Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Abduction and Murder of Samantha Koenig

 

Samantha Koenig was kidnapped and murdered in Anchorage, Alaska during 2012. The then-18-year-old was living in Anchorage at her father's residence with both her father and her boyfriend, Duane Tortolani II. Samantha also worked as a barista at a local coffee stand. It was from that coffee stand that she was abducted as she finished her shift on the evening of February 1st, 2012.

Unbeknownst to Samantha, her kidnapper had been watching her at the coffee stand for quite some time before the abduction took place. In fact, the kidnapper already knew that the coffee stand closed at 8:00 PM, and he also knew that the female barista was often picked up by a young man - later identified as Samantha's boyfriend Duane - after closing the stand. The kidnapper knew Samantha would be closing up the stand when he approached her on that fateful evening. 

Surveillance footage from the stand captured Samantha's abduction. Shortly after 8:00 PM, Samantha is seen closing up when a person approaches the window and points a revolver at her. Per the footage, Samantha complies with the unknown gunman's instructions. Several minutes later, Samantha's kidnapper leaves the stand with her. She is seen walking with him with her hands bound behind her back.

Once Samantha was reported missing, police discovered the surveillance footage of her abduction. Very few details about Samantha's kidnapping were revealed to the public at that time. While she was still missing, the various reports about her case stated only that Samantha had been kidnapped and that investigators still believed she was alive. Although this was not shared in the media, Samantha's kidnapping was being investigated as a ransom case. The kidnapper had used Samantha's phone to send texts demanding money for her safe return. 

Samantha's boyfriend Duane received a text from Samantha's phone on February 24th, 2012. The text contained instructions to go to a local park and look for a message from the kidnapper. At the park, investigators discovered a photograph of Samantha with a newspaper from February 13th - indicating that she was alive as recently as that date. On the back of the photo, investigators found a note demanding that $30,000 be deposited into Samantha's bank account. Samantha's loved ones deposited the money as soon as they could. Unfortunately, though, she was not returned safely.

Days after the deposit was made, investigators were notified that Samantha's debit card was being used. The first debit card ping occurred in Anchorage. Then, the card pinged in Arizona, followed by New Mexico, and finally Texas. Investigators began searching Interstate 10, as it appeared that whoever was using the debit card was traveling eastbound along that route. Investigators also got a major clue from surveillance cameras at an ATM in Arizona where Samantha's debit card was used. The surveillance footage captured a masked man using the debit card. The footage also captured that man driving a white Ford Focus. The mask made the man unrecognizable, but the car gave investigators something to be on the look out for. 

On March 13th, 2013, a police officer in Shepherd, Texas spotted the car in a hotel parking lot. The police officer followed the car until the driver began exceeding the speed limit, which gave the officer a reason to pull the car over. The driver of the vehicle was identified as a 34-year-old man named Israel Keyes. Police searched Keyes' car and found Samantha's debit card and cell phone. Keyes was subsequently arrested and charged with the kidnapping of Samantha Koenig. 

Up until this point, the public was unaware that Samantha's disappearance was investigated as a ransom case. Many felt hopeful by investigator's statement that they believed Samantha was still alive. When police found Samantha's kidnapper without Samantha herself, those hopes began to dwindle. However, Keyes was initially only charged with kidnapping, and not murder - which still gave some hope that Samantha would be found alive. Unfortunately, those hopes were completely tarnished on April 2nd, 2012 - when investigators announced that they had found Samantha's dismembered remains in Matanuska Lake in Palmer, Alaska. Shortly thereafter, Keyes was also charged with Samantha's murder.

Keyes did not have an in-depth criminal record prior to his arrest. He had a DUI charge from over a decade earlier, but that was it. When he was charged with Samantha's kidnapping, many people had questions. Who was this man? Why did he take Samantha? Investigators eventually learned the answers to these questions - but the truth was more sinister than anyone could ever imagine. 
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Keyes' arrest.

As previously stated, Keyes was arrested and charged with Samantha's kidnapping after investigators located him in Texas. 

