When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Israel Keyes

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Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.

Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.

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Israel Keyes

Israel Keyes has been referred to as “the most notorious serial killer in a generation” and “the most meticulous serial killer of modern times.” He also was homeschooled.

Israel Keyes has been referred to as "the most notorious serial killer in a generation."

Israel Keyes has been referred to as “the most notorious serial killer in a generation.”

Israel was born in 1978 in Richmond, Utah. His parents were fundamentalist Mormons and homeschooled him and his siblings. When his family moved to Stevens County, Washington, they attended a Christian Identity church called “The Ark,” known for its racism and anti-Semitism. While attending the Ark and living in Washington, the Keyes family became neighbors and friends with the aforementioned Kehoe family. Israel, Chevie, and Cheyne were childhood friends who remained friends through their teenage years.

Israel’s criminal activities allegedly began around 1996 when, at age18, he raped a young girl in Oregon. He intended to kill her, but eventually decided against it. He then began a series of burglaries and robberies. In 2007, Israel created Keyes Construction in Alaska and became a construction contractor. Through his business, he traveled around the U.S. and planned and committed an alarming number of murders. His killing tactics were indeed meticulous: “he would choose a random victim in a remote location, murder the person, and leave,” and “he only killed strangers.”  He financed these trips by robbing banks. He had “murder kits” — with items like shovels, plastic bags, money, weapons, ammunition and bottles of Drano — “to help dispose of the bodies.” After his murders, he would bury his kits. His kits have been discovered in Alaska and New York, but he claims he also buried some in Washington, Wyoming, Texas, and Arizona.

In February 2012, Israel kidnapped an 18-year-old barista named Samantha Koenig in Anchorage. The abduction was caught on video by the coffee shop’s surveillance system and a massive search began for her. Unfortunately, Samantha was killed not long after the abduction. Israel raped her and strangled her to death, then left her body in a shed and went on a 2-week-long cruise. When he returned after the cruise, he then dismembered her body and dumped it in a lake. Israel was finally caught because on March 16, 2012, he used Samantha’s debit card while in Lufkin, Texas.

While being interrogated, Israel confessed to eight murders. He also said he studied the tactics of other serial killers but “was careful to point out” that “he used his own ideas, those of other famous killers.” He added that, after murdering, he “liked to return to Alaska and then follow the news of his murders on the Internet.”

On December 2, 2012, Israel committed suicide in his Anchorage jail cell by cutting his wrists and strangling himself with a bed sheet. He did not leave a straightforward suicide note, but rather a four-page “Ode to Murder.”

To this day, the FBI is “still having trouble identifying many of his victims.” They have created a timeline of his criminal activities from what they know. As of August 12, 2013,

Federal authorities released new information on Keyes, revealing that they suspect him to have a final death toll of eleven victims, all killed from 2001 to 2012, and that there are presumably other victims in Canada (where he sought out prostitutes) and other countries.

View the case index here.

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