"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
A confessed serial killer and bank robber who took his own life in an Alaska jail cell on Sunday was exposed to the racist and anti-Semitic beliefs of Christian Identity theology during his childhood in a rural corner of Washington state, Hatewatch has learned.
Israel Keyes, 34, now linked to at least eight murders throughout the United States in the past 11 years, was a childhood friend and neighbor in Stevens County, Wash., of terrorists Chevie and Cheyne Kehoe — two racist brothers now serving lengthy prison sentences for murder and attempted murder.
“The two families, the Keyeses and the Kehoes, were neighbors and friends and lived about a half mile apart off Aladdin Road north of Colville” in Stevens County, Wash., a source with direct knowledge of the situation said. “The kids in both families were home-schooled and they sometimes attended a Christian Identity church called The Ark, just up the road from their homes,” the source said.
The Ark, headed by 83-year-old Pastor Dan Henry, preaches that white people are the superior, chosen race and that the Bible is their story. Identity followers generally believe that modern-day Jews are not the real descendants of the Hebrews of the Bible, and many say that Jews are biologically descended from Satan. Identity believers often describe themselves as the true “Israel,” suggesting that Keyes’ first name is a reference to his family’s beliefs.
Israel Keyes, who apparently wasn’t given a middle name, was born in Utah to Mormon parents who purchased rural property in Stevens County, near the U.S.-Canadian border, when he was a child. On a website for the general contracting business he owned, Keyes listed Colville, Wash., as his hometown and said he built his first log cabin in Stevens County when he was 16.
“He could have attended here, but I don’t specifically remember,” Henry, the Christian Identity pastor, told Hatewatch today when contacted at his church, Our Place Fellowship, located about a mile south of the U.S.-Canadian border. Henry said his church, which he founded in 1975 after moving from Nevada, doesn’t keep a membership roster. “We’ve had hundreds of people attend our fellowship over the years, and I certainly don’t know them all.”
Henry said he had heard news reports about Israel Keyes and his crimes. While he said he didn’t recall meeting Keyes, “I know his family lived her for a time. I don’t remember seeing him here at our church, but he could have been.”
Israel Keyes is believed to have been one of two teenage boys in the Keyes family who showed up along with Chevie and Cheyne Kehoe at a 1992 rally at Ft. Colville Grange, where human rights activists where attempting to organize and counter a growing number of racists and neo-Nazis in Stevens County, the source told Hatewatch.
The FBI is now actively putting together a timeline of Keyes’ past, including times he spent in Stevens County. It’s not clear if any of the four murders Keyes confessed to committing in Washington state occurred in Stevens County, but there is interest in his possible connection to the 1996 murder there of a 12-year-old girl who had prosthetic legs.
Stevens County Undersheriff LaVonne Webb told Hatewatch that while her office is piecing together a timeline of Keyes’ activities in Stevens County, he has not been definitively linked to any unsolved homicides there. “He is not tied at this point to any case that we have in Stevens County,” the undersheriff said.
Keyes was arrested in March in Texas and later indicted in Alaska on three federal charges related to the kidnapping-murder in February of 18-year-old Anchorage barista Samantha Koenig. Keyes was charged with kidnapping resulting in death, receipt and possession of ransom money, and fraud with access device.
The FBI now says Keyes’ nationwide killing spree may date back at least a decade, to when he was 24 or even younger. He has been linked to four murders in Washington state, one in New York and two in Vermont — a couple named Bill and Loraine Currier who were killed in 2011.
Before committing suicide early Sunday, Keyes, a self-employed carpenter, general contractor and U.S. Army veteran, admitted responsibility for robbing several banks, Mary Rook, the FBI special agent in charge in Alaska, said Monday.
Keyes was in the U.S. Army from 1998-2000, stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., Fort Hood, Texas, and Egypt before being honorably discharged in June 2000, his records show.
Investigators were cautiously interviewing Keyes, attempting to develop a relationship so he would open up and possibly implicate himself in other crimes, and he was cooperating, at least to some extent. Now all investigators can do is work with what he told them and develop a timeline detailing his extensive, almost impulsive travels throughout the United States. They suspect he may be behind more than the eight killings he already had accepted responsibility for.
“Keyes used proceeds from his bank robberies to pay for his travel, along with money he made as a general contractor,” Rook, the FBI official, said in a statement. “Keyes also admitted traveling to various locations to leave supplies he planned to use in future crimes,” Rook said. “Keyes buried caches throughout the United States.”
