The note serial killer Israel Keyes left behind after he killed himself in the Anchorage Correctional Center on December 2, 2012 is as peculiar and opaque as its author. The document reads like part gutter punk screed --- “Land of the free, land of the lie, land of scheme Americanize” --- and part Hannibal Lecter diary entry: “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.”
He was as lousy a writer as he was a person, and one can imagine the FBI frantically scanning the blood-smeared document, hoping Keyes will drop the purple prose and get to the point: who else did he kill? Unfortunately Keyes was skilled in building momentum. He reeled them in with innuendo. He parceled clues and promised bombshells. It’s hard to watch video footage of his interviews with the FBI, because despite the Quantico-trained neutral, even amiable, interrogation techniques we know how it ends --- the guy in the cuffs and orange jumpsuit cuts out without giving it up and leaves the feds holding nothing but elliptical, possibly inaccurate clues and four pages of bad, junior-high level goth poetry.
To their credit the FBI decided to go public with what they know and want to know, and have released an extensive interactive timeline and map related to Keyes. The available material is a combination of facts --- car rentals, flights, that sort of thing --- and debatable information, which is to say what Keyes told investigators while in custody. For instance, Keyes maintained that only his last three victims, Bill and Lorraine Currier from Essex, Vermont, and Samantha Koenig in Anchorage, garnered media attention. The others, he seemed to intimate, were more under-the-radar, “disposable” type victims.
I don’t believe it. Why suddenly the last three? A killer who’s comfortable invading the middle-class home of random strangers in a bucolic town is not trolling skid row for marginalized folks who won’t be missed.
Keyes claimed he sometimes used arson to cover up homicide; this detail I’m more apt to believe. In the interrogations it’s clear he was very concerned with how high-profile media coverage of his crimes might negatively affect his young daughter. That could have motivated him to underplay the status of his previous victims. But he clearly took great pleasure in the planning and executing of his violent crimes, and I think the manner in which he did them would be a perverse source of pride for him.
It could also be that I know of several unsolved arson homicides that nag at me:
Bill Chapman, 91, and his wife, Lena, 81, were murdered in their home in Merced, California on October 1, 2006. A fire was set after their deaths and caused extensive damage to the home.
Bill Wood, 79, and his wife, Kay, 72, were found missing after a fire was set to their home in Norwalk, Iowa, just south of Des Moines, on July 30, 2011. Bill's remains were later recovered from the fire. He'd been shot multiple times. Kay is still missing.
Harry Smith, 89, died of blunt force trauma in his home on October 16, 2011 in Chillicothe, Ohio. His house was set on fire as well.
My friend Steve Huff wrote a story on Keyes and his possible connection to several unsolved crimes in an earlier TCD post that can be found here.