Israel Keyes

By: Nupur Kudapkar

The most horrific name you may ever hear, Israel Keyes. Officials suspect that from 1997 to 2012, he hunted and murdered victims both in the United States and abroad. Israel Keyes had three confirmed victims but the count most likely is over eleven.

Keyes was born on January 7, 1978, in Cove, Utah. The second of ten children born into a mormon family. During his toddler years, the Keyes family moved from Utah to Colville, Washington. Deep in the woods, Keyes grew up in isolation. He was homeschooled in a house with no heat or electricity. While in Washington, his parents left the Congregation of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became conservative Christians, joining a white supremacist church. In the late 1990s, the family relocated to Maupin, Oregon. They then moved across the country, eventually settling near an Amish hamlet in Maine. Keyes had abandoned his Christian faith by his youth and had been intrigued with Satanism. Keyes’ childhood activities included breaking into neighbors’ homes to steal guns, hunting, following “anything with a heartbeat,” and torturing animals, all of which have been linked to psychopathy. While in jail, Keyes remarked, “I’ve known since I was 14 that … there were things that — that I thought were normal and that were OK that nobody else seemed to think were normal and OK.” (FBI). His father cut ties with his family after telling them he no longer shared their values, but he maintained a close relationship with his mother. 

Keyes enlisted in the United States Army in July 1998. He had a successful military career, serving in Egypt, Texas, and Washington’s Fort Lewis. He resided on the Makah Reservation with his daughter’s mother after his honorable discharge in July 2001. Keyes’ quiet attitude and the tendency of staying to himself have been observed by former Army comrades. He tended to drink extensively on weekends, downing full bottles of bourbon. Keyes began working as a handyman, contractor, and construction worker in Alaska in 2007, when he founded Keyes Construction. 

Keyes’ victims were random and widespread around the US. Often he waited for victims in isolated places, he never stuck to a specific victim profile because of this no witness crossed his path. For decades he remained undiscovered due to his patient nature. Keyes traveled to kill as well. He traveled to Chicago in 2011 before traveling to Vermont and killing Bill and Lorraine Currier. He had a history of long journeys across the United States, which meant he had plenty of opportunities to find victims. Travels abroad, such as to Canada, Mexico, and Belize may have had a role in Keyes’ murdering spree. To avoid being followed, Keyes would pay in cash and remove the batteries from his cell phone while on the road. He crisscrossed the country, hiding stockpiles of murder equipment such as weapons, ammo, and chemicals for body disposal. In fact, many of his murder kits are still undiscovered. 

His most well-known victim, Samantha Koenig, led to his arrest. On the night of February 12, 2012 at the Common Grounds Espresso in Anchorage, Alaska, 18 year old Samantha Koenig was kidnapped at gunpoint by Israel Keyes. At about 8 p.m., Keyes approached the kiosk and ordered a drink. Koenig might be seen in CCTV that night, giving Keyes his order and then seeming startled right away, her body language says it all. Keyes made her turn off the lights so he could kidnap her without being seen. While Keyes escorted Koenig to his car, she attempted to run, but Keyes attacked her immediately and battered her on the ground. He pointed to the gun and told her that it was ‘extremely quiet’ ammo, stressing that she should not do anything to make him kill her.

Keyes brought Koenig to a shed on his premises, got her mobile phone, ATM card, and PIN before he sexually attacked her and strangled her to death. Keyes faked a ransom demand using Koenig’s dead corpse, stitching her eyelids open, after taking the time to go on a trip. In the photo you can see her eyelids being inhumanly open and her body looking staged, beaten and bruised. She looks alive but in reality she is dead. Her family put money into her account in the hopes that Koenig was still alive.

Keyes used Koenig’s ATM card to withdraw money in Alaska, then carried on with the same operations in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. He disguised himself, but a security camera in Arizona captured an image of his rented automobile. Texas authorities were alerted, and Keyes was apprehended in March 2012. Koenig’s license was discovered among other materials during a check of his vehicle. Several weeks before, in Matanuska Lake near Palmer, Alaska, Keyes dismembered and disposed of her body.

Koenig’s remains from the frozen lake would not be retrieved until his capture and confession to the FBI on April 2, 2021. After being arrested, he went through numerous integrations with the FBI. On the night of December 1, 2012, Keyes took his own life in his Anchorage prison cell. Despite the fact that Keyes had been warned not to give him a razor blade, he had received one. While laying in bed, he sliced his wrist and strangled himself with a sheet. It wasn’t until the morning of December 2nd that his body was discovered.