(This story originally aired on May 9, 2020.)
Law enforcement in Alaska came face-to-face withfor the first time in 2012, after he was arrested in connection with the disappearance of a young woman kidnapped from a coffee stand. The investigation exposed one of the most diabolical and meticulous serial killers in American history. The search for his potential victims is far from over.
“Once I started, you know … there was nothing else like it,” Keyes told investigators. Asked why he picked his victims, Keyes responded: “I didn’t. It was just random.”
Samantha Koenig, a barista in Anchorage, was one of those victims. A security camera captured her abduction, and unusual activity on her ATM card led police to Keyes, then 4,000 miles away in Texas.
Keyes confessed to Koenig’s murder and over the course of several months, pointed investigators to three other victims. But investigators believe there may be seven more victims based on comments made by Keyes in interviews and drawings of skulls Keyes made using his own blood. The FBI revealed those drawings and other never before seen evidence to “48 Hours,” including examples of Keyes’ “kill caches” – kits containing guns, zip ties and other items he would bury across the United States years in advance, in anticipation of committing a crime. The FBI believes that several more caches are buried and may contain evidence in other unsolved murders.
FBI Special Agent Katherine Nelson tells correspondent Peter Van Sant she is optimistic they can find answers to the other cases, and they are asking for the public’s help.
“It won’t be easy by any means. And it may take a long time,” she said. “But I’ll never give up trying.”
AN ABDUCTION IN ALASKA
In February 2012, the residents of Anchorage, Alaska, were shaken by a frightening mystery.
KTVA NEWS REPORT: KATIE JAN | BARISTA: It basically looked like someone just literally walked out of their shift.
It was the evening of February 1, when 18-year old Samantha Koenig vanished after her night shift at a roadside espresso stand.
Michelle Tasker: She went to work that day expecting to go home — going to her boyfriend and her dad.
Michelle Tasker is a family friend.
Michelle Tasker: Her boyfriend was supposed to pick her up that night.
But that didn’t happen. Multiple calls went unanswered. Several hours later, her boyfriend’s cell phone lit up with a message from Samantha’s phone.
Michelle Tasker: The text messages … said something to the effect of … “I’m going on vacation. I’m tired,” … you know, that she was just going away. … And she just left. … But we knew she hadn’t left. That wasn’t her character. So, they knew something was wrong.
Something was terribly wrong, and the next day investigators watched it all unfold on security camera video.
Peter Van Sant (watching video on laptop): What are we looking at?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: This is Samantha. … 8:00 p.m. is closing time. So, she’s doing all her normal things that she would do to get ready for closing.
That’s when a masked man walked up to the window. He wanted much more than just coffee.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: So, Samantha’s over at the window here. She handed something to the customer. She backs up — and this is where you see Samantha do this — you see her raise her arms.
Peter Van Sant: When you raise your hands like that, it’s usually because somebody’s doing this (points finger like it’s a gun).
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: Something. Exactly.
What started as an apparent robbery suddenly took a darker turn.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: She turns the lights off.
Peter Van Sant: Do you think her assailant said, “Turn off the lights”?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: Yes. … At this point, you see an individual jump in through the window.
Peter Van Sant: Right through the window?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: Right through the window.
Peter Van Sant: Have you ever seen something like that before?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: No.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: And then … you see two individuals walk away. … It looks like an abduction.
As the news spread, Samantha’s father James Koenig went public:
KTVA NEWS REPORT: JAMES KOENIG: Just please help find my daughter. … I don’t know if my daughter’s being fed, taken care of. If she’s still alive. If she’s getting any sleep.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: As time went on, there was a tremendous amount of fear about what happened and- — and who was in our community that could do something like this.
The FBI joined the Anchorage Police Department in looking at family and friends. FBI Special Agent Katherine Nelson learned everything she could about Samantha and the people she knew.
Peter Van Sant: Did you have a sense you were getting to know this young woman?
Special Agent Katherine Nelson (driving with Van Sant): Yes. Yes. … She seemed like she had a very good spirit. She seemed like she was a very kind individual. Caring about others. You could tell that she had a lot of friends that cared about her a lot.
Samantha’s boyfriend was quickly ruled out as a suspect.
Special Agent Katherine Nelson (driving with Van Sant): There was no obvious lead in this case, and … it posed so many barriers for us in the beginning as to where to start looking for her.
