ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A confessed serial killer who took his own life this week in an Alaska jail cell will be remembered Sunday during a funeral in Deer Park, north of Spokane.
Israel Keyes, 34, had lived and worked in Eastern Washington, spending at least part of his youth in rural Stevens County. Keyes’ mother now lives in Texas but reportedly was traveling to Deer Park with her pastor, Jacob Gardner, for the service.
Gardner said Deer Park was a convenient location for family and friends. The pastor said he was preparing a sermon.
Meanwhile, investigators who had spent hours interviewing Keyes in Alaska say he may have murdered close to a dozen people, that he killed for pleasure and was only conflicted about how his notoriety would affect his loved ones.
Keyes confessed to killing eight people across the country before he committed suicide last weekend in an Anchorage jail, but FBI and Anchorage police investigators said Friday they think he may have had up to three additional victims.
“Based on some of the things he told us, and some of the conversations we had with him, we believe the number is less than 12,” FBI Special Agent Jolene Goeden said. “We don’t know for sure. He’s the only one who could have ultimately answered that.”
Keyes slit his wrist and strangled himself with bedding Sunday at the Anchorage Correctional Facility. He was facing federal murder charges in the kidnapping and death of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, who was abducted from an Anchorage coffee stand Feb. 1.
Goeden and Anchorage police Officer Jeff Bell conducted up to 40 hours of interviews with Keyes after his March arrest in Texas. During that time, Keyes confessed to killing Koenig, Bill and Lorraine Currier in Vermont and five other people – although details about those victims were scarce.
The interviews also revealed Keyes’ motivation, which was simple, Goeden and Bell told the Associated Press.
“He enjoyed it. He liked what he was doing,” Goeden said. “He talked about getting a rush out of it, the adrenalin, the excitement out of it.”
Keyes also liked seeing coverage of his crimes in the media, and he appeared to get a thrill out of talking about some of them with investigators, Goeden and Bell said.
His crimes started small – burglaries and thefts – until the urge escalated to murder.
Bell said Keyes told investigators the first violent crime he committed was a sexual assault in Oregon, in which he let the victim go.
“He planned on killing her but didn’t,” Bell said.
Keyes said the rape occurred sometime between 1996 and 1998 along the Deschutes River near Maupin, Ore., after he got the girl away from her friends. The girl was between 14 and 18 years old and would be in her late 20s or 30s now. No police reports were filed, and the FBI is seeking more information on the crime.
Of the five other murders Keyes confessed to, four were in Washington state and one occurred on the East Coast, with the body disposed of in New York. Authorities in Spokane and Stevens counties say it’s unlikely that Keyes was responsible for any of the unsolved homicides on their caseloads.
In the case of the Curriers, authorities say Keyes flew from Alaska to Chicago on June 2, 2011, rented a car and drove almost 1,000 miles to Essex, Vt.
There, he carried out a “blitz”-style attack on the Curriers’ home, bound the couple and took them to an abandoned house. Bill Currier was shot, and his wife was sexually assaulted and strangled.
Keyes immediately returned to Alaska and followed the case on his computer by monitoring Vermont media. The couple’s bodies were never found after the house was demolished and taken to a landfill.
Leaving the area shortly after a murder was a familiar tactic for Keyes. After he abducted Koenig, he took her to a shed at his Anchorage home, sexually assaulted her and strangled her.
Keyes then left the next day for a two-week cruise, storing Koenig’s body in the shed. Upon his return, he dismembered the body and disposed of it in a lake north of Anchorage. He was later arrested in Texas after using Koenig’s debit card.
Koenig was his only known victim in Alaska. Goeden and Bell said he never explained why his broke his own rule of never killing anyone in the town where he lived because it’s easier to be connected to such a killing.
The only mistake Keyes said he made was letting his rental car be photographed by an ATM when withdrawing money in Texas.
Unlike his earlier killings, the deaths of the Curriers and Koenig received a lot of news coverage.
“He was feeding off the media attention in the end,” Bell said.
That wasn’t the only change. His time between murders was growing shorter.
“He talked about that time period in between crimes, that over the last few years, that became quicker,” Goeden said.
During their interviews, Keyes was willing to talk about the Koenig and Currier killings since he knew authorities had evidence against him.
“It was chilling to listen to him. He was clearly reliving it to a degree, and I think he enjoyed talking about it,” Bell said of the Koenig and Currier deaths. But in the other cases, Keyes wasn’t as forthcoming because he knew investigators had little on them.
Keyes, a construction contractor, told investigators that they knew him better than anyone, and that this was the first time he’d ever spoken about what he called his double life.
“A couple of times, he would kind of chuckle, tell us how weird it was to be talking about this,” Bell said.
Even though he was talking to investigators, Keyes didn’t want his name made public in any of the other investigations, especially the Curriers, because of the fallout of publicity. He threatened to withhold information if his name got out.
“If there was nobody else that he was concerned about, I think he wanted his story out there. He wanted people to know what he did,” Goeden said. “What he was worried about is the impact that was going to have on the people that cared about him and were close to him.”
Several of Keyes’ family members are expected to attend Sunday’s funeral in Deer Park. In addition to his mother, four of his nine siblings were expected to be traveling to the Spokane area.
Shortly before his arrest in March, Keyes attended a sister’s wedding in Texas, where he ranted in mid-ceremony about how he didn’t believe in God, said Gardner, the pastor. Gardner said some of the preaching at the wedding was directed at Keyes.
“We were greatly desirous to see him saved, and greatly desirous to see him denounce his atheism, which he was steadfastly holding to and defending,” Gardner told the Anchorage Daily News. The wedding “ended essentially with Israel, you know, raging against the Gospel, against God and just breaking down into tears, weeping.
“But he did not repent, and that was … what I would call the last stand of God’s grace.”