“The FBI has recovered two caches buried by Keyes – one in Eagle River, Alaska, and one near Blakes Falls Reservoir in New York. The caches contained weapons and other items used to dispose of bodies. Keyes indicated the other caches he buried throughout the U.S. contain weapons, money, and items used to dispose of victims,” Rook said.
In a series of interviews with law enforcement officials, Keyes described “significant planning and preparation for his murders, reflecting a meticulous and organized approach to his crimes,” Rook said.
“It was not unusual for Keyes to fly into an airport, rent a car, and drive hundreds of miles to his final destination,” the FBI official said. “This was the case in the murder of Bill and Loraine Currier, where Keyes flew into Chicago, rented a car, and drove across several states before arriving in Essex, Vt. After the murder of the Curriers, Keyes continued his travels on the east coast before returning to Chicago and then to Alaska.”
The FBI official said Keyes “admitted to murdering four people in Washington State. “He killed two people, independent of each other, sometime during 2005 and 2006, and murdered a couple in Washington between 2001 and 2000,” Rook said.
“It is unknown if these victims were residents of Washington or if they were vacationing in Washington but resided in another state. It is also possible Keyes abducted them from a nearby state and transported them to Washington.
“Additionally, Keyes admitted to investigators that in 2009 he murdered a victim on the East Coast and disposed of the body in New York State. Based on Keyes’ statements, investigators believe Keyes abducted the victim from a surrounding state and transported him/her to New York.”
After murdering the young woman barista in Alaska earlier this year, Keyes dumped her body in icy Matanuska Lake near Anchorage, and flew from Alaska to Houston, Texas, authorities say. He returned to Alaska on Feb. 17, investigators say, and used Koenig’s phone and debit card to demand and collect ransom money that was contributed by the public.
The federal indictment says Koenig subsequently withdrew ransom money in subsequent trips he made from Alaska to Las Vegas on March 6 and later in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
After Keyes’ arrest, he provided details that led investigators to cut a hole in the ice in Matanuska Lake and recover Koenig’s body on April 2.
Law enforcement officials are still working feverishly to see if Keyes may be linked to other unsolved murders around the country over the last decade. Here is the developing timeline of Keyes’ whereabouts, provided by the FBI:
10/05/2004 to 10/16/2004 Eastern U.S.
04/20/2005 to 04/25/2005 WA, British Columbia
05/10/2006 to 05/15/2006 Western U.S.
09/01/2006 to 09/07/2006 Alaska
10/21/2006 to 10/23/2006 Western U.S., Mexico
11/08/2006 to 11/16/2006 Alaska
02/05/2007 to 02/08/2007 Southwest U.S.
03/01/2007 to 03/09/2007 WA, Canada (drove to Alaska)
04/24/2007 to 05/04/2007 Western U.S., Mexico
08/26/2007 to 09/06/2007 Western U.S.
10/29/2007 to 11/02/2007 Western U.S.
11/12/2007 to 11/13/2007 Western U.S.
12/04/2007 to 12/17/2007 Midwest and Western U.S.
01/05/2008 to 01/08/2008 Western U.S.
01/28/2008 to 02/15/2008 Southern U.S. and Western U.S.
05/11/2008 to 05/17/2008 Western U.S.
07/03/2008 to 07/07/2008 Western U.S.
09/16/2008 to 09/24/2008 Western U.S.
10/24/2008 to 11/05/2008 Southwestern, Midwestern and Western U.S.
12/05/2008 to 12/07/2008 Hawaii
12/11/2008 to 12/25/2008 Mexico
02/23/2009 to 02/27/2009 Western U.S.
04/01/2009 to 04/14/2009 Eastern U.S., Western U.S.
09/11/2009 to 10/03/2009 Southern U.S.
12/17/2009 to 12/29/2009 Southern U.S.
01/11/2010 to 02/25/2010 Western U.S.
03/01/2010 to 03/10/2010 Western U.S.
04/24/2010 to 04/30/2010 Western U.S.
05/19/2010 to 07/18/2010 Midwest U.S. and Western U.S.
07/18/2010 to 07/22/2010 Southwest U.S.
10/15/2010 to 10/25/2010 Midwest U.S., Eastern U.S.
06/02/2011 to 06/16/2011 Midwest U.S., Eastern U.S.
09/15/2011 to 09/25/2011 Western U.S.
02/02/2012 to 02/18/2012 Southern U.S.
03/06/2012 to 03/13/2012 Southwestern and Southern U.S.
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)
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