Ten days after Samantha disappeared, a vigil was held.
Michelle Tasker: Hundreds of people came.
VOICE IN CROWD: What else can we do?
MICHELLE TASKER (at vigil): Flyers. Hand out flyers. Ask around. If you know somebody who knows something, get ’em to talk. We just need some sort of — it’s that one lead, that one tip that’s gonna bring her home.
As friends and family fan out across Anchorage to try to find Samantha, the question is, “could she also be somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness?”
Then, finally, after three agonizing weeks …
Michelle Tasker: That’s when the text came in, that said there was a ransom note and where to go.
The text to Samantha’s boyfriend was as mysterious as her disappearance. It said to look in Connor Park under pic of Albert. It also said, “ain’t she purty.”
Michelle Tasker: We just got up and just ran. … And everybody took off to the park. … One of the girls kind of noticed something on the bulletin board. I walk up … and there’s a picture of a missing dog named Albert. And right underneath is a plastic bag with a — looked like a clipping and a photograph in it. Didn’t touch it. We called the police.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: That note contained a picture of Samantha, and … a long, typed out message that talked about putting $30,000 into Samantha’s bank account.
That account was connected to Samantha’s debit card, which the kidnapper had. And the photo, which has not been made public, was of Samantha holding a newspaper.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: I believe it was dated February 13th, so, well after Samantha’s abduction. … So, the hope, of course, is that Samantha is alive.
Samantha’s dad deposited $5,000 into her account. Several hours later, a man makes an ATM withdrawal using Samantha’s card.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: He has a covering over his face, dark clothing, he has gloves on his hands. And so, it’s — there’s very little … you can tell.
Investigators rushed to the ATM but were too late, missing the suspect by minutes. One week later, another ATM withdrawal is made.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: This one is very different. This withdrawal occurs in Wilcox, Arizona.
That is nearly 4,000 miles away.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: And then, a short time later we have one in Lordsburg, New Mexico, then Humble, Texas, and then Shepherd, Texas.
Peter Van Sant: He’s heading east.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: He’s heading east. We can see that he’s moving across the I-10 corridor.
But the suspect had made a crucial mistake. During the ATM withdrawal in Arizona, a white Ford Focus can be seen in the background.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: That information was pushed out to law enforcement across that entire corridor.
Then on March 13, a state trooper notices a vehicle matching that description in a Texas hotel parking lot.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: And a short time later a man comes out. He gets in the vehicle, and he starts to drive away.
The trooper follows.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: And once that vehicle exceeds the speed limit, he has his probable cause to pull that vehicle over.
And when he asks the driver for identification.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: He ultimately presents him with an identification card for Israel Keyes.
Peter Van Sant: And who the heck is Israel Keyes?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: Israel Keyes was not even on our radar.
That trooper’s instincts were spot-on. A search of the car uncovers Samantha’s ID, her debit card, her cellphone and a gun — along with a disguise that matched the man in the ATM photos.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: At this point, we believe we have our guy.
But now, the FBI wanted to know what had Israel Keyes done with Samantha Koenig?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: The race is on … because we still don’t have Samantha. … We have him, but we don’t have Samantha. So, if Samantha is … alive … then we really need to find her quickly.
WHERE IS SAMANTHA KOENIG?
In March 2012, two weeks after Israel Keyes was arrested in Texas, he was extradited to Anchorage, Alaska.
Frank Russo | Assistant U.S. Attorney, Anchorage, Alaska: At that point, we didn’t really know, you know, was he the one who took and kidnapped Samantha Koenig? Or was he someone who was just … using a credit card that he found?
FBI Special Agent Jolene Goeden says investigators initially didn’t know what to make of Keyes.
Peter Van Sant: What was it like to look into the eyes of Israel Keyes?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden| FBI, Anchorage, Alaska: I spent a lot of time with Israel Keyes. … You could be in a room with him and it was like you were in the room with your neighbor.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: And then there were other times where you know the hair on the back of your neck stands up a little bit.
Investigators scrambled to learn everything they could about Israel Keyes, the man.
Peter Van Sant: Did he have a criminal record?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: I believe he had a DUI but that was it. No crimes of violence in his history, no sex offenses in his history, nothing like that. … He’s a 34-year-old man from Alaska who has a construction business, a small kind of quiet life.
