Israel Keyes killed at least eight people before taking his own life Sunday. He confessed to the abduction and murders of Bill and Lorraine Currier of Essex, as well as 18-year-old Samantha Koenig of Anchorage, Alaska. But he took the identities of his remaining victims with him to his grave.
Power, domination and aggression likely motivated the 34-year-old Alaska man to kill, according to criminologist Penny Shtull. She studies serial killers and says Keyes is a unique case.
"He would fit into the category of serial killing because he didn't kill for traditional motives. He killed mainly for what appears to be for pleasure," Shtull said.
Keyes blended into society and that's what experts say made him so dangerous. No one suspected that the self-employed contractor who lived in a suburban home with a woman and child would turn out to be a murderer.
"It gave him an ability to be anonymous, to be successful as a killer," Shtull said. "He didn't look like a killer. He had a family; he had a place to go to."
But what's not so typical is that Keyes travelled far from his comfort zone, burying money and murder supplies around the country in anticipation of future crime. The FBI says he would often fly to one location, rent a car and drive hundreds of miles to find a victim, a risk less than 25 percent of serial killers take.
"Tells me he's confident, he practiced, he's probably killed before. He's an organized killer," Shtull said.
The FBI says Keyes would fund his nationwide search for victims in part through bank robberies, including one in our region. Authorities say Keyes was caught on camera holding up the Community Bank in Tupper Lake in 2009. He pointed a gun at the teller and made off with an undisclosed amount of cash. Shtull says the bank robber-serial killer combo is rare.
"He does seem to be of a hedonistic or a power control type," Shtull said.
Control that she says drove him to return to the Currier crime scene days later. She says serial killers get pleasure from the fear they imposed on a community where they've killed and it's no surprise he continued to follow the case through media reports.
Reporter Jennifer Reading: Does it surprise you that Israel Keyes committed suicide?
Penny Shtull: It's another aspect of him having the power and the control. He had the ability to determine when his life was ended and what information he was going to giving authorities. So in the end he kind of got the last hurrah.
Keyes told the FBI that prior to the Curriers, his victims' disappearances got little if any media attention. And based on his own research, he says police classified one of his murders as an accidental death, yet he would not reveal the identity of that victim.
Asked how reliable Keyes is likely to be, Shtull says it goes back to his need for power and control. Police questioning was Keyes' chance to relive his crime and to relish in everything that he did. So, she says it's quite possible that he could have exaggerated some of those horrific details.
Interestingly, federal prosecutors say Keyes revealed more details about the Currier case than any of his other killings. Shtull says one explanation for that is that it may be the crime he was most proud of.
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