Israel Keyes was an American serial killer, rapist, arsonist, burglar, and bank robber.
Israel Keyes was born in Cove, Utah, on January 7, 1978, to a large Mormon family. He was the second of 10 children born to Heidi Keyes (née Hakansson) and John Jeffrey Keyes (he had an older sister, four younger sisters, and three younger brothers.), they were a couple who didn’t believe in government interference, public schools or modern medicine. Israel and his siblings were home schooled. When Keyes was five, the family rejected Mormonism and moved to an area near Colville, Washington. They lived in a one-room cabin without electricity or running water. In Colville, the family attended services at two churches – the Ark and the Christian Israel Covenant Church – which practiced white supremacist Christian Identity ideology. Keyes later described this community as militia-like and “Amish”. In this era, the Keyes befriended the neighbouring family of Chevie Kehoe, later convicted for a 1996 triple murder, and his brother Cheyne Kehoe.
During his childhood years, Keyes would walk around with a pistol everywhere he went, and at the age of fourteen, his grandfather gave him a .38-caliber revolver, which he outfitted with his first homemade silencer. He and a friend also had a habit of breaking into houses and burglarizing them and Keyes also began killing pet animals. Between 1995 and 1997, he started working in a seven-man crew for a construction company, doing custom work for customers with needs beyond construction. Later the family moved to Smyrna, Maine, where they became involved in the maple syrup business. By his teenage years Keyes renounced the Christian faith and openly declared himself as an atheist. As a result, he was kicked out of the house.
Sometime between 1996 and 1998, Keyes committed his first actual crime, abducting a teenage girl from a hiking group along the Deschutes River near Maupin, Oregon, and raping her, but releasing her afterwards. Keyes served in the United States Army from 1998 to 2001 at Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Washington, Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas and was trained in Sinai, Egypt. While at Fort Lewis, he served on a mortar team in the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. Former Army friends of Keyes have noted his quiet demeanour and habit of keeping to himself. On May of 2001 Keyes received a DUI followed by a state charge for driving with a suspended license but otherwise had had no trouble with the law whilst in the army. On weekends, he was reported to drink heavily, consuming entire bottles of his favourite drink, Wild Turkey bourbon. During his service, Keyes received an Army Achievement Medal for “meritorious service while assigned as a gunner and assistant gunner from the second of December 1998 to the eighth of July, 2001 in the Alpha Company 60mm mortar section.”
Keyes was also a known fan of the hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse and displayed posters of the musical act in the barracks. After his honourable discharge in July 2001, according to his confessions Keyes allegedly murdered his first victims, an unidentified couple. He then moved to the small town of Neah Bay, Washington, where he established a village market for the nearby Makah tribe. Keyes also began dating an unidentified woman, whom he would have a daughter with. On November 13, 2002, his father passed away, and Keyes attended the funeral. Later that year, he separated with his girlfriend, who took their daughter with her. In the first few months of 2006, Keyes began taking part in marathons. At this point he had allegedly claimed two more victims. It is at this point that he began making numerous travels for unspecified reasons. In 2007, Keyes opened a new business in Alaska, called Keyes Construction, which was known to be extremely reliable. He worked as a handyman, contractor, and construction worker.
In 2009, after making travels to California, Washington, and New England, Keyes decided to rob a bank in order to fund his crimes. On April 10, allegedly after abducting and murdering a man, he walked into the Community Bank in Tupper Lake, New York, donning sunglasses, a jacket, jeans, grey sneakers, two-tone gloves, and a fake moustache and goatee, and armed with a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol (he was also equipped with a .22-caliber 10/22 Ruger Charger pistol). Successfully robbing the bank, Keyes fled and buried a toolbox about a half-mile down a path in the Woodside Natural Area in Essex, Vermont; the toolbox contained desiccant, the Smith & Wesson, and the Ruger Charger. Four days later, he returned home by airplane. He then spent the next two years repeatedly traveling through the country for a variety of undisclosed reasons.
At the time between April and May 2011, he constructed a homemade silencer for the Ruger Charger pistol, and decides to test it out during his next crime. After flying to Indiana and then driving over to New York to attach and test his silencer, Keyes drove to Vermont, where he recovered the toolbox he buried earlier, to which he decided to randomly target and murder someone before going on a bank-robbing and arson spree. After selecting a location to take a victim (an abandoned farmhouse in Essex), Keyes readied his weapons and began inspecting motorists from the safety of nearby woods. Initially targeting a motorist driving a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, Keyes found the plan impractical and switched his focus to a couple instead. Wandering around the suburban neighbourhoods on the late hours of July 8, 2011, he set his sights on 8 Colbert Street, occupied by the Curriers, Bill and Lorraine; the home was less than a half-mile away from the Handy Suites hotel he was staying at.
