Serial killer sewed victims eyes open to make her look alive in ransom photo

The most audacious act serial killer Israel Keyes ever committed is exactly what led the authorities to him.

After raping and killing 18-year-old coffee shop worker Samantha Koenig in February 2012, Keyes went on a two-week cruise with his family in the Gulf of Mexico.

When the 34-year-old returned to his home in Alaska, knowledge of the missing teen's whereabouts were sought after – and lucrative.

Keyes took the frozen body out of his shed, applied makeup and sewed its eyes open with a fishing line to make it look like she was still alive.

He held a four-day-old local newspaper next to her face, took a grainy Polaroid and sent it to her loved ones. The image is uncanny.

Psycho killer caught

Koenig's family swiftly transferred the psycho killer $30,000, convinced she was still alive and that the image was real.

Then, he chopped up the body and threw it into a lake.

But it was Keyes' spending on his credit card that allowed the authorities to trace his location.

ATM withdrawals of varying sizes were made from Keyes' account all over the southwestern US, from New Mexico to Texas to Arizona. These were easy for the FBI and local enforcement officials to track.

When a Texas Ranger finally pulled him over and searched the vehicle on March 2012, they found Samantha's mobile phone and the debit card used to make the transaction.

After Keyes was charged and interrogated, he confessed to at least eight murders and many bank robberies.

It's estimated he robbed 20 to 30 houses across the US and killed 11 people in America, with more murders abroad possible too.

Police criticised

Police in Alaska were criticised for not releasing surveillance footage of Keyes kidnapping Koenig on February 1.

Locals feared he might strike again in the meantime. But Keyes took care not to be noticed and the police said the video would not have helped. Mall owner Tyler Duncan told KVTA Alaska the police were in a pickle.

Duncan said: “Whoever this is took very obvious and deliberate measures to avoid being captured on video, I can absolutely confirm that. And I do not believe the police have anything hugely substantial to go on.”

It was ultimately too late for Samantha Koenig and the other 10 people Keyes is estimated to have murdered.

But his reckless cash withdrawals and spending made his capture possible, potentially saving countless more lives.

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Too late for some

Keyes tried and failed to escape from his detention in Alaska after being extradited from Texas. Seven months after the runaway attempt he killed himself in his cell.

At his funeral the preacher said Keyes would be in a place of "eternal torment".

For the families of the four confirmed victims of Keyes' craze for killing, his death was some much-needed closure. But it wasn't justice.

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Monstrous quirks

Other depraved habits Keyes upheld included using so-called "kill kits", bright orange buckets of guns and random tools for committing the murders.

Keyes also wrote a sick suicide note titled 'Ode to Murder', in which he said he was disgusted by other people's lives.

The depraved killer wrote: "You may have been free, you loved loving your lie, fate had its own scheme, crushed like a bug you still die."

If his manipulation and killing skills were as good as his poetry, 11 people or more might still be alive.

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