Peninsula Daily News and news services
NEAH BAY — The FBI is trying to make sense of “tantalizing clues” left behind by serial killer Israel Keyes, who lived and worked quietly in the Makah tribal community of Neah Bay for seven years.
Before his suicide in Anchorage, Alaska, last year, Keyes led investigators to believe he had killed at least 11 people — including five in Washington state during the time he was in Neah Bay.
He said he tied homemade milk-jug anchors to one body and dumped it from a boat into 100 feet of water in Lake Crescent, 18 miles west of Port Angeles.
He called Neah Bay “a boring town,” indicating that looking for thrills might have been a reason he killed.
Keyes also talked mysteriously about a 4½-inch knife he bought in Port Angeles — which was connected to one of the murders.
The FBI released an online package of information last week related to Keyes that includes hours of interrogation videos, photos and an interactive timeline that traces Keyes’ known whereabouts from 1997-2012.
FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said the goal of releasing the new information last week tracking Keyes’ whereabouts over 15 years was to seek input from the public, to identify victims who remain unknown and to provide some closure to their families.
“We’ve exhausted all our investigative leads,” Gonzalez said.
Anyone who might have information about Keyes or possible victims is asked to call the FBI at 800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324).
Keyes lived and worked in Neah Bay from 2001 to 2007, employed by the Makah tribe there for repair work, landscaping and construction chores, before moving to Alaska.
Neah Bay residents remember him as level-headed and a good worker, a personable friend to many and a good father to his young daughter.
His former partner and daughter still live in Neah Bay, tribal members said.
He also traveled across the U.S. and internationally — Canada, Mexico and Belize.
In his talks with FBI agents, Anchorage police and federal prosecutors, he often seemed to be playing a cat-and-mouse game with investigators, often being indirect or giving only the most sketchy details.
“He gave us a number of tantalizing clues,” said FBI Anchorage Division Special Agent Jolene Goeden.
“He talked openly about some of the homicides — but much of what he said only hinted at the things he had done. So we are trying to get information out there about what he did tell us.”
“We are letting the public [in the interactive package] know the types of cars he rented, towns he visited, campgrounds he frequented,” Goeden said.
“Anything that might spur someone’s memory could help us.”
The arrest of Keyes, 34, on March 12, 2012, in Texas for the murder of Anchorage barista Samantha Koenig ended more than a decade of traveling around the country to find victims to kill or to prepare for future crimes by burying murder kits of weapons, cash and tools to dispose of bodies.
Since March 2012, he had been slowly telling police about his hidden life and how he operated.
But the tale abruptly ended when Keyes committed suicide in his jail cell Dec. 1.
Since then, investigators have been trying to fill in the details of his vicious life. The FBI said Keyes discussed “seven or eight other victims” in addition to the three, including Koenig, that have been definitively tied to him so far.
In a Nov. 29 interview, just three days before he was found dead in his jail cell from suicide, Keyes asked whether investigators had found any knives at his New York property or on a boat he owned in Washington state.
He said there were two knives missing from his girlfriend’s home in Anchorage, and he didn’t know where they were.
He was particularly concerned about a Cold Steel Tanto, a 4½-inch folding knife he bought in Port Angeles.
Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis why the knife was important, Keyes indicated authorities might find something if they took it apart.
Was it blood?
“Well, there might, not on it, maybe inside somewhere,” Keyes replied.
He said, “yeah,” when asked if the knife was associated with one of the Washington killings.
FBI Special Agent Jolene Goeden probed deeper, asking if a body were found at the bottom of Lake Crescent, would it still be intact.
“Were they contained in something or were they just tied to the milk jugs?” she asked.
“No,” he responded.
She pressed, “I mean, is it something where we, we might possible actually still get an intact . . .”
“No,” Keyes repeated, cutting her off.
He later indicated the folding blade wasn’t the primary means of death.
Asked if the victims were shot or strangled, Keyes replied after chuckling, “You’ll get the whole story eventually.”
He then relented and said the only victim shot was Bill Currier in Vermont.
All others were strangled except one Washington victim, who was hit in the head and killed as Keyes tried to subdue him.
Feldis and another assistant U.S. attorney, Frank Russo, decided in the taped interview that the Washington state couple were buried in a hole and not submerged in the lake.
Keyes says, “Yeah, that was a while ago.”
Keyes went to work for the Makah after he got out of the Army in July 2001.
“It wasn’t that long that you, um, killed somebody, and it was that sort of feeling that you needed . . . “ Feldis said.
“Yeah, Neah Bay’s a boring town,” Keyes replied.
Later, the questioning turned to the bodies in the Lake Crescent, and Keyes seemingly chastised his interrogators about not figuring out one of the locations.
“You guys know about Lake Crescent in Washington, right?” he said.
Feldis asked, “And that’s the lake?”
“That’s one of the lakes,” Keyes replied.
Keyes indicated he weighed the body or bodies down with four to five milk jugs.
“Just for one body,” Feldis asked.
“Yeah,” Keyes said.
Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said park officials have no plans to search the lake without more exact information about the location of a body.
Maynes said the park had no missing-person reports that correlated with the period of time Keyes lived in Neah Bay.
He was issued “a few overnight backcountry permits” for hiking in the national park during that time, Maynes said.
The FBI said Keyes sought many of his victims while hiking and camping.
“We have been talking with the FBI and are making sure we are sharing information completely with them,” Maynes said.
To the best of their knowledge, none of Keyes’ victims lived in Clallam or Jefferson counties, Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict and Jefferson County Sheriff Tony Hernandez said Tuesday.
They said there no links between Keyes and missing-person reports or ongoing cold-case investigations in the two counties.
The FBI believes one victim was killed shortly after Keyes was released from the Army and living in Neah Bay.
The other two people buried in Washington state are believed to have been killed from July 2001 to 2005.
The other two victims in the state were believed to have been killed in 2005 or 2006.
After his arrests in 2012, Keyes was charged with the murder of 17-year-old Samantha Koenig, an Anchorage barista who was kidnapped from the coffee stand where she worked.
Her dismembered body was pulled from a lake north of Anchorage two months after she went missing.
Keyes later confessed to the 2011 murders of Bill and Lorraine Currier of Essex, Vt., and indicated to authorities there were victims in a total of 10 states.
The FBI said Keyes never disclosed much information about the other crimes, saying he wanted to keep as many details as possible out of the media so his daughter wouldn’t be able to find any information on the Internet or so his mother “wouldn’t have a heart attack” reading what he did.
He also was in constant negotiations with investigators, oftentimes frustrating them on not releasing information as he said he would.