Israel Keyes (source:oregonlive.com)

It was clear that he had kidnapped Samantha. He had her items in his possession, and he used her debit card several times after the $30,000 was deposited into her account. It was also quite obvious that Keyes had used Samantha's cell phone to send texts demanding the ransom money. However, the messages Keyes sent said that Samantha would be returned safely. He left a "proof-of-life" photograph of Samantha in the park for investigators to find. So the question remained: where was Samantha?

Keyes eventually admitted that the ransom was fake, and Samantha was dead. He told investigators where her body could be found in Matanuska Lake. Keyes confessed to kidnapping and murdering Samantha, but he also said that Samantha was not his only intended victim that night. He also planned to kidnap her boyfriend. 

The kidnapping. 


The coffee stand where Samantha worked. (source:fbi.gov)

As previously mentioned, Keyes knew many details about the coffee stand where Samantha worked. He knew what time it closed, and he observed Samantha being picked up by her boyfriend, Duane Tortolani II, several times prior the kidnapping. Keyes told investigators that, after scoping out the coffee stand, he deemed both Samantha and Duane as suitable victims. 

When Keyes initially approached Samantha at the coffee stand, Duane had not yet arrived to pick her up. After Keyes pointed the revolver at her, he immediately demanded that she turn the lights off. He did this so he would not be identifiable by surveillance cameras. 

Moments after Israel Keyes pointed his gun at Samantha. (source:cbsnews.com)

After Samantha turned the lights off, Keyes entered the coffee stand. He bound Samantha's hands behind her back with zip ties and stuffed napkins inside her mouth. He then ordered Samantha to get on the ground. She complied. The two waited there for several minutes. Eventually, Keyes ordered Samantha to stand up, and he led out of the stand. 

When investigators first saw this footage, they thought that Keyes had waited on the ground for several minutes because he was trying to wait out any potential witnesses. However, Keyes told investigators that he was actually waiting for Duane to come pick Samantha up so he could kidnap him as well. He reportedly did not elaborate on why he changed his mind, but ultimately, Samantha ended up being the only person that Keyes kidnapped that night. 

Keyes told investigators that Samantha broke away from him as they were walking towards his truck. Samantha attempted to run away, but Keyes chased her and tackled her to the ground. He then took her at gunpoint, while telling her that his firearm had quiet ammo and she needed to cooperate. Keyes was then able to get Samantha into his truck.
 
The ransom lie. 

Keyes went on to explain that after he got Samantha into his truck, he drove around town while telling her that he was kidnapping her for ransom. Samantha told him that her family did not have very much money and he would likely not get a large ransom. Keyes told her that her loved ones would raise the money by seeking help from the public. He also told her that if Samantha continued to cooperate, she would go home unharmed. 

At some point during their drive, Keyes realized that Samantha did not have her cell phone. Since he intended to make her kidnapping appear to be a ransom, he needed her phone so he could demand ransom money. At that point, he drove back to the coffee stand, where he retrieved the cell phone. Keyes then drove to another part of town where he sent texts to both Samantha's boyfriend and her boss. The text messages were intended to make it seem like Samantha was leaving town for the weekend. Keyes then removed the battery from her phone.

Keyes demanded that Samantha give him her debit card. She told him that she shared a debit card with her boyfriend Duane, and it was kept in the car they also shared. She told Keyes the car would be parked in front of her father's house. Keyes then demanded she provide the debit card's pin number. Samantha complied with this demand. 

Around 2:00 AM, Keyes brought Samantha to his Anchorage residence. He tied her up in a shed next to his house and then turned the radio up so nobody would hear her if she made noise. He also told her that he had a police scanner and would know if she attempted to alert a neighbor. 

Israel Keyes' house. Shed on the right. (cbsnews.com)

Keyes' encounter with Duane. 


After Keyes tied Samantha up in the shed, he drove towards Samantha's father's house so he could retrieve her debit card. He parked his truck a reasonable distance from the home so he could avoid detection. Still, Keyes was spotted by the other person he intended to kidnap that night: Duane. 

