The Typology And Patterns Of Serial Killers

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction: The Complexity of Serial Killers
  2. Israel Keyes: A Unique Case Study
  3. Organized vs. Disorganized: Where Keyes Fits In
  4. The Modus Operandi of Israel Keyes
  5. The Downfall and Capture of Israel Keyes
  6. Conclusion: The Unpredictability of Serial Killers
  7. Sources

Introduction: The Complexity of Serial Killers

Homicide is the act of one human killing another. A homicide requires only a volitional act by another person that results in death, and thus a homicide may result from accidental, reckless, or negligent acts even if there is no intent to cause harm. Where as a serial murderer is defined as any offenders, male or female that kill over time, have a minimum of 3 to 4 victims. Usually there is a pattern in their killing that can be associated with the types of victims selected or the method or motives for the killing. In addition, serial murderers include those men and women who operate within the confines of a city or state or even travel through several states to seek out victims (Hickey 35). Holmes and DeBurger condensed serial killers typologies into four different groups: visionary, mission, hedonistic, and power control (Hickey 38). When it comes to the Federal Bureau of Investigators, they have two different typologies on serial killers, organized serial killers and disorganized which helps them identify the killer (Hickey 41). Lastly, Hickey grouped serial killers typologies into three different categories: traveling, local, and place-specific to help identify the patterns in their killings (Hickey 42).

Israel Keyes: A Unique Case Study

Israel Keyes is not your ordinary serial killer his “profile” was all over the place making it extremely difficult for investigators to track him down and account for all of his victims. According to Holmes and DeBurger serial killer typologies, Keys was a mix between a hedonistic killer and a power/control killer. Hedonistic killers are thrill seekers who get satisfaction from murdering; they kill because it gives them pleasure, also known as lust killers. On the other hand, a power/control killer does not kill for sexual reasons, they kill because the pleasure comes from the ability of the killer to exert power and control over the victim. Power/control killers enjoy forcing the victim to beg for mercy. Keyes was a mixture of these two typologies because some of his victims were raped multiple times then killed, while others were simply killed for pure pleasure.

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Another reason why Keyes is not your ordinary serial killer was because according to the FBI profiling typologies a serial killer has to be either organized or disorganized but technically he was not either. Organized serial killers are also known as “lust murderers” by the FBI, they get this name because the crime scene is well organized and the killer takes great time and preparation to select his victims and carry out the offense. Organized serial killers tend to do things such as return to the crime scene, volunteer information, enjoy contact with the police, expects to be interrogated, and moves the body or exposes the body for more reaction. They did not see any of these traits with Keyes, he was the total opposite in fact. He did not return to the crime scene, interact with the police, or move the body for more reaction, but what Keyes once did was volunteer information to the police for money. He called the boyfriend of one of his victims, Samantha Koenig, telling him to go to Concert Lake Park and get the envelope off the billboard if they wanted to see her again. Inside of the envelope contained a picture of Samantha along with a ransom note demanding that $50,000 be deposited into her account. That was the one and only time Keyes did such a thing to qualify his as an “organized” serial killer.

Organized vs. Disorganized: Where Keyes Fits In

Disorganized serial killers may or may not know their victims, exhibit sudden and extreme violence on their victims, commit crime based on opportunity rather than stalking or trolling and, the crime scene is disorganized. These “traits” were not seen in Keyes as well, but the only qualifying “trait” would be the fact that he did not know any of his victims and got them based off opportunity rather than stalking and trolling his victims. There are so many split differences in what an organized and disorganized killer is and then there is Israel Keyes. His “traits” and how he went about things would qualify him as an organized or disorganized killer. For example, Keyes had a high birth-order status (2nd out of 10) but did not have social skills, these two traits would contradict the organized/disorganized profile of serial killers. Another one would be the fact that Keyes did not have a sloppy crime scene, but he also did not prepare his crime scene in advance. Lastly, according to Hickey, serial killers had to fit into three different typologies, this is the only category where Keyes truly fits in only one category, with him being a traveling serial killer. Traveling serial killers travel all over the country covering thousands of miles each year, being one who murders in several different states and jurisdictions. Keyes often traveled for work making it a lot easier for him to kill without any speculation from his wife, spreading his victims all across the nation. Which is another reason it was difficult for investigators to make a connection or construct a profile of Keyes considering he did things such used rental cars.

