The Crooked Mind Games of Israel Keyes

On the night of her disappearance, 18-year-old Samantha Koenig from Anchorage, Alaska was working as a barista in a drive-up coffee booth near her home. At around 8 p.m., an ordinary-looking man approached the kiosk, asking for a warm cup of coffee. Samantha, unaware that her client was a twisted psychopath, turned to face the coffee machine and began to prepare it.

Israel Keyes / Samantha Koenig / Israel Keyes / Israel Keyes.
Source: CBS News

As she turned around to hand him the drink, she froze. She lifted her hands up in surrender, believing it was better not to try and fight him off. Samantha assumed he was just going to rob the place and leave. But the man jumped through the window, grabbed her by the arms, and dragged her to his car.

Her Boyfriend Received a Chilling Text

Samantha Koenig’s boyfriend of nine months was tasked to pick her up that night. He was pretty puzzled to find that she wasn’t in the booth. He drove over to her house to inform her dad, and as the two were going over potential scenarios, he received a chilling text.

Skulls illustrations are displayed on a table.
Source: FBI

The message was sent from Samantha’s phone, and it read: “I’m spending a few days with friends, let my dad know.” The two men exchanged worried glances, for they knew that this was incredibly unlike her. Samantha’s dad didn’t wait and quickly reported his only daughter missing.

Her Dad Raised Hell on the Streets

The local police managed to get their hands on the coffee booth’s surveillance footage. Footage that uncovered an incredibly unsettling scenario. The video showed Samantha casually heating the coffee machine when all of a sudden, her body language changes.

A still of Samantha in the surveillance footage.
Source: CBS News

Samantha’s family watched in terror as she was unwillingly taken away.

The following day, her dad went public with the news. He raised hell on the streets in a desperate attempt to try and figure out what happened to his daughter.

The People Grew Crazy With Paranoia

The eerie situation freaked everyone out. People all around Anchorage were left wondering, “Whose basement is she in?” or “Could the kidnapper be my neighbor?” With no apparent evidence or clear narrative, people were growing crazy with paranoia.

A portrait of Samantha.
Source: Facebook

They were donating money, putting up flyers, printing out T-shirts. Candle ceremonies were held out in the open. A gathering of people – family, friends, and strangers – all stood with tears in their eyes and little flickering lights in their hands.

The Kidnapper Drove a White Pick-Up Truck

A few short days into the search, authorities got their hands on additional surveillance footage captured by a neighboring business on the night Samantha was kidnapped. The video showed Samantha entering a white pick-up truck that drove off.

An exterior shot of the Alaska home of Israel Keyes.
Source: Anchorage Daily News

At that point, it became the police’s mission to determine how many white Chevrolet pick-up trucks there were in Anchorage. But the task seemed like it would take forever, for there were several thousands of them.

Was the Kidnapper Someone She Knew?

After realizing they would need a lot more workforce to help tackle the case, the local police contacted the FBI. Special agent Jolene Goeden was the lead investigator. The first questions she asked were: “Was the kidnapper someone Samantha knew? Or was this truly a stranger abduction?”

Jolene Goeden speaks in a televised interview.
Source: ABC News

Jolene dove deep into the case. However, for the first few weeks, it felt like she and her team were running in circles. Their investigation seemed to bring nothing, absolutely nothing new to the table.

Then, nearly three weeks after Samantha’s abduction, something popped up.

They Found a Ransom Note and a Shocking Photo

Samantha’s boyfriend received another text from Samanatha’s phone. This time, it read: “Conner park sign under pic of albert ain’t she purty.” Officers raced to Conner Park, not knowing the bone-chilling discovery they were about to discover.

A newspaper photo of Samantha Koenig.
Source: Dark Minds/Investigation Discovery

On the bulletin board at the park entrance, a Ziploc bag was tacked with a ransom note and a photo of Samantha. She was photographed, eyes wide open, holding up a current newspaper. This gave them hope that she was alive.

Her Dad Found It Weird That Her Hair Was in a Braid

Police handed the photo to Samantha’s dad for identification, and even though it was a bit blurry, he recognized her. “It’s her,” he confirmed. The one thing that he found weird, though, was that she had her hair in a braid. Samantha never wore her hair that way.

An exterior shot of the Espresso coffee stand where Samantha disappeared.
Source: FBI

In the ransom note attached to the photo, the kidnapper demanded 30,000 dollars be deposited into Samantha’s bank account. Her dad replied, dumping in half of the sum and working out a deal with the bank to be notified as soon as her debit card was used for anything.