First inspecting the house and deducing the room the couple was sleeping at, Keyes disabled the phone line first before breaking inside. In what was described as a “blitz attack”, he ambushed the Curriers as they slept, subduing and tying them up before taking Lorraine’s Smith & Wesson snub-nosed .38 revolver, among other items. Keyes then abducted the couple and took them to the abandoned Essex farmhouse, where he attempted to contact someone through their cell phones, only to abandon the plan after finding that the phones didn’t have texting capabilities. As he took Bill to the basement, Lorraine attempted to escape, only to be recaptured by him. Bill also tries to escape, but Keyes incapacitates him and, in a fit of rage at the loss of control over his scheme, shoots him to death with the silenced 10/22 Ruger Charger. He then sexually assaulted Lorraine, strangled her into unconsciousness, took her to the basement, and strangled her again, this time fatally.
Keyes then buried the bodies of the Curriers in debris and left them in the farmhouse basement, intending to return later to burn down the farmhouse. His plan to go on a bank-robbing spree soon proved to be impractical when the Curriers’ car experienced some “serious mechanical issues”, and he abandoned it the next day in the parking lot of an apartment complex at 203 Pearl Street. During his trip back home, he went into the White National Monument Forest in New Hampshire and disposed of the items that he took from the Curriers in a suitcase that he set ablaze; he then abandoned his tools and the Curriers’ revolver in New York before returning home in Anchorage. Unbeknownst to him, from October 25 to October 27, the farmhouse was demolished, and the debris (including bags that contained the Curriers’ corpses) was transported to a local landfill. Their bodies have never been found. In October or November of the same year, he purchased a police scanner.
On February 1, 2012, Keyes decided to kill again, driving around aimlessly through Anchorage in search of a potential victim. Setting his sights on an 18-year-old barista named Samantha Koenig, he approached her coffee kiosk, held her at gunpoint, and demanded the money from the register. After his demands were met, he tied her up and waited for her boyfriend, Duane Tortolani, intending to abduct him too, but changed his mind and dragged Koenig outside. She attempted to escape, but he quickly recaptures her, forces her into his truck, and keeps her captive in his home. The next day, Keyes went to Koenig’s home, broke into Tortolani’s truck, and stole the debit card he shared with Koenig, but Tortolani and Koenig’s father James witness him commit the act.
After successfully testing out the debit card, Keyes returned home and murdered Koenig, leaving her body in a shed on his property. He then travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana, to embark on a ship cruise. Upon returning from the cruise, Keyes, increasingly worried by the large amount of publicity brought by Koenig’s abduction, decided to commit a crime spree. Exploring around the west of Dallas, Texas, he encountered a 3,500 sq. ft., one-story, red-brick house in Aledo on February 16, which he robbed before burning it and a nearby barn down. He then drove to the nearby town of Azle, where he, donned with a hardhat, sunglasses, gloves, and a breathing mask, robbed the National Bank of Texas within two minutes before escaping; he later buried the money around the Post Oak Cemetery in Glen Rose. South of Cleburne, he tries to abduct a woman walking a dog, but he quickly abandons the plan. Returning to Anchorage, Keyes enacts a ransom plan for Koenig, whose death was still not known to authorities. Texting a ransom note demanding $30,000 he had removed Koenig’s body from the shed, applied makeup to the corpse’s face, sewed her eyes open with fishing line, and snapped a picture of a four-day-old issue of the Anchorage Daily News alongside her body, posed to appear that she was still alive. He then dismembered Koenig’s corpse with a chainsaw, disposing the body parts in Matanuska Lake.
On February 29, he began withdrawing the ransom money. Starting on March 6, he began making withdrawals from Koenig’s account, alerting the Alaskan authorities and the FBI who were investigating the case. They notified Texan authorities to alert officers in the state, as well as Louisiana and Arkansas, to be on a lookout for a 2012 Ford Focus, the rental car Keyes was currently using (ironically enough, Keyes obtained a replacement vehicle in the form of another 2012 Ford Focus, an occurrence that would lead to his capture). On March 11, one of Keyes’ younger sisters, AutumnRose, married a member of the Church of Wells. Keyes attended the wedding ceremony, and he was verbally attacked by a Church of Wells Elder for being an atheist. This sparked an argument, which ended the ceremony when Keyes began “raging against God”.