It was around 3:00 AM when Duane noticed a masked man standing outside the house by his car. Duane confronted the man and realized he was trying to steal the debit card. Duane then ran inside to ask Samantha's father James for help. When they went back outside, the masked man was gone - as was the debit card. 

Unbeknownst to both Duane and James, that masked man was Israel Keyes - who had kidnapped Samantha just hours earlier. Samantha was not reported missing until later on February 2nd. There was not an initial belief that the stolen debit card and Samantha's disappearance were related. Once it was revealed that Samantha was kidnapped, though, investigators began to explore the possibility of the two incidents being connected.

Duane also had no idea that he was, too, was very close to being kidnapped by Keyes. Investigators still do not know why Keyes left the coffee stand before Duane arrived to pick Samantha up, but homicide detective Monique Doll stated that Duane was definitely part of Keyes' original plan. Doll explained to reporters, "I don't know why [Keyes] left, but he made it very clear that, you know, [kidnapping Duane] was part of the plan. It was very fortuitous for Mr. Tortolani not to have run into Mr. Keyes."

Although the two did encounter each other just a few hours later, it appears that Keyes was no longer interested in taking Duane as his victim. He did, however, want access to the debit card Duane shared with Samantha. 

Samantha's murder.

Keyes admitted to investigators that he killed Samantha very shortly after stealing her debit card. Although Keyes originally told Samantha that he just wanted ransom money, he would later reveal to her that it was all a lie. Once he returned home from retrieving the debit card, he first went inside the house to make sure his girlfriend and their 10 year-old daughter were asleep. Then, he poured himself a glass of wine and returned to the shed where he had left Samantha.

While inside the shed, Keyes sipped wine and spoke to Samantha - who was bound and had a rope tied around her neck. Keyes casually told Samantha how he intended to rape her and then strangle her to death with the rope. Then, he did just that.

Keyes left Samantha's body in his shed. Hours later, he flew to New Orleans with his girlfriend and daughter so they could board a planned Caribbean cruise. Meanwhile, Samantha was reported missing and investigators began searching for her - not knowing that her body was hidden in plain sight in Israel Keyes' shed.

Continuing the façade. 

Keyes returned from his family vacation on February 17th, 2012. He knew he had to dispose of Samantha's body, which was still in his shed. First, though, he decided to try and get the ransom money from her family. It was wintertime in Alaska, with freezing temperatures that left Samantha's body frozen inside the shed. This helped preserve her body. Keyes put makeup on her face and then sewed her eyelids open to make her appear alive. 

Then, Keyes took a picture of Samantha next to a newspaper from February 13th. He described this as the "proof-of-life" photograph. While the picture is a bit grainy, it still may appear disturbing to some readers - so it will not be posted in this article. It can be viewed on a separate website here.

In the days that followed, Keyes dismembered Samantha's body and then brought her remains to Matanuska Lake. He cut a hole in the ice before disposing of her in the water. Keyes then continued to act as if he was going to return Samantha alive and unharmed. On February 24th, 2012, he used Samantha's phone to text Duane with instructions to go to the local park, where he had hidden the "proof-of-life" picture and a message demanding $30,000 be placed in Samantha's account.

Just as Keyes had promised Samantha, her family raised money for the ransom. The $30,000 was subsequently deposited into her debit account. Keyes then began using the debit card to make withdrawals from various ATMs. He was careful to conceal himself from surveillance cameras by wearing face coverings. However, in Arizona, he unknowingly parked his rental car in a spot where it was captured by the camera. This ultimately led to Keyes' capture. 

Keyes on ATM surveillance (cbsnews.com)


The Why.

When Keyes confessed to killing Samantha, investigators learned that there was no real motive other than Keyes' desire to kill. In the months that followed his arrest, Keyes spoke to investigators several times and said that he had several other victims that he had killed before Samantha. He was very selective about the information he revealed, claiming that he did not want too much publicity surrounding him because he wanted to protect his daughter. Keyes did reveal, though, that he had killed people in several different states - purposely killing people in different locations to avoid linking his victim's cases. 