They Were Minutes Behind Him

The first ATM withdrawal happened in Anchorage – 500 dollars. Law enforcement rushed as soon as they could, but they missed the kidnapper every time. It was extremely frustrating because they were literally minutes behind him.

A still from a surveillance camera of Israel Keyes.
Source: CBS News

A few days later, there was a withdrawal from an ATM in Wilcox, Arizona. Then, another one in Lordsburg, New Mexico. Some days later, in Humble, Texas. Shortly after, in Sheppard, Texas. Clearly, the man knew what he was doing. He wanted to throw the police off.

Who Is Israel Keyes

Each time money was withdrawn, surveillance cameras above the ATM showed a person wearing a mask. In the video, they could see the vehicle the suspect was driving – a white Ford Focus. Shortly after the Texas highway patrol was notified of the case, one officer spotted a similar car on the road.

A photo of Israel Keyes’ arrest.
Source: KTRE

The car in question made a traffic infraction and was pulled over. The man behind the wheel? Israel Keyes. As the cop searched Keyes’ vehicle, he found clothing that matched the description of the suspect withdrawing money from the ATMs. The officer knew he had the guy.

But Where Was Samantha?

Not only were there suspicious clothes in the trunk, but there was also a gun. However, what really gave Keyes away, was Samantha’s cellphone and debit card, which were both casually tucked away in the car’s trunk.

A portrait of Samantha.
Source: Facebook

Police were happy to have caught him, but the one big thing that was missing was – Samantha. Israel Keyes kept quiet as the officers handcuffed him. He didn’t say anything about the abduction other than denying that he had anything to do with it.

They Brought Him to the Station

Police took 34-year-old Israel Keyes back to his house, where they identified his white pick-up truck from the video surveillance. They had high hopes they would find Samantha, but sadly, she was nowhere to be found.

A still of Israel Keyes in the interrogation room.
Source: CBS News

The U.S. attorney’s office set up a meeting with Keyes’ defense attorney, hoping that they might get him to cooperate. They talked to him for nearly an hour, but the conversation proved futile. He didn’t say a word. As he and his lawyer stepped out of the room, his lawyer said, “Okay, thank you. We’ll let you know.”

He Demanded a Cigar, an Americano, and a Snickers Bar

Several hours later, they got a call saying that Keyes was willing to talk. He sat down with special agent Jolene Goeden and prosecutor Frank Russo and was presented with an overwhelming amount of evidence against him.

A video still of Keyes during interrogation.
Source: CBS News

“I’ll give a full confession,” Keyes said, but not before making a few demands. “I can give you the rest of the story, everything that happened if I get a cigar,” he chuckled in their faces. Unabashed, Keyes also asked for an americano and a Snickers bar.

The FBI Never Released the Full Tapes

The officers were ticked off by his demands, but if that was what they had to do to get him to talk, they were willing to do it. After he got his sugar, caffeine, and nicotine fix, Keyes began relating details of Samantha’s kidnapping.

A photo of Keyes next to other photographed evidence.
Source: FBI

Some of the things he said in that interrogation room were reportedly so graphic and bone-chilling that the FBI never released the full tapes. Both Jolene and Frank agreed – Keyes wasn’t a newbie. They were dealing with an alarmingly clever psychopath.

His Girlfriend and Daughter Were in the House Nearby

According to Keyes, this is how things went down:

He abducted Samantha from the coffee booth and drove her back to his house, where he hid her in the outdoor shed. There, he began sipping on alcohol, smoking cigars, and toying around with her, verbally and physically.

A photo of evidence found in his car.
Source: FBI

He sexually assaulted her and cranked up the music to drown out any suspicious sounds. Keyes didn’t want anyone to hear what was going on, in particular, his partner and his ten-year-old daughter, who were right by the shed, sound asleep in the house.

A Loving Father and a Doting Dad

Considering the horrors Keyes confessed to having exercised that night, the FBI was shocked to find out that he had a girlfriend and a ten-year-old daughter waiting for him at home, neither of whom had no clue what he was up to.

A portrait of Israel Keyes at home.
Source: YouTube

In fact, his girlfriend later stated that she had never even suspected him. Neither did his co-workers, who claimed he was a “loving father and a doting dad.” Keyes had everyone believing he was a good guy, leading an average, middle-class life.

He Had No Intention of Letting Her Go

Keyes told Samantha that he was after her family’s money. And that once he got it, he would let her go. But there was no truth to that. Israel Keyes had absolutely no intention of letting her go. The following morning, he killed her by strangulation.

