ANCHORAGE, Alaska — In April or May of 2011, confessed serial killer Israel Keyes rode his bicycle along the Anchorage coastal trail to a popular overlook and set up an ambush.
Hiding in the woods at Point Woronzof, Keyes was watching a young couple in their car at about 10 or 11 p.m., he later told detectives. A police officer approached and appeared to tell the couple that the park was closed. Keyes planned to shoot them all with his silenced rifle, he said.
"Almost pulled the trigger, even with him there," Keyes told investigators. Another officer soon arrived, spoiling his plans.
"As soon as his backup showed up, I decided I better call it a night and got back on my bike and took off," Keyes said.
Anchorage police released a recording of the interview on Monday as investigators unveiled new details about the 34-year-old's preparations to kill strangers on city trails. Police said they are providing the information to answer lingering questions about Keyes' activity in Alaska following his 2007 arrival and to spur the public to provide tips about other potential crimes.
Between his March arrest in Texas and his Dec. 2 suicide at the Anchorage jail, Keyes admitted to killing eight people, including Anchorage teenager Samantha Koenig. Police suspect he had as many as 12 victims in all.
Long before Keyes abducted, raped and strangled Koenig, he enjoyed hunting for potential victims during "stakeouts" on the coastal trail and at the North Fork trail head in Eagle River, he told police. His routines, motivations and personality began to emerge in 40 to 60 hours of interviews.
"Israel Keyes didn't kidnap and kill people because he was crazy. He didn't kidnap and kill people because his deity told him to or because he had a bad childhood," said Anchorage homicide detective Monique Doll. "Israel Keyes did this because he got an immense amount of enjoyment out of it."
Keyes told investigators he tortured animals as a youth, Doll said. He did not refer to himself as a serial killer, but researched and read about famous killers. He recognized a "likeness" and "sameness" in their crimes, Doll said.
"He was very realistic and said, 'It interested me because I couldn't talk about it but that's what I was,'" she said.
Keyes knew a lot about Ted Bundy in particular, but emphasized that he did not pattern his killings on murders committed by other multiple killers, Doll said.
"He knew what he was, and he was fine with it," she said.
In one of the recorded interviews, Keyes can be heard yawning as he described his strategy for capturing and isolating victims in Eagle River.
Police said Keyes had stashed a bag near the North Fork trail access at mile 7.4 of Eagle River Road. In it was what he called a "cut-off tool" and a padlock.
"I was going to take them and use the cut-off tool to lock the gate and do my thing there in the parking lot," Keyes said. "I had the Drano and the shovel stocked up there as a way to get rid of the body if I needed it."
Keyes spotted a couple he believed could be potential victims during one of his Eagle River stakeouts, but decided it would be "too much work," said Anchorage police officer Jeff Bell. Keyes never explained what, specifically, made him decide not to attack the couple.
Keyes also tried searching for victims at Earthquake Park, near his Turnagain home, but was discouraged by traffic along Northern Lights Boulevard. Too many cars, he told police.
To the west he found a parking lot that, based on his descriptions, police identified as Point Woronzof. Keyes said he saw a couple, he described them as "kids," sitting in a car at the parking lot.
When a police officer approached, Keyes was prepared to shoot anyway, he said. He was then surprised to see a second officer arrive. That was the night he decided to buy a police scanner to track APD movements, he told police.
"That would have gotten really ugly really fast," he said.
Anchorage police have not been able to identify the couple or the police officer who Keyes said he nearly shot at the parking lot. Police said it's common for officers to check the park at closing time and unclear who was in the area based on police records.
"Now that we've talked about it, I'm sure they're talking amongst themselves, looking at their notebooks, trying to remember if, 'Gee, I wonder if I was out there," said Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew.
Mew said Keyes had hoped to "essentially snipe" someone from cover in order to test a home-made silencer.
Weeks later, Keyes used the same silencer in the murder of Bill Currier in Vermont, the police chief said.
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