Investigators knew that they had a serial killer on their hands. Keyes had already been charged with murdering Samantha, but investigators hoped he could give them information that would help them solve other murders as well. Keyes revealed some of his other victims, but was less forthcoming about other cases. In order to try and figure out the identities of Keyes' other victims, investigators dug into Keyes' past to learn more about his life.

Who is Israel Keyes?

Israel Keyes was born in Richmond, Utah. His parents were of Mormon faith. Israel was their second of ten children. By the time he turned five, his family left the Mormon church and moved to Colville, Washington. The family lived in an isolated area inside a small cabin without electricity or running water. 

Keyes' parents homeschooled him and his siblings. At some point, the family began attending services at a church called the Ark, which centered around white supremacist Christian ideology. Later, the family joined another church called the Christian Israel Covenant Church. Much like the Ark, the Christian Israel Covenant Church also deemed that Anglo-Saxons were the superior race that should rule over all other races. Keyes' family interacted with other people from the church on a regular basis, but it appeared that people actively avoided Israel. He often spoke about killing animals and stated he enjoyed doing so. This scared the others, so many of his peers avoided him. 

Eventually, the Keyes family relocated to Smyrna, Maine, where they lived in a mostly Amish community. While there, Keyes decided he no longer identified with the Christian faith. He told his parents he was now an atheist, which triggered an intense argument. His parents ultimately ended up kicking him out of the home and shunning him from the rest of the family. After that, Keyes took an interest in Satanism and began planning to commit a ritualistic murder.

In 1998, Keyes enlisted in the Army. Throughout his time in the service, he was stationed in Fort Lewis and Fort Hood. He also spent many months stationed in Sinai, Egypt.

Keyes while in the Army. (Associated Press)

In 2001, Keyes was discharged from the Army and then moved Neah Bay in Washington. At some point, he met the woman who would end up having his child. The three of them eventually settled in Anchorage, Alaska. 

In 2007, Keyes started a construction business in Alaska. He was working in the construction field when he committed the murder of Samantha Koenig. 

Keyes' killing spree.

Keyes told investigators that he began his killing spree during adulthood. However, investigators believe that he committed his first murders while he was still a teenager living in Colville. A 12 year-old named Julie Harris vanished from the area in 1996, and her remains were found in a nearby wooded area the following year. In 1997, a young girl named Cassie Emerson and her mother were also murdered in Colville. Keyes did not admit to committing these murders, but they remain unsolved and he is the prime suspect.

Keyes claimed he did not murder anyone between the years of 1998 and 2001, while he was in the Army. He said that he resumed killing people after being discharged. Keyes told investigators that he killed four people in Washington state, but he did not reveal the identity of his victims. 

In 2007, a series of crimes occurred in Boca Raton, Florida. The crimes include several murders and an abduction of a woman who was eventually released by her captor. Keyes is the prime suspect in those cases as well. 

Keyes admitted to murdering Bill and Lorraine Currier in Essex, Vermont during June 2011. He said he broke into the couple's home, tied them up, and drove them to an abandoned farmhouse. While there, he shot Bill and then sexually assaulted and strangled Lorraine. 

Bill and Lorraine Currier

Keyes claimed that he had buried a "murder kit" near the Currier's home two years before he murdered them. He said he moved the kit to New York after the murders. Investigators later found said kit after his arrest. 

Investigators suspect that Keyes is responsible for some unsolved murders in New York as well. He never admitted to this, but he did admit to robbing several banks, burglarizing houses, and committing arson in several different locations in the United States. He also admits to attempting to rape women while in the Army.

Samantha Koenig was Keyes' final victim. Unfortunately, it was not until Samantha was killed that investigators learned about Keyes and the reign of terror he had brought to several different states. 

Court proceedings.

Keyes was indicted for Samantha's kidnapping and murder after being extradited to Alaska. While behind bars, he tried to bargain with investigators. He said that he would provide information about other victims in exchange for certain information not being revealed to the public. Investigators agreed and began speaking with him several times over the following months.