In March 13, Texas Highway Patrol Corporal Bryan Henry noticed Keyes’ Ford Focus, alerted authorities, and followed it onto Highway 59. Noticing that the car was speeding, Henry pulled it over alongside the road, to which many unmarked vehicles, federal agents, and Texas Rangers surrounded it. Searching Keyes’ car, they found Koenig’s debit card and phone, with the battery removed; a ski-mask; a gun; cash taken from the National Bank of Texas; and highlighted maps of California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Keyes was subsequently arrested, charged with access device fraud, and indicted in a Beaumont, Texas federal facility.
On March 26, Keyes was taken back to Anchorage, where he confessed to murdering Koenig, whose body would later be discovered on April 1. During interviews, Keyes was shown to be calm and patient, yet frustrated at the rules he and his attorneys were told to abide. He willingly gave terms to confess to any crimes he committed and plead guilty to all of the charges brought against him, as long as he was executed and the trial took less than a year. Investigators later struck a deal with him about finding the bodies of any potential prior victims in exchange for the media not knowing any details Keyes didn’t want to make public. As a result, authorities found and excavated the farmhouse where Keyes left the Curriers’ corpses at, only finding indications of human decomposition. Not wanting his name to be released to the media, he threatened to stop speaking to investigators.
On June, a routine court hearing debating on calling the case “complex” turned violent when Keyes managed to escape and tried to attack spectators, presumably in a suicide attempt. He was subdued with a taser and taken back into custody. The following day, he stressed his perception of dishonesty from the prosecutors, and that the escape attempt was unplanned and merely a reaction to stress. Because of the escape attempt, security measures were increased on him, which included full restraints, a two-officer escort every time he left his cell, restrictions on razor and pencil possession, and daily strip and cell searches. On July 20, WCAX broke the story on Keyes’ connection to the disappearances of the Curriers; as a result, Keyes refused to speak to investigators for a two-month period. On December 2, Keyes wrote a two-page (front-and-back) suicide note before slashing his wrist with a razor mistakenly issued to him and also hanging himself. Because of the odd method he employed in his suicide, the medical examiner was unable to tell the primary cause of death. He was 34.
The suicide note read:
“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.”
Dr. Phil Resnick, director of forensic psychiatry at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, told ABCNews.com that Keyes’ suicide note was far from “ordinary,” explaining, “He doesn’t talk much about his own dilemmas of being in prison or why he’s taking his own life. … It’s more of a final statement of contempt for the American style of life and I think the other thing he emphasizes is his own superiority, that he has guile and can take advantage of people who are naïve and trusting of him.” Resnick continued, “He’s writing this so that people will find it and talk about it and further magnify his own self worth. … And, of course, it has no remorse, no regard for human life or the victims and that fits with that type of psychopathic personality.”
On August 12, 2013, federal authorities released new information on Keyes, revealing that they suspect him to have a final death toll of eleven victims, all killed from 2001 to 2012, and that there are possibly other victims in Canada (where he sought out prostitutes) and other countries. Additionally, he was confirmed to have also burglarized 20 to 30 homes and robbed several other banks in addition to the Community Bank and National Bank of Texas robberies. In 2020, the FBI released the drawings of 11 skulls and one pentagram, which had been drawn in blood and found underneath Keyes’ jail-cell bed after his suicide. One of the drawings included the phrase ‘WE ARE ONE’ written at the bottom. The FBI believes the number of skulls correlates with what are believed to be the total number of his victims.
Keyes was a known admirer of Ted Bundy and shared many similarities with him: both were methodical and felt a possession over their victims. However, there are notable differences. Bundy’s murders were spread throughout the country, mainly because he lived in many different areas and not as an intentional effort to avoid detection like with Keyes. Bundy targeted only attractive young women, while Keyes, unlike most serial killers, had no particular type of victim. Keyes also commented on Dennis Rader, stating he was a “wimp” for showing remorse for his crimes.
Keyes planned murders long ahead of time and took extraordinary action to avoid detection. Unlike most serial killers, he did not have a victim profile, saying he chose a victim randomly. He usually killed far from home, and never in the same area twice. On his murder trips, he kept his mobile phone turned off and paid for items with cash. He had no connection to any of his victims.
“This is entertainment for me” – Israel Keyes
If you want to watch a documentary on Israel Keyes then just check out the video below: