Inside the mind of Alaska’s serial killer

After Israel Keyes' prison suicide, the FBI has found new links tying him to Christian white supremacists

Topics: Southern Poverty Law Center, Israel Keyes, FBI, Texas, Alaska, Christian Identity,

Inside the mind of Alaska's serial killerIsrael Keyes
This article was originally published by The Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Southern Poverty Law Center Confessed serial killer Israel Keyes committed suicide in an Alaska jail cell last weekend by slitting his wrist with a disposable razor and strangling himself with a sheet tied between his neck and extended foot, authorities say.

Before killing himself, the 34-year-old man, who was exposed to Christian Identity white supremacy beliefs and a survivalist lifestyle as a teenager, confessed to killing an Anchorage barista, a Vermont couple and five others he coyly didn’t identify.

The 18-year-old barista was abducted at gunpoint last February, raped and strangled by Keyes, who later dismembered her body and disposed of it in a frozen Alaska lake. Those remains were recovered after Keyes’ arrest in Texas in March.

Now, with some urgency, the FBI is piecing together a timeline of Keyes’ life while various law enforcement investigators throughout the United States are dusting off old homicide cases to see if Keyes, who traveled extensively over the past decade, may be responsible. Those cold cases which have foreign DNA evidence could be the key to identifying Keyes’ as the killer.

Four of the murders occurred in the state of Washington, along with one in New York, before he randomly killed a Vermont couple in 2011, authorities say.

Keyes knew the names of his other victims, but never divulged their identities to investigators, Jeff Bell, an Anchorage police officer who interviewed the killer, told the Anchorage Daily News.

The weekend suicide is frustrating, Bell told the newspaper, because Keyes gave few clues to help locate his other victims’ remains or their families. While Keyes admitted to killing eight people, he indicated there are “a lot more” yet to be discovered, the newspaper reported.

Keyes was born in Utah to fundamentalist Mormon parents who later moved to Stevens County in a remote corner of Washington state, reportedly living “off the grid” in a cabin with wood heat and no electricity, various sources have told Hatewatch.

The undersheriff in Stevens County says her department has no links between Keyes and unsolved homicides there.

The Keyeses, who homeschooled their children, were neighbors and friends of Kirby Kehoe and his large family, including sons Chevie and Cheyne Kehoe, whose white supremacy beliefs in the 1990s led to a notorious series of violent crimes.

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At some point, various sources say, the Keyeses and the Kehoes attended Christian Identity services at a church near the Canadian border, north of Colville, Wash., called The Ark. The Ark, which is now known as Our Place Fellowship, is headed by Pastor Dan Henry. The Keyes and Kehoe families also attended services at another nearby Christian Identity church, the Christian Israel Covenant Church, headed by Henry’s neighbor and friend, Pastor Ray Barker, sources say.

Christian Identity is an anti-Semitic theology that sees Jews as an evil force and claims the Bible is the history of white people. The most virulent Identity followers believe that Jews are biological descendants of Satan and are working to prepare the earth for the return of their progenitor, the Devil.

Pastor Barker married Cheyne Kehoe and Tanna Wilburn, and later facilitated Cheyne Kehoe’s1997 surrender to then-Stevens County Sheriff Craig Thayer, who acted as an intermediary for the FBI. Cheyne Kehoe, sought by the FBI after shooting at police in Ohio, later provided information that led to the arrest in Utah of his brother, Chevie, who subsequently was convicted of murdering three people in Arkansas.

When Barker moved to Stevens County from Gig Harbor, Wash., he briefly attended The Ark before deciding to start his own Christian Identity church that he operated out of his home until it disbanded after his death about 10 years ago, Henry said in an interview with Hatewatch earlier this week.

Henry subsequently has attempted to distance himself and his church from the Keyeses and the Kehoes, describing both families as “hotshots” in an interview with KREM-TV of Spokane.

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