Frank Russo: Even one of my colleagues at the U.S. Attorney’s Office used him as a handyman.
Peter Van Sant (surprised): One of your colleagues hired him to do some work?
Frank Russo: Sure. … This is someone you felt comfortable giving a key to your house so he could go there when you weren’t there to fix things.
An Anchorage resident since 2007, Keyes lived in a house in a residential neighborhood with his girlfriend and his 10-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. Neighbors say he didn’t stand out.
RUSSELL GUNDERSON | NEIGHBOR (KTVA interview): Nothing suspicious at all except for that he worked hard.
But investigators had suspicions, and one very pressing question.
Frank Russo: We started off with “Where is Samantha?” … No one knew if Samantha Koenig was still alive.
Anchorage Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Russo and his colleagues knew time was of the essence.
Frank Russo (in conference room, pats chair): He would’ve been sitting right here.
So, they confronted Keyes about Samantha.
Frank Russo: Once we heard what he had to say, it … went from being a very happy day as a prosecutor to one of the worst I’ve ever had. … We ended up hearing a confession.
Keyes admitted he had killed Samantha.
Frank Russo: So, we wanted to find out why he did what he did.
But before he would say more, Keyes began what would become a pattern for giving information.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: He wanted an Americano coffee from Starbucks. … He wanted a Snickers bar, and he wanted a particular cigar. … Ultimately, Keyes lays out … the entire story of how the abduction of Samantha occurred.
The video of that confession had never been made public. In it, Keyes said he pointed a .22 caliber pistol at Samantha.
Frank Russo: I remember asking him, you know, “why did you pick that coffee cart at that time?” And he just simply said, “Well, it was open late.”
Meaning, he chose her completely at random. Keyes said as they walked off into the night, Samantha broke free and ran.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: He chased after her and tackled her. … He indicates that his plan is to hold her for ransom … suggesting to Samantha that — that if she cooperates … he’ll release her. She’ll be able to — to go home.
It was all a lie. Instead, Keyes drove Samantha to his home, chained her up in his shed, and sexually assaulted her. Keyes then strangled her to death. Keyes’ family, the FBI later determined, knew nothing about the horrors that had just taken place.
Frank Russo: He was talking about the murder of this girl like someone else would discuss what they had for lunch.
Within hours of murdering Samantha, Israel Keyes left Anchorage for a Caribbean vacation with his family.
Peter Van Sant: Where did he leave Samantha? Where was she? Where was her body?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: Samantha was in the shed at his house.
Keyes didn’t return until two weeks later. It was then that he posted the ransom note and texted Samantha’s boyfriend, knowing she was already dead.
Keyes told investigators he had driven some 35 miles north of Anchorage to Matanuska Lake, where over the course of three trips he disposed of Samantha’s remains.
Frank Russo: He had drilled a hole and went ice-fishing in the lake. … And he had tied it up with baling wire and weights. And he … had placed parts of her body down the lake … as he fished … I remember … asking him, “Did you catch any fish?” And he said “Yeah, I caught fish.” And I said, “Well, what did you do with the fish?” And he said, “Well, I took them home and ate ’em.” And for me that — that just turned my stomach.
It took the FBI’s dive team 10 hours to recover Samantha’s body.
Frank Russo: I remember I was the one who told both Samantha’s mom and dad. … And that was — that was a bad day.
Koenig family friend, Michelle Tasker.
Michelle Tasker: He has a daughter. And you did that to somebody else’s daughter? … I don’t understand. (emotional)
INVESTIGATOR TO ISRAEL KEYES: You have the right to talk to a lawyer …
After talking to Keyes, investigators realized they had a depraved killer on their hands, and that Samantha was likely not Keyes’ only victim.
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview): I’m two different people, basically.
ASST U.S. ATTORNEY FRANK RUSSO: How long have you been two different people?
ISRAEL KEYES: (laughs) Long time. Fourteen years.
Peter Van Sant: And that tells you what?
Frank Russo: That he had been a serial killer for 14 years.
Special Agent Katherine Nelson knew every aspect of Keyes’ life needed to be examined, so she started a deep dive into his paper trail.
Special Agent Katherine Nelson | FBI, Anchorage, Alaska: Cell phone records, financial records, anything we could find out about his background, his travels. … Anything that would just tell us a better story about him.