The Modus Operandi of Israel Keyes

Israel Keyes spent a decade traveling the country, robbing banks, kidnapping, and murdering along the whole way. His signature was “kill kits” that were predisposed in certain areas in particular states he visited frequently, inside of the “kill kit” there was duct tape, guns, rope, chemicals used to start decomposition of a body, and money. The only reason he went so long without getting caught was because of the fact he was able to delay gratification and his urge to kill. Israel Keyes was the 2nd out of 10 children born in Richmond, Utah, in 1978. He along with his siblings were homeschooled. His family moved to the Aladdin Road area, north of Colville, Washington, where they became neighbors and friends with the family of Chevie Kehoe who was convicted of three 1996 murders. Keyes introduced himself to crime at a very young age, he would go into the woods sometimes alone sometimes with peers, get a cat, tie it a tree, then proceed to shoot it.

Keyes served in the U.S. Army from 1998 through 2001 at Fort Lewis, Fort Hood, and in Egypt. While at Fort Lewis, Keyes served on a mortar team in the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. According to his military records, Keyes entered the Army in Albany, New York, on July 9, 1998, and was discharged from Fort Lewis on July 8, 2001, at the rank of specialist. Records indicated Keyes was awarded the following decorations and awards: Army Achievement Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar, Expert Infantryman Badge, and Air Assault Badge. Former Army friends of Keyes have noted his quiet demeanor and that he typically kept to himself. On weekends, he was reported to drink heavily, consuming entire bottles of his favorite drink, Wild Turkey bourbon. He was also heavily into the music group Insane Clown Posse and had several large posters hanging in his barracks room. In 2007, Keyes started a construction business in Alaska, Keyes Construction working as a handyman, contractor, and construction worker.

According to Keyes, his usual routine would be to fly to some areas of the country, rent a vehicle, and sometimes drive hundreds of miles to find victims. He would set up and bury murder kits somewhere in the targeted area - stashing items like shovels, plastic bags, money, weapons, ammunition and bottles of Drano, to help dispose of the bodies. His murder kits have been found in Alaska and New York, but he admitted to having others in Washington, Wyoming, Texas and possibly Arizona. He would look for victims in remote areas like parks, campgrounds, walking trials, or boating areas. If he was targeting a home he looked for a house with an attached garage, no car in the driveway, no children or dogs. After committing the murder, he would leave the geographic area immediately. In February 2012, Keyes broke his rules and made two mistakes. First, he kidnapped and killed someone in his hometown, which he had never done before. Secondly, he let his rental car be photographed by an ATM camera while using a victim's debit card. On Feb. 2, 2012, Keyes kidnapped 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, a barista at one of the many coffee stands around Anchorage. He was planning to wait for her boyfriend to pick her up and kidnap both of them, but for some reason decided against it and just grabbed Samantha. Koenig's abduction was caught on video, and a massive search for her was conducted by authorities, friends, and family for weeks, but she was killed shortly after she was abducted. He took her to a shed at his Anchorage home, sexually assaulted her and strangled her to death. He then immediately left the area and went on a two-week cruise, leaving her body in the shed. When he returned, he dismembered her body and dumped it in Matanuska Lake north of Anchorage. About a month later, Keyes used Koenig's debit card to get money from an ATM in Texas. The camera in the ATM captured a picture of the rental car Keyes was driving, linking him to the card and the murder. He was arrested in Lufkin, Texas on March 16, 2012. Keyes was originally extradited back from Texas to Anchorage on credit card fraud charges.

