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Serial-murder suspect, a suicide in Alaska, called ‘a force of pure evil acting at random’

By Michelle Theriault Boots and Lisa Demer, Anchorage Daily News –

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Israel Keyes was a serial killer who traveled from Alaska to Vermont for the “specific purpose of kidnapping and murdering,” and who chose his victims there for no reason other than the layout of their home, Vermont authorities said Monday.

Speaking to Vermont media, federal and local authorities gave the first detailed account of the killings of Bill and Lorraine Currier, who disappeared from their Essex, Vt., home in June 2011.

Keyes’ victims encountered “a force of pure evil acting at random,” said Tristram Coffin, the U.S. attorney for Vermont.

Prosecutors said Keyes confessed in jail to first shooting Bill Currier to death as he yelled for his wife, and then sexually assaulting and strangling Lorraine Currier in the basement of an abandoned farmhouse.

The 34-year-old contractor and handyman, accused in the kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, committed suicide in his jail cell at the Anchorage Correctional Complex on Sunday, authorities said.

Authorities believe Keyes killed eight people: Samantha Koenig, the Curriers, one person in New York and four in Washington state. Koenig, a barista, was abducted from an Anchorage coffee bar on Feb. 1.

The state Department of Corrections would not say whether Keyes left a suicide note, whether he was on suicide watch or even when he was last checked.

Kevin Feldis, the chief criminal prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in Anchorage, also declined to address whether there was a suicide note but said that everything in Keyes’ jail cell is being examined.

Feldis said that of the four people Keyes told them he killed in Washington state, two were a couple.

He said it wasn’t clear if the other two were connected to each other in any way.

Keyes provided broad time frames for the Washington state deaths and gave a more specific time frame for the person he said he killed in New York state, Feldis said.

On Monday, Coffin said the murder in New York happened in 2009.

Investigators were still trying to get him to reveal more when he apparently killed himself.

Monday was the first time authorities have revealed the details of any of the crimes or how victims were killed. Coffin said that Keyes confessed to murdering the Vermont couple while he was being questioned by Anchorage police and federal authorities.

But he threatened to stop talking about his other victims if his name was publicly connected to the killings.

“He repeatedly indicated if his name was publicly linked he’d discontinue talking to them,” said T.J. Donovan, a Chittenden County prosecutor.

After his name surfaced in Vermont media reports, he did stop talking for a time, Coffin said.

Donovan recounted a narrative of the murders as Keyes had described them to authorities in Alaska:

On June 2, 2011, Keyes flew from Alaska to Chicago with plans to kidnap and kill, Donovan said.

He rented a car and drove east to Vermont. His reasons for picking the state and town of Essex weren’t addressed in the news conference, but authorities said he may have visited the small town east of Burlington in 2009.

Once in Essex, Keyes rented a room at the Handy Suites hotel and began looking for a target.

“He was specifically looking for a house with an attached garage, no children or a dog,” Donovan said.

Keyes was also seeking a home where he could easily predict the interior layout in order to figure out quickly where people inside were sleeping, Donovan said.

The Currier house fit that description, he said.

Keyes cut the phone lines to test whether the house had a security system. It did not.

Later, he removed a fan from a garage window, entered the garage and used a crowbar stored there to break a window to the home.

In what Donovan said Keyes described as a “blitz attack” he ran into the couple’s bedroom wearing a headlamp and tied them up with zip ties.

He took Lorraine Currier’s purse, a gun belonging to the couple and their cell phones, then forced them into their car.

He drove them to an abandoned farmhouse he’d earlier scouted and led Bill Currier into the basement, where he tied him to a stool.

When he returned to the car, Donovan said, he found that Lorraine Currier had broken free of her zip ties and was running toward the street.

Keyes tackled the woman and took her to the second floor of the farmhouse.

In the basement, he discovered Bill Currier had partially broken the stool in an attempt to escape.

“Bill yelled, ‘Where’s my wife?’ “ Donovan said.

Keyes hit the man with a shovel and then shot him to death using a gun with a silencer, he said.

Then he returned upstairs and sexually assaulted Lorriane Currier, choking her to the point where she lost consciousness.

He took her to the basement, still alive, and strangled her to death.

After putting the couple’s bodies in separate garbage bags and leaving them in a corner of the farmhouse, he drove back to his hotel and then left Essex.

Later, he drove to Maine. On the way back, he stopped at a national forest in New Hampshire to burn some evidence.

On his drive west, Keyes threw a gun used in the crime in a reservoir. All the while, he closely tracked media reports about the missing couple.

Bill Currier, 49, was an animal care technician. His 55-year-old wife worked in patient services for a health care organization.

During interrogation, Keyes gave authorities information that had never been released to the public, such as the layout of the Currier home and descriptions of military medals found in the house and items from their car.

The farmhouse where the Curriers were killed was later torn down and its contents were hauled to a landfill, according to Vermont press reports. Despite what authorities said was the biggest-ever search of its kind in the state, the bodies of Bill and Lorraine Currier have never been recovered.

Authorities had little to say Monday about Keyes’ motivation for the murders but did say he described his actions to investigators as conscious choices.

“He wasn’t compelled by some uncontrollable force,” Coffin said. “He liked to do it.”

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