It was starting to look like Keyes could have victims across the United States.
Special Agent Katherine Nelson: We know that Israel Keyes traveled to places such as Washington, California, Wyoming, Texas, Vermont.
And he teased his interrogators with details of other murders:
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview): I’ll tell you about everything. … I’ll give you every single gory detail you want.
But before Keyes would agree to do that, he wanted something extraordinary in return:
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview): I want an execution date.
ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY KEVIN FELDIS: For you?
ISRAEL KEYES: Yes.
Frank Russo: And he said “I want a promise that I’ll get the death penalty. … If you do that then I’ll … tell you about all the people I killed.” … What we said is … the more murders you give us, the more likely it is that they’re going to want to impose the death penalty on you.
But without a guarantee of death, Keyes was reluctant to say anything more:
ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY KEVIN FELDIS: So, give me something to work with. Hold a bunch of your cards back. But give me a card …
Finally, Keyes folded:
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview): All right. … I’ll give you two bodies and a name.
A GAME OF CAT AND MOUSE
ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY FRANK RUSSO (off camera): Hey Israel, how you doing?
ISRAEL KEYES: All right.
OFFICER JEFF BELL | ANCHORAGE POLICE DEPT. (video Interrogation): Could we get you something —
SPECIAL AGENT JOLENE GOEDEN: Something to eat?
ISRAEL KEYES: No, I’m fine, thanks.
JEFF BELL: Candy bar? Nothing like that?
ISRAEL KEYES: (Chuckles)
They are odd moments to see; investigators casually bonding with their interview guest:
JEFF BELL (video Interrogation): Swear off those candy bars?
ISRAEL KEYES: Yeah.
JEFF BELL: It’s in the fridge. I’m telling ya, I’m gonna eat it. (Keyes laughs)
JEFF BELL: Get him a cigar and let him – since we got ya over here.
ISRAEL KEYES: Awesome.
FRANK RUSSO Wow, cigar for nothing.
Peter Van Sant: In some ways to the outsider it looked like you guys were in a way befriending a serial killer.
Frank Russo: Yeah.
ISRAEL KEYES (video Interrogation): Can you give me like, an hour on the internet, maybe? (laughs)
FRANK RUSSO: Sure.
But there was a method to this madness, says Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Russo.
Frank Russo: It was just the act that we had to put on when we went in that room. It was just trying to kind of do anything we could to get information.
Israel Keyes voluntarily granted two dozen interviews to various investigators in the seven months after his arrest.
Peter Van Sant: Is it true he could have walked out at any time?
Frank Russo: Sure.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: I think … he wanted to tell this story. He wanted to talk about what he did.
ISRAEL KEYES (video interview, July 26, 2012): Even my own family pretty much assumes I did it, so … (laughs)
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: He enjoyed the rush. He enjoyed the thrill of it.
That strategy paid off when Keyes gave up the names of two victims, a married couple more than 4,000 miles from Anchorage, in Vermont.
Frank Russo: He gave us the names of the people. We wrote them down.
Peter Van Sant: And what was the couple’s name?
Frank Russo: Bill and Lorraine Currier.
Peter Van Sant: Do your intel guys immediately try to find out if there’s a missing couple?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: Absolutely.
Peter Van Sant: What do you learn?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: Right away that Bill and Lorraine are missing.
Peter Van Sant: And have been missing for some time.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: Correct.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: Bill and Lorraine Currier are a couple that lived in Essex, Vermont. … Nothing stands out, really, about them. They were just kind of living their life.
The Curriers vanished on a night in June 2011, leaving their family bewildered.
NEWS REPORT: MARILYN CHATES | BILL CURRIERS MOTHER: We loved them both with all our hearts. We’re devastated by their disappearance and in fear for their lives.
After interviewing neighbors, police drew a sketch of a possible suspect.
But the case went cold for nearly a year, until Keyes laid out the roadmap of what had happened.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: He flew into Chicago and he drove east. … He intended on that trip to commit a homicide. He didn’t know who it would be yet.
On that trip, Keyes stayed at a hotel in Essex, Vermont. While there he dug up a bucket that he had buried a few years prior.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: So, this is just the standard orange Home Depot bucket. … These are several boxes of .22 ammunition.
