Release Detailed Account of Samantha Koenig's Death


December 04, 2012|By Chris Klint and Adam Pinsker | Channel 2 News


Editor’s note: This story contains graphic details of a sexual assault and murder; reader discretion is advised.

Federal authorities released a series of grim details Tuesday on the kidnapping and killing of Samantha Koenig, the latest revelations in a flood of information released following Israel Keyes’ apparent suicide Sunday in his Anchorage Jail cell.

FBI Special Agent Jolene Godden and Anchorage Police Department Ofc. Jeff Bell tell Channel 2 Tuesday night that Keyes is believed to have committed a ninth murder in addition to the eight he already mentioned to authorities -- those of Koenig, Bill and Lorraine Currier of Essex, Vt., four victims in Washington state and one on the East Coast. No details about the ninth death were released Tuesday.

In addition to the murders and two bank robberies in New York and Texas, investigators say Keyes may have committed the mid-1990s sexual assault of a minor in Oregon, which they describe as his first crime.


Godden and Bell also say a cache of supplies for future crimes found in Eagle River, after Keyes mentioned it to investigators, didn't contain weapons. It did, however, include items like a supply of Drano pipe-clog remover for use in speeding the decomposition of bodies.

According to a statement from U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler’s office (PDF), Tuesday’s information on the Koenig killing was released after consulting with the Koenig family, producing a consensus that releasing it might help bring Keyes’ other crimes to light.

“These details are being provided both to fully explain the courage and resolve Samantha displayed in the final hours of her life, as well as in the hopes that the release of additional details will help investigations of other murders committed by Israel Keyes,” federal officials wrote in a statement on the case.

According to federal officials, Keyes decided to abduct a barista from a coffee stand on the night of Feb. 1, choosing Koenig’s -- a Common Grounds Espresso location outside the Midtown Alaska Club -- because of its location and late hours, without having ever met her. 

“He approached the coffee stand just prior to closing time, wearing a ski mask and ordered a coffee,” officials wrote. “Samantha made the coffee and handed it to Keyes; he then pulled out a gun and demanded money. Samantha complied and then Keyes forced himself inside the coffee stand and tied Samantha’s hands with zip ties.”

During a walk across Tudor Road headed north to the Home Depot parking lot across the street to Keyes’ truck, parked between the International House of Pancakes and Dairy Queen, Koenig tried to run away. Keyes tackled her to the ground, holding his gun to her head and telling her it had quiet ammunition if he chose to shoot her. They then got in the truck and Keyes drove away with her.

“Keyes drove around town, explaining to Samantha that this was a kidnapping for ransom,” officials wrote.” Samantha told Keyes that her family did not have much money, and that Keyes was not likely to get much in ransom. Keyes explained that they (would) raise money for the ransom by seeking the public’s help. Keyes convinced Samantha that if she cooperated, she would be returned to her family unharmed. Samantha believed Keyes, and tried to talk to him in an effort to convince him to release her.”

Officials say Keyes returned to Common Grounds to retrieve her cellphone -- necessary to demand ransom from her family -- leaving her in the truck while he did so. Once he had it he sent two text messages, one each to her boyfriend and her boss at Common Grounds, suggesting she’d had a bad day and was leaving town for the weekend before stripping the battery out of her cellphone, preventing police from tracking it.

According to Loeffler’s office, Keyes then demanded Koenig’s debit card, which she said was kept in the truck she and her boyfriend shared. After Koenig told him the debit card’s PIN, he then kept her at his house at 2456 Spurr Ln. in Turnagain -- a location later searched by police and the FBI.

“Keyes put Samantha in the shed in front of his house, bound her, and turned the radio up in the shed so no one would hear her if she screamed,” officials wrote. “He also told her that he had a police scanner and would know if she attempted to alert the neighbors.”

When Keyes went to Koenig’s house to recover the debit card from the truck, her boyfriend confronted him, then ran inside to get help -- but Keyes was able to slip away undetected. After stopping at an ATM to test the card, he returned to his home.

“Keyes then sexually assaulted Samantha and asphyxiated her,” officials wrote. “Keyes left her in the shed and then went back inside his house, where he packed for a pre-planned cruise that he was taking from New Orleans. He left early that morning (February 2) for the cruise.”

When Keyes returned on Feb. 17, Loeffler’s office says he began the next phase of his plan, taking a Polaroid photo of Koenig, staged to make her appear alive with a Feb. 13 issue of the Anchorage Daily News tucked under her arm.

Keyes then typed a ransom demand for $30,000 on the back of the image and posted it at Connor’s Bog Park in Anchorage, beneath a poster for a missing dog named Albert, sending a text message from Koenig’s phone to her boyfriend telling her the photo was “under Albert” at the park. The photo was later recovered by Anchorage police.

Even as Keyes pretended that Koenig was alive, however, he executed a plan to dispose of her body, where it wouldn’t be found until April when Keyes told investigators where to look near Wasilla.

“In the days that followed, Keyes dismembered Samantha’s body and drove out to Matanuska Lake, where he cut a hole in the ice and put her body in the lake,” officials wrote.

In the meantime, Keyes’ ransom demands had provoked widespread community support, with posters around town offering reward money for Koenig’s return while her father, James Koenig, deposited donated reward money into the stolen debit card’s account.

Authorities tracked a series of account withdrawals from Anchorage, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, with the FBI and Texas Rangers eventually learning that the person making them was driving a white Ford Focus -- leading to a fateful March 13 arrest near Lufkin, Texas.

“Ultimately, Corporal Bryan Henry, of the Texas Highway Patrol, pulled over a white Ford Focus matching the description. Keyes was driving,” officials wrote. “Henry, along with Texas Ranger Steve Rayburn, obtained enough information during the traffic stop to search the Ford Focus. Samantha’s cellular telephone was found in the car, and the ATM card was found in Keyes’ wallet.”

Contact Chris Klint and Adam Pinsker Articles