New Video Footage Shows the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of Modern Times Toying with the FBI

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Aug. 20 2013 5:22 PM

New Video Footage Shows the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of Modern Times Toying with the FBI

Israel Keyes

Federal Bureau of Investigation

The FBI is releasing more and more material in its efforts to gather information about the alleged crimes of Israel Keyes. The Alaska-based serial killer killed himself while in custody last year, leaving much unsaid about at least 11 murders he is said to have committed across the United States. Early last week the FBI released a comprehensive albeit incomplete timeline of Keyes’ suspected criminal activity, which I wrote about here. But the FBI has also released six hours’ worth of video footage of Keyes being interviewed with authorities. The tapes offer a look inside the mind of one of the most bloodless serial killers of modern times—though perhaps not in the way you’d think.

There’s nothing theatrical about the tapes. Tempers don’t flare, chairs aren’t thrown. And, really, there’s no reason to expect Keyes to be slavering like some horror-movie villain. In fact, the tapes are notable for their mundanity, and there even seems to be a bit of a rapport between Keyes and the various law enforcement officials. The officers offer Keyes food, and regularly ask him if he needs to go and “take a leak.” (He does not.)


Throughout the tapes, Keyes is calm, and detached, and obsessed with maintaining as much control over the situation as he can. He does this by withholding information about the crimes he said he committed. He says that he’s doing this because he doesn’t want his family to find out about the things he’s done. But, often, it seems like he just likes making officers of the law beg for his cooperation. Here he is, talking about the authorities’ unsuccessful efforts to locate the body of one of Keyes’ victims from New York state:

PAYNE: One of the best analogies I’ve heard for it is it’s more like an archeological dig, uh, now it is just kinda tossing things…
KEYES: Right.
PAYNE: … until you find what you think you’re looking for.
KEYES: Yeah, that’s a lot of trouble to go to. I almost feel guilty (chuckles). Costing the tax payers a lot of money to find them (chuckles).
PAYNE: Well …
BELL: But that …
KEYES: Coulda just kept my mouth shut (chuckles). 

Though it really feels like Keyes is enjoying himself, the officers remain calm because they need the information that’s inside the killer’s brain. And in the five tapes, which were shot between May 2012 and November 2012, you can feel the officers getting a little bit irritated with Keyes’ failure to give them any usable data:

KEYES: I know I don’t have any rights in this situation. I—all I have is information. So now you’re upset with me that I wanna control the information so I …
FELDIS No, I’m not—I’m not upset—upset with you. I said I’m—I started here by saying, you know, it’s more depressing and yet there’s frustration. But I mean I - I – I …
KEYES There’s gonna be a lot of frustration before this is all over but I mean there—it’s already been years of frustration for a lot of people. So they’re gonna have to learn to live with it for a little bit longer.

The wait continues, which is why the FBI is now releasing all of this information, in hopes that members of the public can help them fill in some of the gaps. “That fact that Keyes is dead makes it more difficult for us,” an Anchorage FBI agent said in a FBI press release, “but the investigation absolutely continues.” Give the tapes a look and see if you can help.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at


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