Last week I told you the story of Samantha Koenig and how when her killer, Israel Keyes, was caught he admitted to a lot more than that. If you haven’t listened to our episode on Samantha, go back and listen to that now so you’re all caught up. As promised, today we’re going to dive into the dumpster fire that is Israel Keyes.
Let’s start at the beginning. He was the second of 10 children born to Heidi and John Jeffrey Keyes. Now, Heidi and John were interesting themselves. They didn’t believe in government interference, public schools, or modern medicine. When Keyes was just a toddler, the family moved from Utah to Colville, Washington where they were isolated in the woods with no heat or electricity. It was around this time that they became fundamentalist, Christians and joined a white supremacist church. They eventually ended up all the way across the country in Maine, and settled down near an Amish community.
You might think that this would mean he didn’t have much to do growing up, but he kept himself busy. He was known for breaking into neighbor’s homes and stealing guns and loved hunting. It is said that he would pursue anything with a heartbeat and that his idea of hunting included torturing animals. As a teenager, he told his parents that he didn’t share their beliefs, which caused his father to cut all ties with him, but he still remained close with his mother.
In 1998, he joined the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged in 2001. During this time he was involved with a woman in Washington and had a daughter with her in 2001. He stayed with the mother of his daughter for a while, but by 2007 he moved to Alaska with a different girlfriend, bringing his daughter with him. There’s not much information out there about this girlfriend or his daughter, but one of his co-workers did come forward to say that he had seemed like a responsible father and that he was constantly coming in and bragging about his daughter. He said, “He was a loving dad, a doting father.”
As a resident of Alaska, he started a business called Keyes Construction where worked as a handyman, contractor, and construction worker. So, now that we know where he came from and have an idea of who he was, let’s dive into what happened after he was caught in Texas. As I mentioned last week, he quickly confessed to what he had done to Samantha Koenig and started taking responsibility for a lot of other things. He confessed to multiple bank robberies and home invasions as well as at least one home invasion in Texas where he ended up burning the house down. He also confessed to multiple murders, but here’s where it gets tricky. During his travels, he would scope out areas where he could potentially murder someone and then bury a “murder kit.”
What is a murder kit, you ask? It’s exactly what it sounds like. He would take a bucket and fill it with things like weapons, money, and items to dispose of bodies. Later, when he was in the area again and wanted to kill someone he would go dig up his murder kit and pick someone at random. This is something pretty unique to him because it takes a lot of discipline and patience to be able to have the tools and ability to kill someone, but set it aside and wait until later.
In custody, he was dropping hints to his other victims and said that he was willing to give the FBI the information on his victims to be able to close their cases. He definitely seemed to get some sort of pleasure out of dangling the information of other cases over law enforcement’s head without giving them enough information to really get anywhere.
At one point he even said that most of the people he had killed no one even knew were dead because they would be filed as missing persons and then their bodies would never be found. On top of all this, he was meticulous about covering his tracks as well. For example, he killed Bill and Lorraine Currier in Vermont, but took the time to fly from Alaska to Chicago where he then rented a car and drove 1000 miles to Vermont and then chose the Curriers at random.
Bill and Lorraine were the only other 100% confirmed victims of Keyes. They were chosen by him at random and he explained that the way he decided on them was the accessibility. He could tell based off of their home and yard that they most likely didn’t have a dog or children, which were things he said he liked to avoid because that would help him avoid added complications. He cut their phone line and broke into their house and had them get into their own car. He then drove them to an abandoned home he had found previously to do what he wanted to do with them in privacy.
He said that he took Bill in first and that while he was tying him up, Lorraine made her way out of the car. It’s heartbreaking because she came so close to escaping, but he tackled her and dashed any hopes she had of getting away. He then sexually assaulted her before killing both Bill and Lorraine. When asked where their bodies were, he said that he had put them into garbage bags and left them in the basement of the abandoned home. At this point, the investigators think they are finally making progress and go to the abandoned home to recover their bodies. Unfortunately, the home had been torn down and there was nothing to be found. According to reports, the workers who had demolished the house had noted a bad smell, but ignored it and moved forward with their job as normal.
Another victim that has been associated with him, but not confirmed, is Debra Feldman on the east coast in 2009. During his interviews with the FBI, they presented him with a picture of her. He had a noticeable reaction to seeing her picture and paused for a long time before saying he didn’t know who she was. Later on, when investigators were pushing again he said he “didn’t want to talk about that.” There are many other potential victims that Keyes dropped hints about, but haven’t been linked to specific victims or used to close any cases. He raped a girl between the ages of 14 and 18 in the summer of 1997 or 1998. He said that he had planned to kill her, but she talked with him and humanized herself and he essentially chickened out. He said and I quote, “I was too timid. I wasn’t violent enough. I made up my mind I was never going to let that happen again.” He said he committed 4 murders while he lived in Washington and alluded to one of them being a couple that he buried near a valley, but that is all he said about them. He also said that at least one of the bodies was disposed of in Crescent Lake in Washington and was weighed down with anchors.