A picture of Samantha.
Source: Facebook

By now, special agent Jolene had a feeling Samantha was dead, but to hear Keyes officially confirm it was painful, nonetheless. It felt like a punch to the gut, especially after seeing that picture of her holding up a newspaper.

He Went on Vacation Right After the Murder

According to Keyes, after he strangled her, he rolled her body up and stuffed it in a box in his shed. Then, he rode to New Orleans with his daughter and girlfriend, boarded a cruise ship, and came back to Anchorage two and a half weeks later.

An image of a cruise ship.
Photo by George Frey/Bloomberg/Getty Images

By then, Samantha’s body had frozen, so he thawed her out, applied makeup to make it seem like she was alive, braided her hair (just like he would braid his daughter’s) and then snapped a photo of her holding up that day’s newspaper.

He Disposed of Her Body Parts in a Lake

After sending out the ransom note, Keyes dismembered Samantha’s body and went to one of the deepest areas in Matanuska Lake, where he cut a hole in the ice and disposed of her body parts.

In the interrogation room, U.S. attorney Frank Russo asked him, “Did you catch any fish?” to which Keyes answered, “Yeah, I took ‘em back home and ate ‘em.”

A picture of the divers that found Samantha.
Source: Anchorage Daily News

Frank Russo couldn’t believe his ears. The thought that Keyes disposed of a body, caught fish, and then served them to his family was just unbelievable. “A lot of people throw the word psychopath or sociopath around, but unless you’ve sat in the room with one, you have no idea how soul-jarring it could be to talk to somebody like this,” he confessed.

They Found Human Bones Floating Around

Special agent Bobby Chacon led the recovery efforts. “It was winter, and the conditions were extreme,” he recalled. The team got to a spot on the lake that Keyes had directed them to and sent their underwater robot to explore.

An attorney and a journalist discuss the crime.
Source: CBS News

As soon as the camera went on, they saw human remains floating around.

Special agent Jolene was tasked with giving Samantha’s family the crushing news. They all broke down. “Having to watch her dad… this was his baby, his only daughter. It was stomach turning,” she explained.

“I’m Two Different People…”

Every week, Jolene and Frank met with Israel Keyes in the interrogation room to go over his crimes. They listened attentively as Keyes, calm and collected, opened up. “There’s no one who knows me, or who has ever known me, who knows anything about me really,” he explained.

A picture of Keyes wearing a military U.S. uniform.
Photo by Bret Buck

“I’m two different people basically. And the only person who knows me, is me,” he added. “How long have you been two different people?” Frank asked. “A long time… 14 years,” Keyes responded.

Homeschooled and Isolated

Born in Richmond, Utah, in 1978, Israel Keyes grew up in a large family and was second to ten children. When he was five, his family moved to Colville, Washington, where he lived for most of his youth. The family lived a fairly primitive and simple life.

A photo of Utah’s welcome sign.
Photo by Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Keyes’ parents had been part of a Christian group called The Ark (it’s considered a racist organization) that preach a gospel of “them and us.” As a result, they decided to isolate and homeschool their kids.

Dark Urges From a Young Age

Keyes didn’t grow up in a normal environment where he could learn to interact with other kids. He never learned how to play or how to do certain things that usually teach one the boundaries of social interaction.

A framed picture of Samantha.
Photo by Bill Roth

Despite his peculiar upbringings, Keyes told detectives that he “grew up with good people… everyone was always nice to each other.” He described his childhood as free from abuse and neglect. However, he did remember having dark urges from a very young age.

A Demon Child

Keyes knew that his violent urges weren’t normal. “I either thought that everybody was faking it and they were all like me, but they just didn’t act like it. Or I figured that I was a demon child or whatever, I don’t know,” he told investigators.

A view of Utah landscape.
Photo by Bromberger Hoover Photo/Getty Images

Keyes has known since the age of fourteen that there was something wrong with him. He recalled one incident where he went to the woods with friends and shot a cat in the stomach. As the cat ran around the tree in distress, Keyes laughed. But when he looked sideways, he saw that his friend was throwing up. “That was pretty much the last time anyone went in the woods with me,” he recalled.

He Wasn’t Made Into a Monster – He Was Born One

In his late teens, Keyes began committing felony crimes – breaking into homes, stealing guns. His parents once found a cache of guns in his room and scolded him. When Keyes announced he was an atheist, they kicked him out of the house.

