ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Authorities in Alaska said on Tuesday they were examining tips from across the United States as they piece together the decade-long travels of a confessed serial killer who committed suicide over the weekend while awaiting trial for the abduction and murder of an Anchorage teenage woman.
Officials say Israel Keyes confessed to kidnapping and killing 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, who vanished in February from the coffee stand where she worked, a Vermont couple and up to five other people before killing himself.
Now a toll-free tip line established by the FBI is bringing in clues about other possible victims of the 34-year-old carpenter described by authorities as a “very methodical” serial killer who evaded suspicion for more than a decade.
“We have no doubt that (Keyes) was telling us the truth,” about the eight murders he confessed to, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis said, adding that the full death toll remains unknown because Keyes “didn’t want to put a number on it.”
The tips were being examined by a team in Anchorage, FBI Special Agent Jolene Goeden said at a news conference Tuesday. The team was trying to match the new information to a “massive” timeline of Keyes’ travels through the country dating back to 2001, she said.
Keyes had been awaiting trial on the murder of Koenig, whose abduction stunned Anchorage. Residents raised money for a reward, held candlelight vigils and donated self-defense classes to baristas working in the city.
Prosecutors say Keyes has admitted sexually assaulting and asphyxiating Koenig. After keeping her body in a shed outside his home for about two weeks, he dismembered the remains and dumped them in frozen Matanuska Lake, where he cut a hole in the ice. Divers found the body on April 2. The lake is east of Anchorage.
Keyes’ ransom demands and use of Koenig’s bank card ultimately led to his apprehension in Texas - the first arrest for any of the crimes to which Keyes admitted.
Keyes, who owned property in upstate New York, also admitted to kidnapping and killing Bill and Lorraine Currier in Vermont in June of 2011, officials said. He confessed to killing others, saying that four bodies had been buried in Washington state and one in New York state, Feldis said.
The Washington victims were a couple and two individuals, and the body disposed in New York was probably that of someone from a different state, Feldis said, adding that Keyes did not know any of the victims.
Anchorage police on Tuesday played surveillance video that showed Koenig’s abduction from the coffee stand.
The footage - not previously released publicly - included views of Koenig’s cellphone, briefly abandoned at the stand, lighting up as calls came in from a friend who planned to pick her up after her shift. The footage also showed the friend peering in at the darkened coffee stand, searching for Koenig after missing Keyes at the site by mere minutes.
The abduction took place around 8 p.m. along a busy midtown Anchorage street, in the parking lot of a popular health club.
Police viewed the video hundreds of times before piecing together the necessary evidence. None of the people using the health club or nearby businesses witnessed the crime, said Monique Doll, an Anchorage Police Department homicide detective.
Keyes was found dead in his jail cell Sunday in an apparent suicide. A spokeswoman for the Alaska State Troopers said he was alone in his cell and that foul play was not suspected.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Philip Barbara