ANCHORAGE — When Israel Keyes was arrested in Texas in March, authorities were confident they had the man who had kidnapped an 18-year-old Anchorage barista the month before.
What they didn’t know was that the story was going to get a lot worse, with Keyes eventually confessing to multiple murders across the U.S. and authorities suspecting he could be linked to even more.
Keyes and his confessions before his jailhouse suicide in early December made up Alaska’s top news story of 2012 — a year that also saw record snow in the state’s largest city, a fuel delivery in iced-in Nome, a drifting ghost ship and offshore drilling in the Arctic.
The horror spun by Keyes began emerging when he told authorities where to find Samantha Koenig’s body after his arrest.
The Anchorage man revealed he had killed the barista hours after kidnapping her from a coffee stand Feb. 1, and left her body in a shed outside his home for two weeks while he went on a cruise.
Keyes returned, dismembered the body and put it in a lake north of Anchorage. He then took off again, using a debit card Koenig shared with her boyfriend to pay for a trip across the Southwest.
But the gruesome revelations, which came to light in about 40 hours of interviews with the FBI and Anchorage police, didn’t end there.
Over the next few months, the 34-year-old handyman began to confess to multiple killings spread across the country: Bill and Lorraine Currier in Vermont, four people in Washington state, another on the East Coast.
Keyes willingly told officials about the Koenig and Currier deaths. “It was chilling to listen to him. He was clearly reliving it to a degree,” said Anchorage police officer Jeff Bell, who took part in the interviews.
But Keyes wasn’t as forthcoming on the other murders since he knew authorities didn’t have much to go on.
Keyes also said he buried murder or body disposal kits across the country, and the FBI thinks there could be as many as three more victims.
Keyes’ suicide in early December left investigators with more questions than answers about other victims, but not about his motive.
“Israel Keyes didn’t kidnap and kill people because he was crazy,” said Anchorage police Detective Monique Doll. “He didn’t kidnap and kill people because his deity told him to or because he had a bad childhood. Israel Keyes did this because he got an immense amount of enjoyment out of it.”
Other top stories for 2012 in Alaska include:
• A Russian tanker led by a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker safely delivered 1.3 million gallons of heating fuel to Nome after November 2011 storms prevented a delivery by barge. Nome was experiencing one of the coldest winters on record, and would have run out of fuel by March or April had the international effort not been successful.
• It wasn’t the cold plaguing Anchorage last winter, it was snow. More than 11 feet of the white stuff fell in the city, surpassing the record of 132.6 inches set in the winter of 1954-55.
• In April, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter poured cannon fire into a Japanese ghost ship that had been drifting since the 2011 tsunami, sinking the vessel in the Gulf of Alaska and eliminating the hazard it posed to shipping and the coastline. The cutter’s guns tore holes in the 164-foot Ryou-Un Maru, ending the abandoned vessel’s long, lonely journey across the Pacific. As the crew pummeled the ship, it burst into flames and began taking on water.
• Other tsunami debris is showing up on West Coast beaches, including in Alaska. One federal biologist said the debris that gathered this past summer on Alaska’s Kayak Island made walking on its beaches feel like walking through a natural disaster zone.
• The coming legislative session will certainly have a different feel after the November general election. The state Senate will no longer be ruled by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, with the GOP taking solid control of the body. That could lead to changes in the state’s oil tax structure and a host of social issues like abortion and school choice to be raised.
• Royal Dutch Shell PLC concluded Arctic exploratory drilling in October on its mandatory cutoff date before winter. It completed preliminary drilling at one well at the Burger-A Prospect 70 miles offshore in the Chukchi Sea and one at the Sivulliq Prospect 18 miles offshore in the Beaufort Sea. The end of drilling by Shell’s two drill ships and about 20 support vessels wraps up a tumultuous season that saw the company penetrate the ocean floor for the first time in more than two decades, finally making progress on an Arctic offshore investment of more than $4.5 billion, including $2.1 billion for Chukchi leases in 2008.
• Jurors in Juneau convicted John Marvin Jr. in the deaths of two Hoonah police officers.
• Two men were killed in April at a U.S. Coast Guard communications station in Kodiak. The FBI is the lead investigator on the case, but authorities have no suspects in the deaths.