
 
"He definitely enjoyed it," says Goeden.  "He didn't show any remorse,  he never expressed any remorse for what he did.  He enjoyed it.  It wasn't anything he was embarrassed about or remorseful for or ashamed of.  He enjoyed it."
 
"Much like an addict gets an immense amount of enjoyment out of drugs, in a way he was an addict," says Detective Doll.  "He was addicted to the feeling he got when he was doing this."
 
Goeden says, over the course of he interviews, Keyes explained how he planned his killings, how he carried them out, and how he was able to elude detection.
 
"He was very good at choosing situations and victims," she says.  "He wasn't somebody who would take somebody where there could be a witness.
 
"Often he didn't know who the victim was going to be," says Goeden.  "He'd travel to places where it was off the beaten path, where it was easier for him to blend in."
 
Keyes would look for victims in remote places, like parks, hiking trails and cemeteries.
 
And, if the urge to kill came upon him, he would have "kill kits" buried all over the country.
 
"Those often included various gun, silencers, ammunition, different types of restraints, and money," says Goeden.  "Money from his bank robberies because, when Keyes was doing these crimes, he wasn't going to use a credit card or a debit card that would leave an electronic record of his being there so that he could be traced or tracked to a particular location.  So he would use cash."
 
As for how Keyes was able to elude capture, Goeden says he didn't follow the same patterns as other serial killers.
 
"He didn't commit his crimes in the same place over and over," she says.  "He didn't operate in his backyard.  He was very good at removing himself from a location where a crime was committed.  Traveling to a location, committing a crime and leaving right away."
 
While there is no evidence that Israel Keyes ever came to Georgia, there is evidence that, if he had not been arrested, this would have been his next destination.
 
"Prior to his arrest his plan was to leave Alaska soon," Goeden says.  "That probably would have been in the summer of 2012."
 
As a handyman, Keyes' plan was to move to "Hurricane Alley", traveling through Georgia, Alabama and Florida, doing work like roofing and carpentry.  He also planned on opening a new "murder circuit."
 
"He was very clear that he had no intentions of stopping the murders," says Goeden.  "And wherever Keyes went, there was always a good chance that somebody would disappear."
 
That never happened. 
 
Keyes spoke with Jolene Goeden for months, detailing his killings and his motivations, hinting at other murders.
 
Then the information ended and we will never know exactly how many people Keyes may have murdered.
 
Israel Keyes killed himself in his jail cell on December 2, the last act of control by a man who killed simply for the enjoyment it gave him.

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