In May 2012, during a routine court hearing, Keyes attempted to escape. He used wood shavings from a pencil to pick his handcuffs and tried to flee the courtroom. Police ended up tasering him to subdue him and take him back into custody. Keyes would later say he was upset by what he perceived was dishonesty from the prosecutors and his escape attempt was an unplanned reaction to stress. Investigators still continued to talk to him to try and learn about other victims.

source:alaskanewssource.com

On July 20th, 2012, a news station broke the story about Keyes being connected to the disappearances of Bill and Lorraine Currier. As a result, Keyes refused to talk to investigators for two months. He did eventually speak with them again, but he still not reveal all of his victims. 

Keyes' death. 

Unfortunately, Keyes never would reveal the identities of all of his victims. On December 2nd, 2012, Keyes killed himself in his cell. He somehow was able to sneak a razor blade into his cell, which he used to cut his wrists. He also attempted self strangulation. Police found a suicide note under Keyes' body. Investigators describe the note as an "ode to murder", but it did not reveal any information about his other victims. 

Oxygen.com transcribed the contents of the notes as follows:

"Where will you go, you clever little worm, if you bleed your host dry?

Back in your ride, the night is still young, streetlights push back the black I neat rows. Off to the right a graveyard appears, lines of stones, bodies molder below. Turn away quick, bob your head to the seat, as straight through that stop sign you roll loaded truck with lights off slams into you broadside, your flesh smashed as metal explodes.

You may have been free, you loved living your lie, fate had its own scheme crushed like a bug you still die.

Soon, now, you'll join those ranks of dead or your ashes the wind will soon blow. Family and friends will shed a few tears, pretend it's off to heaven you go. But the reality is you were just bones and meat, and with your brain died also your soul.

Send the dying to wait for their death in the comfort of retirement homes, quietly/quickly say "it's for the best" it's best for you so their fate you'll not know. Turn a blind eye back to the screen, soak in your reality shows. Stand in front of your mirror and you preen, in a plastic castle you call home.

Land of the free, land of the lie, land of scheme Americanize! Consume what you don't need, stars you idolize, pursue what you admit is a dream, then it's American die.

Get in your big car, so you can get to work fast, on roads made of dinosaur bones. Punch in on the clock and sit on your ass, playing stupid ass games on your phone. Paper on your wall, says you got smarts. The test that you took told you so, but you would still crawl like the vermin you are, once your precious power grids blown.

Land of the free, land of the lie, land of the scheme, Americanize.

Now that I have you held tight I will tell you a story, speak soft in your ear so you know that it's true. You're my love at first sight and though you're scared to be near me, my words penetrate your thoughts now in an intimate prelude.

I looked in your eyes, they were so dark, warm and trusting, as though you had not a worry or care. The more guiless [sic] the game the better potential to fill up those pools with your fear.

Your face framed in dark curls like a portrait, the sun shone through highlights of red. What color I wonder, and how straight will it turn plastered back with the sweat of your blood.

Your wet lips were a promise of a secret unspoken, nervous laugh as it burst like a pulse of blood from your throat. There will be no more laughter here.

I feel your body tense up, my hand now on your shoulder, your eyes…Forget the lady called luck she does not abide near me for her powers don't extend to those who are dead.

[illegible words] would that I could keep you, let you be the master of your own fate...knowing full well what's at stake? My pretty captive butterfly colorful wings my hand smears...I somehow repaint them with punishment and tears.

Violent metamorphosis, emerge my dark moth princess, I would come often and worship on the altar of your flesh…You shudder with revulstion [sic] and try to shrink far from me. I'll have you tied down and begging to become my Stockholm sweetie.

Okay, talk is over, words are placid and weak. Back it with action or it all comes off cheap. Watch close while I work now, feel the electric shock of my touch, open my trembling flower, or your petals I'll crush."

The family of Samantha Koenig never got to see justice for her murder. Nor did any of Keyes' other victims.

Investigators are still hoping to identify Keyes' other victims. If you have any information that may help identify them, please submit a tip with the FBI.
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