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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

How the Feds bungled the investigation and prosecution of Israel Keyes, serial killer extraordinaire

Counter You may have never heard of Israel Keyes, and if you haven't, it's because he wanted it that way. Right up until the very end, he preferred to operate in secret. And in control.

Israel Keyes, the oldest son of ten children raised in a Mormon household in Utah, knew he was different from other people. When he tortured and killed pets, the shocked looks on his playmates' faces told him not only that he didn't have the same morals most people did, but that he'd better keep that part of his personality a secret, or he would be in big trouble.

So, for the next twenty years Israel lived a double life. He wasn't even out of his teens when he transferred his attention from defenseless animals to defenseless people. By the time he joined the Army--which happened during a time of such relative peace that he never got the opportunity to use his license to kill--he'd already abducted and raped a teenage girl in Washington State, where he lived.

After finishing his army term, he began his killing career in earnest. The consummate serial killer, he traveled thousands of miles to hunt down random people, whom he tortured and killed simply for the thrill it gave him. After a kill, the urge would subside and he'd return to his construction business. When his girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl, he decided that little children, and parents of little children, were off limits; he only killed childless couples and post-pubescent girls. He covered his tracks so well, there was virtually no chance he would ever be caught--or that any of his growing number of murders would be solved.

But in 2012, his career started to unravel. Like all addictions, killing had gone from a sport to a compulsion that he could no longer control--even by killing. When he spontaneously chose his last victim, he broke all his own rules. First of all, he targeted a local--18-year old Samantha Koenig, whom he kidnapped from her job at a coffee kiosk in his own town of Anchorage, Alaska. Secondly, he used the girl's cell phone to text a ransom demand to her parents--although by that time he had already raped and killed her. And finally, he had the ransom money deposited into Samantha's own bank account, using her ATM card to withdraw cash in a spree that took him all the way to the double wedding of his sisters in Wells, Texas, where he nearly broke up the wedding with a defiant proclamation of his atheism. As his family members tearfully urged him to repent, assuring him that God could forgive him no matter what he'd done, state and federal police officers were already closing in on his trail. He left the wedding in disgust, a cigarette between his lips and Samantha Koenig's ATM card in his rental car.

The end came soon after his last rejected chance to repent. A Lufkin police officer identified the rental car from an all-points bulletin based on a surveillance photo of him pulling away from an ATM where he had used Samantha's card. The cop pulled him over for speeding, called for backup, and arrested Israel on what turned out to be federal charges of using someone else's ATM to withdraw over $1000 in one month. The District of Alaska took jurisdiction of the case, since that's where Samantha's bank account was based.

This is where the prosecution really began to bungle the case. Focused on the intricacies of the law that protect accused criminals, the crime investigators couldn't ask him about Samantha's murder. But when he started to open up about "other chapters in this story," they realized they had a serial killer on their hands.

For the next nine months investigators continued to ask him about his previous murders, but he was cagey. Sometimes he'd bargain with them: a cigar for a name and a place. Returning his girlfriend's confiscated property for a description of where he'd disposed of a body. Again and again his demands came back to: a swift and speedy trial, sentencing, and execution. Until he got some idea of how soon the end was, he wouldn't give them all the information they demanded.

The prosecution, looking forward to a big trial--one that would no doubt be dominating the headlines right now had it gone as scheduled--wouldn't cooperate. They kept reminding Israel that he was in jail now, and they held all the cards. The best he could hope for was a life sentence, if he cooperated.

Fools. Israel didn't want a life sentence, and told them so openly. Liars that they were, they could have told him anything he wanted to hear; and in return, he would have given them the information they so desperately needed to close down a dozen cold murder cases. But when they told him he couldn't expect a trial to even start until a year after his arrest, he pulled out the trump card and ended not only the valuable stream of data they'd been teasing out of him, but the whole prosecution: despite being on suicide watch, he killed himself in his cell on Dec 2, 2012. There would be no trial, no sentencing, no execution. The Koenig case was closed without resolution--other than that divers had found her dismembered body in an Alaskan lake, just where he said he'd left it.

Prosecutors who really want to solve a case have to realize that the only person who can say how many victims a serial killer has murdered is the killer himself, and they NEVER hold all the cards until the dealing's done.

1 comment:

  1. Common sense, like morals, can only be taught to those who already have it.

    ReplyDelete

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