For the first time, the FBI is showing “48 Hours” the contents of what Keyes liked to call a “kill cache.”
Peter Van Sant: So, he would pre-position these caches and then when the urge came upon him, if he happened to be in that state, he had his tools of destruction ready to go.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: Correct. Or he’d plan a trip to a particular state, knowing he already had a cache there. … He didn’t know who he was going to kill, but he already knew that he had the items there that he needed.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: We have the silencer for the 22. We have a wood stock for a .22, a plastic stock for a .22, a portion of a .22 rifle. And then we have the drum magazine, the .22.
Peter Van Sant: That had a number of .22 caliber bullets.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: That’s correct.
Peter Van Sant: You ever see anything like this in your career?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: No.
The cache used in the Currier attack has never been found, but Keyes told the FBI where they could find a weapon he had used in Vermont.
Special Agent Katherine Nelson: This is a silencer that Keyes actually constructed himself.
With his murderous tools in hand, Keyes went hunting for victims and found himself outside the Currier house.
ISRAEL KEYES: I decided I was going to look for a house with a couple in it. … I was looking for a fairly easy way to get into the garage. And theirs was the first house I found that had all those things.
Peter Van Sant: He just happens to take a walk from his hotel, into a neighborhood. And this unsuspecting couple just living their lives is about to have a monster at their door.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: Yeah.
The monster didn’t knock.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: He’s very quickly in the house. … He restrains Bill and Lorraine very quickly.
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview): You just make sure they know right away who’s in charge. And immediately tie them up.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: And then he moves them to their car. And he drives them to an abandoned farmhouse that he had scoped out earlier. … Keyes attacks Lorraine first. She’s upstairs in the bedroom. He had restrained Bill downstairs.
But the Curriers were not going to go down without a fight.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: Bill’s yelling for his wife. Bill ultimately starts to break free from the restraints. And Keyes has to go back downstairs in order to restrain him again.
Peter Van Sant: And what happens down there?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: There’s a struggle that ensues.
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview): So, I knew I was going to have to knock him out or just kill him. … He saw the gun. And he started to say something, and it just pissed me off and I just started pulling the trigger.
Peter Van Sant: Do you think this silencer might have been used in the murder of Bill Currier?
Special Agent Katherine Nelson: I think it’s very likely.
Keyes then strangled Lorraine Currier and left the couple in the basement of the abandoned farmhouse.
Peter Van Sant: Did anyone ever find these bodies?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: No. A short time after this happened, the house ended up being demolished. And it was taken to the landfill. … We made numerous attempts at the landfill. It was a — I believe a 10 or 12-week search at the landfill. The FBI was searching in an attempt to find them. But we were not able to recover their bodies.
But as meticulous as Keyes was in covering his tracks, he slipped up – leaving behind a fingerprint on an ammunition case.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: This is the one item in all the things that we found that belonged to Keyes that actually had … his fingerprint on it
SPECIAL AGENT JOLENE GOEDEN (video Interrogation): There’s a perfect right thumb print for Israel Keyes.
ISRAEL KEYES Yeah, right.
JOLENE GOEDEN: No there is. I don’t have the lab report back.
ISRAEL KEYES: (Chuckles) Wow. Yeah, I’m impressed. Well, I’m disappointed in myself mostly, but I’m still impressed (laughs).
What other clues had Keyes left behind? What other murders had he committed? Investigators began focusing on his time in Washington State, where Keyes was raised; a place where he would admit to killing at least four more people.
ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY KEVIN FELDIS (video interrogation): Were any … of those victims shot?
ISRAEL KEYES No.
KEVIN FELDIS: Strangled?
ISRAELKEYES. (Chuckles) You’ll get the whole story eventually.
LIVING OFF THE GRID
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview, July 12, 2012): For as far back as I can remember, you know, that’s where I get a lot of the ideas. Either fishing or out hunting. … See somebody in the woods.
To understand Israel Keyes, you have to go deep into the vast, remote wilderness where he was raised — the place where he lived off and on for more than 20 years: Washington State.
Peter Van Sant: How many people in the state of Washington do you believe Israel Keyes Killed?
Special Agent Ted Halla |FBI, Poulsbo, Washington: We believe he killed four victims total in Washington State.