Randomly committed crimes are already the most difficult to solve since there’s no personal connection, but this just adds another layer to peel back when trying to determine what cases he is responsible for. So, he took responsibility for an unknown number of victims, but it is believed that there were anywhere from 8-12, with 11 being the most agreed upon number. A lot of his willingness to cooperate and provide more information was contingent upon certain requests of his being met. One of these is that he wanted some sort of assurance that there wouldn’t be a lot of publicity. He understood there would be some regardless, but he wanted it minimized as much as possible, particularly concerning the more disturbing things he did.
Now, I found this interesting because I feel like a lot of times serial killers that are caught want to go down in fame. But Keyes doesn’t want this and according to him it is apparently because he doesn’t want his daughter to know about the things he did. He doesn’t want her to type his name into Google and see all the darkest sides of him. Which is honestly just mind-boggling to me, because if he’s a psychopath or a sociopath, why does he care about how his daughter views him? And how can he think that way towards his own daughter, but do the things he did to other people’s daughters?
Another request he had was that in return he could get assurance that he would be sentenced to death and that this would be a fairly quick process. He said that he knew he wasn’t going to be around much longer, but he didn’t want it dragged out or to be stuck sitting in prison for the rest of his life. He repeatedly alluded to looking for “other options” if he couldn’t get the assurances he was asking for which was tricky because Alaska doesn’t have the death penalty. Obviously there are workarounds in this case because he’s taking responsibility for crimes in other states and the death penalty is a thing federally. But as the FBI explained to him, they couldn’t try him for the death penalty without proof of his crimes which is partially why he was giving more information. Anywho, there are a lot of things he could mean by ‘other options,’ but some are more obvious than others. Jennifer and Tina, what do you think he could be planning?
So, at one point during a hearing for Samantha’s case, he actually tried to escape. From what I could gather this was because he was unhappy with both the amount of attention there seemed to be and the length of time there would be before trial. The defense was seeking a trial date about 2 years out and it was when they were making their case as to why they wanted that timeline that he lunged over the spectator railing and attempted to make a run for it. He didn’t even make it to the door, but he acknowledged that he had made it worse for himself because something like that would cause more media coverage.
After this escape attempt, he has a lot of conversations with the FBI and his attorneys and it seems like things are going well and everything is back on track. It seems like we’re going to get answers and closure for a lot of families that are missing loved ones. But, unfortunately that didn’t happen because Israel Keyes committed suicide in an Anchorage prison on December 1, 2012, less than a year after being caught. His body was found in his cell on December 2nd along with a suicide note and drawings made with his own blood. The suicide note is a bunch of rants and ramblings and investigators say that it doesn’t give any information on other crimes or victims. Some of it has been released and I’ll read a portion of it so you can have an idea of what I’m talking about.
“Now that I have you held tight I will tell you a story, speak soft in your ear so you know that it’s true. You’re my love at first sight and though you’re scared to be near me, my words penetrate your thoughts now in an intimate prelude.
I looked in your eyes, they were so dark, warm and trusting, as though you had not a worry or care. The more guiless [sic] the game the better potential to fill up those pools with your fear.
Your face framed in dark curls like a portrait, the sun shone through highlights of red. What color I wonder, and how straight will it turn plastered back with the sweat of your blood.
Your wet lips were a promise of a secret unspoken, nervous laugh as it burst like a pulse of blood from your throat. There will be no more laughter here.
I feel your body tense up, my hand now on your shoulder, your eyes…Forget the lady called luck she does not abide near me for her powers don’t extend to those who are dead.
[illegible words] would that I could keep you, let you be the master of your own fate…knowing full well what’s at stake? My pretty captive butterfly colorful wings my hand smears…I somehow repaint them with punishment and tears.
Violent metamorphosis, emerge my dark moth princess, I would come often and worship on the altar of your flesh…You shudder with revulstion [sic] and try to shrink far from me. I’ll have you tied down and begging to become my Stockholm sweetie.
Okay, talk is over, words are placid and weak. Back it with action or it all comes off cheap. Watch close while I work now, feel the electric shock of my touch, open my trembling flower, or your petals I’ll crush.”
Pretty creepy right? So that’s that suicide note and that was creepy enough, but then we get into the drawings he made with his own blood. They weren’t just any old drawings, and it seems like they have to mean something. There are a total of 12 drawings. One is of a goat in a star which I believe represents the church of Satan. The other 11 are skulls. It seems like most people assume that these are to represent his victims. So this would mean he had 11 victims, but I’m not completely convinced. On one of the skull drawings he wrote “We are one” and so I feel like there has to be some other meaning, but I could just be overthinking it. What do you guys think?
So the FBI is actually still investigating and trying to close cases that he was responsible for. They have released a map and timeline of all his known travel and activity from June of 1997 until his death as well as 5 recorded interviews with Keyes that I used to get a lot of the information we talked about after he was caught. They released all of this so that maybe someone might remember something that can help connect cases to him and these families and loved ones can get closure. All of this is available through the FBI website and we’ll also link to it on our post for this episode. If you have any information or think you may have seen or heard something, no matter how big or small, reach out and submit a tip to the FBI at 1-800-225-5324 (1800CALLFBI). And if you have any ideas on what the “we are one” means, send us an email at email@example.com because I want to hear all the theories.
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