The Downfall and Capture of Israel Keyes

On April 2, 2012, searchers found Koenig's body in the lake. On April 18, an Anchorage grand jury indicted Keyes for the kidnapping and murder of Samantha Koenig. While awaiting trial in the Anchorage jail, Keyes was interviewed for more than 40 hours by Anchorage police detective Jeff Bell and FBI Special Agent Jolene Goeden. Although he was not completely forthcoming with many details, he began to confess to some of the murders he committed over the past 11 years with certain stipulations. The stipulations consisted of things such as an american, peanut butter snicker and a cigar every single time he interviewed with investigators in exchange for minor details of his crimes. When the details began to get more graphic his stipulations increased and he began to push for the death penalty. Since Alaska was not a death penalty state investigators were unable to fulfill that stipulation, but continue to push for information saying,”the more you give us the easier it will be to present this to the judge for him to grant an execution,” (Watts 01:20:03). When Keyes proceeded to give up the locations of bodies and the names of his unknown victims he increased his stipulation and asked for his name to be kept out of the media for the sake of his family. The investigators failed to keep Keyes name out of the media, and when Keyes got word of this he began to hold back and no longer give investigators information. After this happened, investigators put their best foot forward presenting evidence they found to Keyes, but he did not like this and began to break down. On Dec. 2, 2012, Israel Keyes was found dead in his Anchorage jail cell. He had cut his wrists and strangled himself with a rolled-up bedsheet. Under his body was a blood-soaked, four-page letter written on yellow legal pad paper in both pencil and ink. Investigators could not make out the writing on Keyes suicide note until the letter was enhanced at the FBI lab.​ An analysis of the enhanced letter concluded that it contained no evidence or clues, but was merely an Ode to Murder, written by a serial killer who loved to kill.

Keyes admitted to admiring other serial killers such as Ted Bundy, he also said that he learned a lot by reading books written by criminal profilers in the Bureau. He read John Douglas’ Mindhunter first, as a teenager, when he suddenly realized he wasn’t alone. He also read Dark Dreams by Roy Hazelwood, who wrote in great detail about lust-driven serial killers. Keyes took notes from that book as well, although he admitted to studying the tactics of other serial killers, and he enjoyed watching movies about killers, but he was careful to point out to investigators that he used his own ideas, not those of other famous killers. It is clear that Keyes was very different from our “average” serial killer, he did not have a type like other known serial killers such as Ted Bundy who went after young white women who had long straight hair parted down the middle. Nor did Keyes have a target such as Kieran Kelly, who went after the homeless community. Israel Keyes went after anyone no matter the age, race, or gender. He began his career crimal career with bankrobbories then progressed to rape, then murder. As stated before, investigators were unable to put Keyes into any typologies that help investigators find the offenders making Keyes so unique.

Conclusion: The Unpredictability of Serial Killers

All in all, Israel Keyes was such a unique serial killer that his uniqueness kept him from getting caught. Due to him having no true motive, type, or kill pattern, even investigators could not get an accurate profile. Although Keyes did not truly plan his murders, he planted kill kilts all over the country so when he was ready to kill again the kill kits were at hand. Unlike most serial killers Keyes killed far from home, he used rental cars, and chose his victims at random ultimately making him least likely to be a suspect. We could assume that after Keyes read John Douglas’ Mindhunter as a teenager, and realizing he wasn’t alone is what drove him to begin killing, but that is something the world may never know.


  1. Hickey, E. W. (2016). Serial murderers and their victims(7th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. (2018, October 20). Retrieved November 8, 2019, from
  2. Investigators say an Alaska man who confessed to killing eight people across the country had researched Ted Bundy and other serial killers and enjoyed watching suspense crime movies. (2012). Retrieved from keyes&deviceId=3ff47409-6016-4acb-957e-f2f549a96718R&lang=en&minDate=&maxDate=
  3. Pemment, J. (2013, January 2). The Making and the Breaking of the Serial Killer. Retrieved from
  4. Hunter, J. T. (2016). Devil in the darkness: the true story of serial killer Israel Keyes. Unites States of America: RJ Parker Publishing Inc.
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