FBI Special Agents Ted Halla and Colleen Sanders first questioned Keyes in 2012. They have spent eight years investigating his life and crimes in Washington, searching for more victims.
Peter Van Sant: This is like a horror movie, isn’t it?
Special Agent Colleen Sanders | FBI, Poulsbo, Washington: It’s very much like a horror movie.
The opening scenes of Keyes’ life took place in a secluded cabin outside the small town of Colville.
Special Agent Colleen Sanders: He grew up poor. He grew up in a large family. There were 10 children in all. And they kind of lived … apart from society.
Peter Van Sant (driving with John Smith): John, where are we heading now?
John Smith: So, we’re heading north out of Colville. We’re going to go see if we can find where Israel Keyes grew up.
Dezarae Smith: Just up here on the right.
John Smith and his wife Dezarae knew Israel Keyes when he was a teenager. Dezarae hasn’t been in this area since she was 15.
Dezarae Smith: Yes, this could be it. … Yeah, I remember it being long and steep and kind of headed up the mountainside. And it was completely impassable throughout most of the winter.
Dezarae Smith: It was … built to be completely off the grid, to be completely isolated from society.
Peter Van Sant: No radio, no television, no electricity … nothing.
Dezarae Smith: Nothing.
The Keyes family attended a church that preached Christian identity theology, a philosophy John and Dezarae were also raised on, but have since disavowed.
Dezarae Smith: Christian Identity theology is very white supremacist. They come from the perspective that the other races are subhuman.
John Smith: So, with Israel Keyes specifically … he could dehumanize anybody if they rejected his world view.
Schooled at home and cut off from the outside world, Keyes was socially awkward.
Dezarae Smith: He was very quiet, very lonerish, standoffish.
Dezarae Smith: it is hard to explain how he made me feel. But I felt unsafe being near him.
John Smith: So, one specific conversation about killing a deer, he said that the initial shot didn’t kill it. And so, when he arrived … he started to gut the thing while it was alive.
This is interrogation audio of Keyes describing himself:
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview, April 17, 2012): I’ve known since I was 14 that … there were things that — that I thought were normal and that were OK that nobody else (laughs) seemed to think were normal and OK.
But just when Keyes committed his first murder is still an open question.
Peter Van Sant: Whose picture are you holding?
Sherri Odegaard: My daughter, Julie Marie Harris. She was 12 years old and disappeared on March 3rd, 1996.
Sherri Odegaard says her daughter Julie, a Special Olympics athlete with prosthetic feet, vanished from Colville while waiting for a ride to church.
Sherri Odegaard: And then I went up and down every street in this town and screamed her name.
Peter Van Sant: And there was no trace?
Sherri Odegaard: No there was no trace.
Israel Keyes, then 18-years-old, lived in the area at the time.
Julie’s prosthetic feet were discovered at the mouth of the Colville River. The next year, her skeletal remains were found.
Special Agent Ted Halla: We asked Israel Keyes about Julie Harris and her death. And he said he was aware of it, but that he was not involved in it.
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview, October 22, 2012): I remember the name. I don’t remember the details of the story.
Keyes told investigators the birth of his daughter convinced him to never target children.
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview, April 17, 2012): Something kind of changed in the way I thought, and I didn’t want to do anything that would mess with kids or whatever.
But Keyes’ daughter was born after Julie Harris was murdered.
“48 Hours” tracked down friends of Julie who had never spoken with law enforcement. One of those friends told us she remembers Keyes talking to Julie at the pool where she often swam.
Peter Van Sant: And that Julie ended up giving him her address and phone number. Have you heard this?
Sherri Odegaard: No. I did not know that.
Peter Van Sant: Does that sound tantalizing as a possible clue?
Special Agent Colleen Sanders: Like any other lead that we have, we would want to investigate it fully. … We would certainly be interested in talking with her.
Peter Van Sant: People have wondered if your daughter was the very first victim of Israel Keyes.”
Sherri Odegaard: And I’m wondering that too.
Despite the intrigue surrounding Julie Harris, Keyes claims his first attempt at murder came in 1997 or 1998, when he abducted and sexually assaulted a young woman near Bend, Oregon.
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview, July 10, 2012): It was weird. … She was scared … but also just talking, just like, about random stuff. I don’t know. It was weird. …- I was just convinced that I had screwed up that time in Oregon because you know, I … I let her go.
