Press-Republican

December 6, 2012

FBI: Serial killer robbed Tupper bank in 2009

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — TUPPER LAKE — It was serial killer Israel Keyes who robbed the Community Bank here in April three years ago.

The truth about the robber and his crime, committed at gunpoint, emerged this week amid details Keyes provided to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in an unfolding sequence of horrendous crime stretching back nearly a decade.

Keyes had confessed to abducting and killing 18-year-old Samantha Koenig in Alaska last February and told authorities where to find her remains in a frozen Alaskan lake.

He also admitted kidnapping and killing Essex Junction, Vt., couple Bill and Lorraine Currier in June 2011.

FBI investigators drew piecemeal confessions as the killer was awaiting trial for Koenig’s murder. 

Keyes, 34, was found dead of apparent suicide in an Alaskan jail cell last Sunday.

Pieces are still being put together in what may unearth another grave in New York and solve at least five other missing-person or homicide cases. 

Connections to this region are still coming to light.

On April 13 three years ago, Keyes walked into the small branch office of the Community Bank on Hosely Avenue and Park Street in Tupper Lake, and, brandishing a gun, demanded cash while ordering tellers to lie on the floor.

The robbery was never solved despite widespread distribution of a security-camera snapshot showing a thief’s face hidden under a fake mustache.

Keyes told the FBI he robbed banks to fund his travels and buy supplies.

He had, apparently, been in and out of the area before and owned property and a weather-beaten house in Constable.

The grounds there were searched last October in connection with Keyes’s confessions.

The gun and silencer he stole during the Currier abduction and murder was found in the Parishville Reservoir, according to the FBI.

At a news conference in Alaska earlier this week, the FBI told the Anchorage Daily News that Keyes had hidden stashes of weapons and items used to get rid of the bodies of those he murdered. One of the caches was located at Blake Falls Reservoir in St. Lawrence County, about 34 miles north of Tupper Lake

PREMEDITATED MURDER

Keyes’s admissions and the subsequent release of those statements have opened up a nationwide search for more victims.

Arrested in Lufkin, Texas, on March 13 of this year, he was extradited to Alaska as a suspect in Koenig’s disappearance. Her debit card and cellphone were found in his vehicle, the FBI said. 

The 18-year-old woman worked at a cafe bar in Anchorage, and her only connection to Keyes was selling him a cup of coffee.

Emerging details of Koenig’s death reveal premeditation in a holdup at gunpoint, according to a statement released by District of Alaska U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler.

“Prior to February 1, 2012, Keyes had selected the Common Grounds coffee stand located on Tudor Road for the site of abduction. He did this after considering other coffee stands, but chose Common Grounds because of its location and because it was open later than other coffee stands. Keyes had never met or seen Samantha Koenig before. He approached the coffee stand just prior to closing time, wearing a ski mask, and ordered a coffee. Samantha made the coffee and handed it to Keyes; he then pulled out a gun and demanded money. Samantha complied, and then Keyes forced himself inside the coffee stand and tied Samantha’s hands with zip ties. Keyes then forcibly walked her out of the coffee stand.”

Keyes later told the FBI he asphyxiated the woman; he directed authorities to the Alaskan lake where he dumped her remains.

ADMITTED TO KILLINGS

While in custody, Keyes also told investigators he put the bodies of the Curriers in a landfill. 

Vermont police working with the FBI and Essex, Vt., police searched a landfill in Coventry last May.

Television news reports from WCAX on May 7 said two dozen FBI agents with an evidence response team arrived with a mobile crime scene command post and stayed, searching with rakes, for months.

Keyes’s statements alleging a sequence of killings are now being released by the FBI.

A timeline of the serial killer’s travels indicates he crisscrossed the United States for years. 

In a press statement, Alaska-based FBI investigators said Keyes admitted killing four people in Washington state — two (not connected to each other) during 2005 and 2006; and a couple sometime between 2001 and 2005.

The FBI does not know if the victims were residents of Washington or if they were vacationing there but lived in another state.

“Additionally,” the FBI said in the statement released Tuesday, “Keyes admitted to investigators that in 2009 he murdered a victim on the East Coast and disposed of the body in New York state.”

REMOTE LOCATIONS

Investigators believe Keyes did not know any of his victims before kidnapping them.

“He described several remote locations that he frequented to look for victims — parks, campgrounds, trailheads, cemeteries, boating areas, etc.,” federal authorities said.

“Keyes also told investigators that prior to the Currier case (Essex Junction, Vt.), his victims’ disappearances received little if any media coverage,” the FBI statement said.

“Based on his own research, Keyes stated that one of his victims has been recovered, but authorities ruled the death accidental. Investigators have not identified this victim or where this crime occurred.”

The FBI is seeking the public’s help to identify additional victims.

Anyone who may have seen Keyes in the region or may have information related to his travels is encouraged to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

The killer lived in Washington from 2001 to March 2007 before moving to Alaska, where he worked as a general contractor.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com