The Most Meticulous Serial Killer of Modern Times Is Taunting the FBI from Beyond the Grave

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Aug. 13 2013 5:26 PM

The Most Meticulous Serial Killer of Modern Times Is Taunting the FBI from Beyond the Grave

Israel Keyes
Israel Keyes

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Crime is Slate’s crime blog. Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @slatecrime.

Last year I wrote about Israel Keyes, the Alaska-based serial killer whom I dubbed the most meticulous serial killer of his generation. Keyes was initially arrested in March 2012 for “access device fraud,” after he was caught in Texas using a debit card that belonged to a missing Alaska woman named Samantha Koenig. Before he committed suicide while in police custody last December, Keyes had admitted to killing Koenig and seven other people across the country, was suspected in three other murders, and had given the authorities a grim glimpse into his working method. Keyes would allegedly fly to one city, then rent a car and drive to another. Once he arrived at his destination, he would choose a random victim in a remote location, murder the person, and leave—sometimes, the FBI believes, accompanied by his victim’s corpse, which he would bury in another state. He stashed “crime caches” across the country—cash, weapons, and body-disposal tools. He only killed strangers. He did everything possible to avoid detection, and, indeed, would never have been suspected in many of these murders if he hadn’t implicated himself. (Yes, it is very, very weird that this extremely careful man was caught after deciding to use Koenig's debit card, an uncharacteristically sloppy decision.) 

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In fact, Keyes was so good at covering his tracks that, more than eight months after his suicide, the FBI is still having trouble identifying many of his victims. Aside from Koenig and a Vermont couple named Bill and Lorraine Currier, Keyes did not tell the FBI his victims’ names—or much else about them, other than a rough approximation of when and where he killed them. Now, in an effort to gather more details, the FBI has released a detailed timeline of Keyes’ criminal activities.

As you might imagine, it is both comprehensive and vague, and it underscores just how little the FBI really knows about Keyes’ crimes. Here’s one representative entry:

July 2001 to 2005: Keyes stated he murdered an unidentified couple in Washington. Keyes refused to tell law enforcement if the couple was married or what their relationship to one another was. It is unknown if the victims were residents of Washington, tourists, or residents he abducted from a nearby state and transported to Washington. Keyes alluded to the fact these victims were buried in a location near a valley.

“Near a valley.” Have you looked at a map of Washington state recently? It’s filled with valleys!

Here’s another entry:

April 9, 2009: Keyes admitted to abducting a female victim from a state on the east coast and transported that person over multiple state lines into New York. The victim is buried in upstate New York. Investigators do not believe this victim is buried on the property Keyes owns in Constable, New York.

OK, great, so that rules out one of the land lots in upstate New York. Gotta start somewhere, I guess.

And another:

Keyes provided additional details regarding the abduction and murder of a female. The female is described as having pale skin, possibly having a wealthy grandmother, and driving an older car at the time of her abduction.

I have no idea why the FBI hasn’t cracked that case yet.

This all goes to show three things. First, it is possible to get away with horrible crimes if you spread them out across jurisdictions, have no connection to the victims, and make sure to stay away from home. Second, a comprehensive national missing-persons database sure would come in handy with cases like these. And third, jail authorities need to do a better job keeping a suicide watch on their evil-genius control-freak serial-killer inmates.

Give the FBI timeline a look. Maybe you’ll be able to help. Heaven knows the FBI needs all the help it can get.

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