Special Agent Colleen Sanders: He indicated he never let another go after that.
Sometime after that assault, Keyes joined the U.S. Army.
Special Agent Colleen Sanders: Our investigation led us to believe that he was a model soldier and excelled in the Army.
Keyes told investigators he waited until he completed a 3-year stint in the Army before he stalked his next victim:
ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY KEVIN FELDIS (video interrogation): And you had told us … it wasn’t long when you got out of the military that you … killed somebody and it was that sort of feeling that you needed to do something. And it was hard to resist.
ISRAEL KEYES Yeah, Neah Bay’s a boring town.
Neah Bay, at the farthest northwestern tip of Washington, is best known as home to the Makah tribe — legendary whale hunters. Keyes moved here after marrying a tribe member he met online. They started a family.
Eric Johnson (driving): He lived there. He rented the house out.
Eric Johnson worked with Keyes at the Parks and Recreation Department.
Eric Johnson: This is the shop here, the blue part.
Peter Van Sant: The blue part, that was his shop, that’s where he worked?
Eric Johnson: Yeah.
There are reminders of Keyes’ skilled carpentry all around town, including a farmer’s market building.
Eric Johnson: He was a great family guy. A smart guy, gifted carpenter, you know, well spoken.
Peter Van Sant: An upstanding member of the community?
Eric Johnson: An upstanding member of the community, yeah.
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview, April 17, 2012): I would do something and then I would go back like business as usual and go out with friends, go out to bars. … You know, for all the years they’ve known me, they actually don’t know me at all, really.
About 60 miles southeast of Neah Bay is another spectacular location, one of the deepest lakes in the U.S., which investigators suspect is also a watery grave.
ISRAEL KEYES (video interrogation):You guys know about Lake Crescent in Washington, right?
Special Agent Ted Halla: He revealed to us that one of the Washington State victims was actually— their body was sunk in this particular lake.
ISRAEL KEYES: I think that lake is five to seven hundred feet deep.
Special Agent Ted Halla: Here’s a picture of Israel Keyes’ boat.
Sometime in 2005 or 2006, Keyes had a body in his boat.
Peter Van Sant: Any idea who this person may be? Any idea how this person was killed?
Special Agent Colleen Sanders: No.
ISRAEL KEYES (video interview) How long does a body last in a freshwater lake?
In the last months of 2012, Special Agents Halla and Sanders were hopeful that Keyes would give them more information on who is at the bottom of this lake … but the killer had another plan.
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview, April 12, 2012): I can’t be satisfied sitting in prison for all my life. … I’d rather go out while I still have some sanity and good memories ( chuckles).
THE SEARCH FOR VICTIMS CONTINUES
ISRAEL KEYES (Interrogation video): Do you really think I’m gonna feel like giving you any more information? (pushes a notepad away from himself in disgust)
After seven months of interrogations — seven months of teasing investigators with bits and pieces of his violent past — Israel Keyes decided to take one more life: his own.
NEWS REPORT: Serial killer Israel Keyes was found dead at the Anchorage Correctional Complex …
NEWS REPORT: He used a disposable razor … to slit his wrist. … and Keyes attempted to strangle himself with bedding.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: We received a call early in the morning … that … on December 1, 2012 … Israel Keyes had committed suicide in his jail cell.
Peter Van Sant: And what was your reaction to that?
Frank Russo: My reaction was … a lot of these secrets were gonna die with him now.
For Samantha Koenig’s loved ones, the news hit like a gut punch.
Michelle Tasker | Koenig family friend: (visibly upset) He should have been executed. Now, he killed himself. That’s great. It’s not what we wanted. We wanted him to stand trial. We wanted him to answer for what he did. … But the world’s better off he’s gone.
Inside Keyes’ cell, jailers discovered a bizarre, blood-soaked suicide note with passages like “crushed like a bug you still die.”
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: We had hoped that that note was going to be … clues and tips for us on — and that he was finally going to give us all of the information on the homicides. And it really wasn’t. It was kind of a rant.
But the end of Keyes was by no means the end of this case. A few months before his suicide, investigators found those macabre drawings.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: He drew a series of 11 skulls. … And these were found underneath his bed in his jail cell.
The skulls were drawn in Israel Keyes’ own blood.
