By Yereth Rosen
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A confessed serial killer who admitted to a string of murders before killing himself in an Alaska jail died after he slashed his wrist with a disposable razor hidden in a pencil and strangled himself with a strip of bedding, authorities said on Wednesday.
Israel Keyes, a 34-year-old contractor, had been awaiting trial for the kidnapping and killing of an 18-year-old barista who disappeared from an Alaska espresso stand in February and whose body was later found in an iced-over lake.
Alaska State Troopers said it remained unclear whether the razor cut, strangulation or a combination of both was the primary cause of death. The state Department of Corrections was trying to determine how Keyes, who was isolated in his Anchorage cell for 23 hours each day, succeeded in killing himself.
Keyes had been alone in his cell, and was considered to be an especially high-risk prisoner after he attempted to escape during a May court hearing in Anchorage, said Kaci Schroeder, a corrections department spokeswoman.
"He was in segregation," she said.
Authorities said Keyes had been on suicide watch during part of his detention but was not on such a watch at the time of his death.
Before his suicide, Keyes admitted to investigators to kidnapping, raping and killing Alaska barista Samantha Koenig, then dismembering her body and dumping her remains in a hole he cut in ice covering a lake near Palmer, Alaska, prosecutors say.
Keyes also admitted to abducting and killing a Vermont couple, Bill and Lorraine Currier, in 2011. Their bodies have not been found. He further admitted to killing other people, whom he did not name, and disposing of up to four bodies in Washington state and one in New York, according to prosecutors.
After his weekend suicide, the FBI set up a tip line to collect information about other potential victims of Keyes' admitted cross-country murder spree.
CONNECTIONS TO NEW YORK, WASHINGTON STATE
Keyes, an Army veteran who moved to Alaska in 2007 from Washington state and who owned a home and land in upstate New York, traveled extensively in the Lower 48 states, officials said. Continued...