A sketch illustration of Israel Keyes’ eyes.
Source: CBS News

As Keyes opened up about his childhood, he kept telling the investigators that he didn’t want to come off as a victim of bad parenting. He didn’t want to appear weak, and he definitely didn’t want to be pitied. According to Keyes, he wasn’t made into a monster – he was born one.

Samantha Wasn’t His First Victim

As it turns out, Samantha died just because she was working a late shift at a coffee store, and Keyes had picked that night to take someone. It was a super random choice.

Sadly, Samantha wasn’t Keyes’ first victim.

A photo of a hidden cache with tools he uses to commit crimes.
Source: FBI

Investigators had no doubt that Keyes had murdered before. But he was a bit hesitant to discuss his other crimes. For the most part, Keyes was chillingly cool in the interrogation room. But there was one thing that struck a chord – his daughter.

He Demanded Anonymity to Spare His Daughter

Israel Keyes was afraid that his daughter would suffer from his crimes. He didn’t want her to google her dad’s name and see “serial killer” attached to it on every news page. “I want my kid to have a chance to grow up and not have all this hanging over her head,” he told Jolene and Frank.

Officers and detectives search Israel Keyes’ house.
Photo by Erik Hill

The investigators used Keyes request for anonymity as leverage to squeeze out information about his previous crimes. They assured him that his name wouldn’t reach the news.

“There was, to some degree, a genuineness and a wanting to protect family,” Jolene recalled.

He Wanted the Death Penalty

Apart from anonymity, Keyes had another request – an execution date. “I want this whole thing wrapped up and over as soon as possible,” he demanded. There isn’t a death penalty in Alaska, but police told him they would do their best to try and set up his demand anyway.

A mugshot of Israel Keyes.
Source: CBS News

With his requests somewhat acknowledged, Keyes began to open up. He told them that the first time he sexually assaulted someone was in Oregon in 1997. He found a girl in the woods whom he dragged into an outhouse structure.

The One That Got Away

The girl’s name was “Leah or Lena or something with an L,” he said. She was extremely clever, and she didn’t fight. She started asking him personal questions and telling him things like, “You’re a good-looking man. I would even date you if you had just approached me the right way.”

A picture of Keyes’ rental car.
Source: FBI

Keyes was that close to killing her. But incredibly, she managed to get into his head. Eventually, he let her go. For two years after that, he regretted his decision. He kept telling himself that he should have killed her.

His Next Victims…

After that incident, Keyes promised himself that he would never let somebody go again. The next crime Keyes confessed to was the murder of an American couple living peaceful lives in Essex, Vermont. Their names were Bill and Lorraine Currier.

A picture of Bill Currier / A photo of Lorraine Currier.
Source: CBS News

Bill and Lorraine worked for the University of Vermont. And on June 9th, they both failed to show up at work. Their co-workers grew concerned because the Curriers weren’t the kind of people to take off. They contacted their families.

The Case Grew Cold

Authorities arrived at the scene and saw that the Curriers’ garage window was broken. In addition, Lorraine’s handgun was missing, and the phone line had been cut. The couple’s car wasn’t in the garage, but it was found a short distance away from their home.

An exterior shot of the Currier’s house.
Source: YouTube

Just like Samantha’s case, there weren’t any viable suspects to point fingers at. The couple had simply vanished. The case grew cold until 2012, when the victims’ family members were told that there was a man, far away in Alaska, confessing to the FBI that he had killed them.

Keyes Hid “Kill Kits” All Over the Country

“This rookie was one of the most meticulous serial killers I had ever come across,” attorney Frank Russo admitted. One of the reasons was that Israel Keyes had buried what he called “kill kits” in different states across the country.

An image of one of Keyes’ hidden kits.
Source: NBC News

These kits included duct tape, shovels, guns, and ropes. This indicated to the FBI just how calculated this killer was. Keyes joked about his murder kits, telling the detectives that everybody loves a buried treasure. “As a kid, I always wanted to find buried treasure, so I said, well, I might as well create it,” he laughed.

Someone Leaked His Name to the Media

The murder of the Curriers brought Keyes’ victim count to three. But the FBI was confident that there were more, and as long as he remained anonymous, he’d give the information up. But then, a leak to the media messed up their progress.

An officer speaks during a press conference.
Source: YouTube

The local Vermont media got a tip from an anonymous source, revealing Israel’s name. The FBI was worried, for they knew that this violated one of the things Keyes demanded – anonymity. They had to work hard to gain his trust again.

Keyes Changed the Rules of the Game

Up until that point, Jolene, Frank, and Keyes were following the rules they had set for themselves. But after Keyes’ anonymity was gone, he changed the rules of the game. He stopped accepting things like cigars and coffee. He didn’t want to feel like he owed them something.

