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Vermont authorities point to suspected serial killer Israel Keyes in 2011 double murder

Ben Anderson
Photo courtesy Alaska Police Department

The saga of Israel Keyes, who had been in prison in Alaska since this spring on charges of kidnapping and killing 18-year-old barista Samantha Koenig, took an even-more-violent turn Monday when authorities in Vermont disclosed details of a grisly June 2011 double murder they say Keyes admitted to committing.

Officials said Keyes killed himself in his prison cell early Sunday morning, adding that they believed Keyes was a serial killer who may have been involved in as many as eight murders. Keyes has only been linked with three of those murders publicly. The first was the Feb. 1 death of Samantha Koenig, whom officials suspect Keyes kidnapped from the coffee stand she worked at in Anchorage before killing her and dumping her body in Matanuska Lake.

The other murder took place more than six months before the Koenig case, in June 2011. That's when an Essex, Vt. couple was taken from their home in the middle of the night, never to be seen again. That couple, 50-year-old Bill Currier and 55-year-old Lorraine Currier, disappeared with their pets and medicine still at the house, immediately worrying friends and family.

During a press conference Monday at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Burlington, Vt., U.S. Attorney Tris Coffin called Keyes “a force of pure evil acting at random” when the couple was murdered. Neither of the bodies has been found. 

The information on the grisly murders, never before publicly available, reportedly came from Keyes, who officials said spoke with investigators following his incarceration in Alaska.

A random act of violence

According to T.J. Donovan, Chittenden County prosecutor in Vermont, Bill and Lorraine Currier were the random victims of a planned-out attack by Keyes on the night of June 8 and the morning of June 9, 2011.

According to Donovan, Keyes left Alaska -- where he worked as a handyman and contractor -- on June 2 and landed in Chicago before renting a car and driving to Vermont. Keyes had visited the same area before, in 2009, and Donovan said that Keyes had malicious intent for the 2011 trip.

“Keyes left with the specific purpose of kidnapping and murdering someone, and he had a gun and silencer with him,” Donovan said. He checked into a local hotel and began looking for a specific type of house, Donovan said -- one with an attached garage, with no cars in the driveway, that had neither children nor a dog inside.

Donovan said that Keyes provided investigators with numerous details, unavailable to the public, about the layout of the Curriers’ home, the fact that the phone line had been cut -- in the hopes of preventing a security system from calling out -- and a crowbar hanging in the garage that Keyes supposedly used to smash the glass between the garage and the main house.

'Blitz attack'

There, Donovan said, Keyes engaged in what he described to investigators as a “blitz attack,” arriving in their bedroom five or six seconds after entering the house. He wore a headlamp, tied the two with zipties, and interrogated them on whether they had a gun in the house.

They did have a gun -- a .38 caliber snubnose Ruger, which Donovan said Keyes correctly described to investigators and that hadn’t been disclosed to the public. Keyes took that gun with him.

Keyes then reportedly put the Curriers into their own car and drove to an abandoned farmhouse, where Donovan said Keyes “had earlier decided he would take the couple he kidnapped to this location, and kill them.”

Keyes allegedly took Bill Currier into the basement and further bound him to a stool, then returned to the car for Lorraine Currier. There, Donovan said, Keyes saw Lorraine had escaped and was running toward the street. He tackled her and returned her to the second floor of the farmhouse.

Donovan, who appeared to choke up as he read a prepared statement recounting the specific details of the murders, said that Keyes then returned to the basement to find Bill Currier had partially freed himself.

Currier was repeatedly yelling “Where’s my wife?” at Keyes, who then allegedly struck Bill with a shovel before shooting him with the silenced gun.

Then, Donovan said, Keyes returned to the second floor, where he sexually assaulted Lorraine Currier before taking her down to the basement and strangling her.

“(Keyes) then placed Bill and Lorraine in separate garbage bags…placed the bagged bodies in the corner of the basement of the farmhouse, and put debris on top of the bodies,” Donovan said.

Ongoing investigations

Keyes then traveled in the Curriers’ car with the intention of robbing a Vermont bank, but became concerned with the vehicle's maintenance and dropped it in a parking lot. Then, Donovan said, Keyes traveled to Maine, passed back through Vermont, and threw the guns into a reservoir in Parishville, N.Y.

Dive teams recovered both of those weapons. The bodies went undiscovered after the farmhouse was demolished and an extensive search was unable to recover the Curriers’ remains from an area landfill.

Alaska authorities building rapport

Keyes reportedly told investigators that he would stop assisting in the investigation if his name was publicly linked to the Vermont killings, and authorities agreed to those terms. According to Lt. George Murtie, an investigator with the Essex Police Department, Keyes clammed up for a while after his name was tied to the Curriers’ disappearance by a local Vermont television station, citing anonymous sources.

“He stopped talking to investigators for a while after his name was linked,” Murtie said, before adding that “the folks in Alaska spent a lot of time trying to build rapport with him” to further the investigation.

U.S. Attorney Coffin didn’t go so far as to call Keyes a “serial killer” -- though FBI special agent Jolene Goeden did refer to Keyes that way on Sunday -- but acknowledged that Keyes had indicated committing other murders.

“He killed multiple other people, that’s where I’ll leave it,” Coffin said. Keyes is linked to a potential four other murders in Washington state and one in New York state, which Coffin said likely took place in 2009. Investigators currently believe Keyes is not tied to any other cases in Alaska or Vermont.

Coffin said that why Keyes committed the murders wasn’t entirely clear.

“He provided some motivation (to investigators),” Coffin said. But I don’t think it’s able to be pigeonholed, why he did this." He added that it appeared to be a conscious decision on Keyes’s part. 

“These were volitional acts of his,” Coffin said. "He wasn't compelled by some uncontrollable force."

The investigation into the other murders will continue, and the FBI continues to seek leads on Keyes’ whereabouts in recent years.

Contact Ben Anderson ben(at)alaskadispatch.com