ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A man charged in the death of an Alaska barista was found dead in his jail cell Sunday, and authorities announced hours later that investigators have linked him in recent months to seven other possible slayings in three other states.
Israel Keyes, who had also confessed to killing a Vermont couple, died of an apparent suicide, authorities said at a hastily assembled news conference that included U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler, the FBI, and Anchorage police.
Keyes was facing a March trial in Anchorage federal court for the murder of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, who was abducted from a coffee kiosk in the city last February. He was later arrested in Texas after using the victim's debit card.
Keyes confessed to killing Koenig, as well as killing Bill and Lorraine Currier of Essex, Vt., Anchorage police chief Mark Mew told reporters.
The bodies of the Curriers have never been found. They were last seen leaving their jobs on June 8, 2011. Co-workers reported them missing the next day.
Keyes, 34, also indicated he killed four others in Washington state and one person in New York state, but didn't give the victims' names, authorities said.
The FBI contends Keyes killed Koenig less than a day after she was kidnapped. Her body was recovered April 2 from an ice-covered lake north of Anchorage.
Koenig's disappearance gripped the city for weeks.
A surveillance camera showed an apparently armed man in a hooded sweat shirt leading Koenig away from the coffee stand. Koenig's friends and relatives established a reward fund and plastered the city with fliers with her photo in hopes of finding the young woman alive.
Prosecutors said Keyes stole the debit card from a vehicle she shared that was parked near her home, obtained the personal identification number and scratched the number into the card.
After killing Koenig, Keyes used her phone to send text messages to conceal the abduction, according to prosecutors. He flew to Texas and returned Feb. 17 to Anchorage, where he sent another text message demanding ransom and directing it to the account connected to the stolen debit card, according to prosecutors.
Keyes made withdrawals from automated teller machines in Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas before his arrest in Texas, according to prosecutors. He was charged with kidnapping resulting in Koenig's death.