A still of Keyes sitting in the interrogation room.
Source: YouTube

The only bargaining chip left for the FBI was the death penalty. Keyes would often poke at them for not being able to get it for him. “I’ll buy a house before you sentence me to death,” he scoffed. In between his cynical remarks, Keyes kept giving little tidbits of information.

A Murderer and a Father

Keyes ultimately gave the details to his first homicide, but his details were scarce. He said that in 2001, he moved to Neah Bay, Washington, to start a new life with his girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time. Officers believe that this move marked the beginning of his violent spree.

A dated portrait of Keyes.
Source: Facebook

He confessed that he killed his second and third victim within a few months of his first murder. Around the same time Keyes got his first taste of murder, he also got his first taste of fatherhood. He became a father to a baby girl he loved.

Who Is Israel Keyes Daughter

The birth of his daughter altered Keyes’ violent outlook. He said that he never targeted children after she was born (it’s horrifying to think he abused children before). This helped authorities somewhat, who restricted the search to adults only.

A photo of an investigator in one of the crime scenes.
Source: Essex Police Department

With a girl to take care of, Keyes worked overtime to conceal his secret life. When he wanted to kill, he would travel to different states and tell his family and friends that he was off visiting family. No one suspected anything.

Keyes Traveled Far and Wide

Keyes’ measure of success was driving off to a place where he had no connections. He would kill and then leave right away. It seems like traveling was his way of distancing himself both physically and psychologically from his deeds.

An image of broken glass in the entrance to the Currier’s home.
Source: Essex Police Department

After six months of interrogation, investigators suspected that he had killed a total of eight people. After five murders, he ran into some trouble with his girlfriend who was struggling with alcoholism. He decided she wasn’t fit to mother their daughter and took his baby girl with him to Anchorage.

Keyes Fooled Everyone in Anchorage

In Anchorage, Keyes opened his own contracting business. He really fooled everyone, for there was no indication whatsoever that he was dealing with anything other than carpentry.

In the spring of 2009, Keyes traveled to the East Coast under the guise of visiting family.

A picture of Deborah Feldman.
Source: National Missing Person Registry

During this trip, he murdered a woman named Deborah Feldman. Police found out about her after going through his computer’s search history. Deborah was estranged from her family, had addiction issues, and was likely living on the street. She was the perfect target.

He Started Tripping Over His Words

When the FBI showed Keyes faces of missing people, he reacted calmly. But when they pulled up Deborah’s face, his demeanor changed. Keyes didn’t want to talk about her. He began stuttering and tripping over his words. While he never confirmed it, it was clear as daylight that he had done it.

Israel Keyes in the surveillance footage from a bank’s robbery.
Source: Pinterest

Authorities suspected that Deborah went missing on April 9th, 2009, and it was on April 11th that the bank in Tupper Lake New York, was robbed. They found out that Keyes was into bank robberies and admitted that Tupper Lake New York was a bank he had robbed.

A Fun Scavenger Hunt

On November 30th, 2012, Israel Keyes finally agreed to cooperate and take the police to his hidden kill kits. It was a sudden turn of events that the special agents didn’t see coming. For Keyes, it would have been a fun scavenger hunt.

A photo of a wooden path in a forest.
Source: Pinterest

But then, just days before they were to head out, Israel Keyes committed suicide in his jail cell. He used a disposable razor which he attached to a pencil to slit his wrists. How he got the razor, no one knows…

How Did Israel Keyes Die?

Keyes was good at killing people. And he was successful in killing himself too. Why did he prefer to die? The answer is simple – he was ashamed. But he wasn’t ashamed about being called a killer or an evil person.

Keyes leaves a letter.
Source: NBC News

Keyes didn’t mind being looked at as a monster. On the contrary, he proudly stated that that was who he was. What Keyes couldn’t cope with, however, was being viewed as weak. He was captured, which made him a failure. And his sorry ego couldn’t handle that.

The End of a Deadly Psychopath

On the one hand, Keyes’ suicide is upsetting. It’s not fair that he got the pleasure of deciding how to end his own life while his victims didn’t. But on the other hand, a man like Israel Keyes doesn’t deserve a place on this Earth.

A memorial plaque dedicated to Israel Keyes’ victims.
Source: CBS News

Psychopathy is a real, often uncontrollable condition, and people like that should either be constantly supervised or – sorry if I’m a bit harsh – sentenced to death. They’re dangerous, heartless, and their brain clearly isn’t functioning properly.