ANCHORAGE — Israel Keyes, in jail for the killing of an Alaska barista, gradually began confessing to investigators that he had killed others: a couple in Vermont, four people in Washington state, someone in New York.
But he was slow to come forward with details, warning investigators he would stop talking if his name was released publicly.
“He was very, very, very sensitive to his reputation, as odd at that sounds,” Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew said. “We had to keep things extra quiet in order to keep him talking with us.”
Keyes committed suicide in an Alaska jailhouse Sunday, leaving behind an incomplete picture of a loner who traveled the country for more than a decade, picking victims at random and methodically killing them. Officials believe there are more victims in other states, but they may never know who they are.
Authorities wouldn’t say how Keyes killed himself, only that he was alone in his cell. They also did not say whether he left a note.
“We’re going to continue to run down leads and continue our efforts to identify his victims so we can bring some closure to the families,” said Mary Rook, the FBI supervisor in Alaska.
While under arrest in connection with the disappearance of 18-year-old barista Samantha Koenig, Keyes confessed to the deaths of Bill and Lorraine Currier, of Essex, Vt., who disappeared in June 2011, authorities said. Keyes confessed to other killings without identifying the victims or saying where their remains were located.
The FBI said Monday that Keyes is believed to have committed multiple kidnappings and murders across the country between 2001 and his arrest in March, often flying to an airport, then driving hundreds of miles before targeting victims.
In interviews with investigators, Keyes detailed extensive planning, including burying caches of weapons at various points across the United States. The FBI says it recovered weapons and items used to dispose of bodies from hiding places just north of Anchorage and Blakes Falls Reservoir in New York.
Keyes told investigators he scoped out potential victims at remote locations including campgrounds and cemeteries. He said few of his earlier cases received media attention until the Currier case, telling investigators that one victim had been found but incorrectly labeled as accidental. The FBI says it does not have a name or location in this case.
Keyes also told authorities he robbed several banks to pay for his travel, using money he made as a general contractor as well.
“There’s no indication that he was lying,” FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said, adding that Keyes’ DNA has been put in an FBI database available for other law enforcement agencies to use in their own investigations.
Keyes previously lived in Washington state before moving to Alaska in 2007 to start a construction business. He also owned property in upstate New York, near the Canadian border.
Ayn Dietrich, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Seattle, said agents are reviewing unsolved murders across the state to determine whether Keyes might have been responsible.
The FBI has consulted with behavior specialists to develop insight into Keyes’ personality.
Their analysis is incomplete, but they know he was a loner who didn’t have a clear pattern in selecting victims, who varied in gender and age.
Keyes told investigators that he was “two different people.”
“The only person who knows about what I’m telling you, the kind of things I’m telling you, is me,” he said, according to a March 30 police recording released by the FBI Monday.
Authorities described Keyes as methodical, in the Currier case taking days to find the perfect victim. He was also thorough in disposing of victims’ bodies. Only Koenig’s body has been recovered.
The FBI contends Keyes killed Koenig less than a day after she was kidnapped. Her body was recovered April 2 from an ice-covered lake north of Anchorage. Her disappearance gripped the city for weeks.
A surveillance camera showed an apparently armed man in a hooded sweat shirt leading her away from the coffee stand. Koenig’s friends and relatives set up a reward fund and plastered the city with fliers.
Prosecutors said Keyes stole the debit card from a vehicle she shared that was parked near her home, obtained the personal identification number and scratched the number into the card.
After killing Koenig, Keyes used her phone to send text messages to conceal the abduction. He flew to Texas and returned Feb. 17 to Anchorage, where he sent another text message demanding ransom and directing it to the account connected to the stolen debit card, according to prosecutors.
Keyes made withdrawals from automated teller machines in Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas before his arrest in Texas, according to prosecutors. He was charged with kidnapping resulting in Koenig’s death. Keyes could have faced the death penalty in her case.
Koenig’s family said there was no apparent previous connection between the teenager and Keyes. Reached by phone Sunday, Koenig’s father, James Koenig, declined to comment on Keyes’ death.
Marilyn Chates, Bill Currier’s mother, said police contacted her some time ago to tell her about Keyes’ confession and to tell her that they believed the couple’s killing was random. Authorities called Chates on Sunday to tell her of Keyes’ suicide.
“After some thinking, our family has been saved the long road ahead — trials, possible plea agreements and possible appeals — and perhaps this was the best thing that could have happened,” she said.
Ring reported from Burlington, Vt., and Associated Press writers Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska, Rebecca Miller in Philadelphia and Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.