ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A man charged in the death of an Alaska barista was found dead in his jail cell Sunday, and authorities announced hours later that investigators have linked him in recent months to seven other possible slayings in three other states.
Israel Keyes died of an apparent suicide, U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler said at a news conference that also included the FBI and Anchorage police.
Keyes was facing a March trial in Anchorage federal court for the murder of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, who was abducted from a coffee kiosk in the city in February. He was later arrested in Texas after using the victim’s debit card.
Keyes confessed to killing Koenig, as well as killing Bill and Lorraine Currier, of Essex, Vt., Anchorage police Chief Mark Mew told reporters.
The bodies of the Curriers have never been found. They were last seen leaving their jobs on June 8, 2011.
Keyes, 34, also indicated he killed four others in Washington state and one person in New York state, but didn’t give the victims’ names, authorities said.
The FBI contends Keyes killed Koenig less than a day after she was kidnapped. Her body was recovered April 2 from an ice-covered lake north of Anchorage.
Koenig’s family said there was no apparent previous connection between the teen and the suspect.
In Vermont, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement Sunday that they have been working with investigators in Alaska since April on the Currier case.
Marilyn Chates, Bill Currier’s mother, told the Associated Press that police contacted her some time ago to tell her about Keyes’ confession and to tell her that they believed the couple’s killing was random.
Vermont authorities called Chates on Sunday to tell her of Keyes’ suicide.
“After some thinking, our family has been saved the long road ahead – trials, possible plea agreements and possible appeals – and perhaps this was the best thing that could have happened,” she said from Florida on Sunday.
There may be victims in other states, besides the four states noted by Keyes, FBI Special Agent in Charge Mary Rook said.
Keyes could have faced the death penalty in the Koenig case.