Peter Van Sant: You have 11 skulls. What does this mean?
Jolene Goeden: I think this is the entirety of — of his crimes.
Katherine Nelson: And it indicates that there are seven victims we don’t have identified.
Prior to his death, Keyes had pointed the FBI to another victim.
ISRAEL KEYES (audio interview, May 16, 2012): There’s one in New York.
He refused to provide that victim’s name, but investigators believe it happened when Keyes took a road trip through New York State in the spring of 2009.
So, they combed through missing persons reports and Keyes’ computer.
ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY KEVIN FELDIS (audio interview, October 22, 2012): Is this the person buried in New York?
ISRAEL KEYES: No.
KEVIN FELDIS: Her name was on your computer.
ISRAEL KEYES: Which computer? Mine?
And when they confronted him with photos, one in particular rattled him: it was a photo of a woman named Debra Feldman.
Frank Russo: Given the way he looked at it and he started shaking a little bit, I would say she is definitely one of his victims.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: Debra Feldman is a woman who went missing from New Jersey … it was in 2009. … Her body has never been recovered. … We’re relatively confident about Debra Feldman. However, we do not have any forensic evidence to — to make that connection.
According to the FBI, that would make Debra Feldman Keyes’ fourth known victim, along with Samantha Koenig and Bill and Lorraine Currier. Agents are now determined to identify the remaining seven. And there are clues that point to at least two other states.
Peter Van Sant: Tell me about Wyoming. … What was there for him?
Special Agent Katherine Nelson: The Green River … In Wyoming … is where Keyes had buried his cache near.
Peter Van Sant: Is there a sense that there may be a body somewhere near that river?
Special Agent Katherine Nelson: We have a strong suspicion that Keyes may … have a victim located in that area.
In the late 2000s, Israel Keyes also spent time in California’s wine country, including visiting the posh Sonoma town of Healdsburg in May of 2007.
Special Agent Katherine Nelson: Keyes has often talked to investigators about using boats and also kayaks in the disposal of bodies. … We know that he rented a single-person kayak in Healdsburg near a campground during that time in 2007.
But Keyes’ road trips weren’t limited to the U.S.
Special Agent Katherine Nelson: In 2007, he drove along the Alcan Highway by himself for about a week of that year.
Peter Van Sant: The Alcan Highway that goes through Canada up to Alaska.
Special Agent Katherine Nelson: Yes, correct.
Special Agent Katherine Nelson: We know that Keyes traveled to Canada quite extensively, and specifically … said that he would go to Montreal.
Peter Van Sant: When he was asked about whether he’d killed anyone in Canada, what he’d say?
Special Agent Katherine Nelson: He said Canadians don’t count.
It’s been several years since Israel Keyes killed himself. The FBI hopes investigators across the country will take a second look at suspicious deaths in their area. They’re also hoping the public can help.
Special Agent Katherine Nelson: If anyone has any information on Israel Keyes and his travels … or if they have a family member that they think may have been potentially a victim of Israel Keyes, that they come forward to the FBI with that information.
That includes the Lake Crescent area of Washington State, where Keyes told investigators he had dumped a body.
Special Agent Ted Halla: We absolutely want people to come forward who think they may have seen something connected to Israel Keyes—especially on this lake.
And what about those kill caches buried throughout the country?
Peter Van Sant: If anyone out there comes across one of these … what should they do?
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: First, for people not to touch too much and not to contaminate it too much, and definitely contact local law enforcement in their community, who can then reach out to us.
For the FBI, its focus is clear.
Special Agent Jolene Goeden: For me the important thing is … Samantha, and Bill and Lorraine, and Debra, and all the victims that we don’t have identified. That’s what this case is about.
And its commitment, unwavering.
Peter Van Sant: Do you have an optimistic streak that says we can find answers … to the other seven cases?
Special Agent Katherine Nelson: I do. I absolutely do. It won’t be easy by any means. And it may take a long time. But I’ll never give up trying.
To report tips about the Israel Keyes case, call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or submit them online at https://www.fbi.gov/tips.
Produced by Chris O’Connell and Anthony Venditti. Richard Barber is the producer-editor. Ken Blum and Grayce Arlotta-Berner are the editors. Lauren Turner Dunn is the Associate Producer. Lourdes Aguiar is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.
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