Investigators say a missing Essex couple was murdered and WCAX News has found out who the prime suspect is.
WCAX News first reported Thursday that the announcement would come Friday-- and now it's official: The dig at the Coventry landfill is over. The bodies of Bill and Lorraine Currier were not recovered. But police say they do have evidence the couple was abducted from their Colbert Street home in Essex last June and murdered by a stranger a short time later. Authorities said the couple's garage window was broken, Lorraine's .38-caliber handgun was missing and the phone line to the home had been cut. There has been no activity on their bank accounts since June 7 of last year. The Essex police chief says this has been a difficult case from day one.
"It's a bittersweet day," Essex Police Chief Brad LaRose said. "We do have some information that we can share that we haven't been able to share thus far. But Bill and Lorraine are gone and our hearts go out to the families."
"The investigation has developed significant information that William and Lorraine Currier were abducted from their home and murdered shortly thereafter in June 2011. The person believed to have committed the murders is in custody in another state and will remain in custody. No charges have yet been brought against this person for the Curriers' murders, but charges are anticipated," said Tristram Coffin, the U.S. Attorney for Vermont.
"Their murders were a random act of violence that occurred in our community. There is nothing the Curriers did in their personal lives that contributed to their deaths," Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan said. "This confirmation today that the Curriers were murdered is a declaration that hopefully will serve at least two purposes. One, that someone in custody will be held responsible for their murders. Secondly, the process of grieving can continue to the next stage for all that knew and loved Bill and Lorraine Currier."
Authorities would not identify the suspect. But a WCAX News investigation over the last several months has led us to the identity of the man suspected of killing the Curriers. His name is Israel Keyes, and we have also learned he owns property in our region.
Keyes is being held 4,500 miles away in an Alaska prison charged with a different crime. Keyes was indicted in April for allegedly kidnapping and killing an 18-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska.
"The indictment alleges that Israel Keyes abducted Samantha Koenig from the Common Grounds coffee stand on Tudor Road on February 1st," U.S. Attorney for Alaska Kevin Feldis said.
Federal prosecutors say Keyes, 34, an army veteran and self-employed contractor, allegedly forced Koenig into his truck at gunpoint. They say Keyes stole a debit card from the coffeehouse worker and used her cellphone to conceal her murder.
"The allegations continue that he confined her and intentionally killed her early the next morning," Feldis said.
Court papers show Keyes fled Alaska, hitting ATMs in several states out west, withdrawing money along the way. Police tracked those transactions to Texas where police pulled Keyes over for speeding and found rolls of cash in the car. He was arrested on a fraud charge for allegedly using the stolen debit card. Police held him while they continued to investigate Koenig's disappearance. On April 1, investigators recovered Koenig's body from an Anchorage lake after a brief search.
"A lot of people I know right now are heartbroken," a co-worker said. "Everyone was rooting for her until the very end."
Sources tell WCAX News that while Keyes was being questioned about the Alaska murder, he told investigators where they could find the bodies of a missing Vermont couple.
Less than two weeks later, Vermont authorities working the Currier case zeroed in on a property off Route 15 in Essex; 32 Upper Main Street is only a few miles from the Curriers' home. Police focused on an area where an abandoned house once stood. Neighbors say it was known hangout for squatters until it was demolished last fall. Investigators dug beneath its foundation for two days, taking some evidence from the scene.
WCAX News has confirmed Keyes was staying in Essex at the exact the time the couple went missing. And he checked out of his hotel the day after they disappeared.
Then there's the person of interest sketch. Police released it to the public last June, saying an eyewitness placed this man in the couple's dark green Saturn sedan after they went missing. By July they were doubting its credibility. We wanted to ask investigators if Keyes matched the sketch. They declined to comment on any similarities.
Ten weeks ago, the search for clues in the Currier case took a sharp turn. Investigators chased construction debris from the Essex site to a Coventry landfill. Scores of FBI agents sifted through the trash. But two and a half months later, the location of the bodies of Bill and Lorraine Currier remain a mystery.
We don't know why Keyes was staying at the hotel in Essex, but we do know he owns a cabin and 10 acres of property in Constable, N.Y. That's in Franklin County.
Keyes has not been charged with the murders of Bill and Lorraine Currier, but charges are expected.
Police would not comment on whether they believe they have a serial killer on their hands.
The family did not attend the press conference, but in a written statement read to the media, they thanked friends, co-workers and community members for their support. They also expressed gratitude for all the police hours spent on the case and asked the public to respond to this random act of violence with daily acts of kindness.
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