On December 5th, 2012, the Alaska State Troopers published a statement revealing some details from the autopsy about the suicide of accused serial killer Israel Keyes on Sunday December 2nd. Local media sources include the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch, KTUU Channel 2, and KTVA Channel 11; all four accounts are similar.
Summary: Keyes committed suicide by cutting his wrist with a blade from a disposable shaving razor that had been embedded into a pencil, then choking himself with bedding material. However, the medical examiner has not yet determined which injury caused his death, or if it was a combination of the two. Authorities also found pages of crumpled, blood-soaked paper in the cell; troopers gave the pages, which appeared to have writing on them, to the FBI to be processed at a laboratory at the FBI's request. The contents of the paper were not revealed. According to another ADN story, Keyes had been on suicide watch a couple of months ago, but had been taken off. Alaska Dispatch reports that Kaci Schroeder, special assistant to the commissioner at the Department of Corrections, said that whether an inmate could keep a razor in their cell was determined on a case-by-case basis, but could not say if Keyes was specifically allowed to have a razor.
Somewhat disturbing is the timing. According to a previous ADN story, prisoners in the segregation unit where Keyes was housed are to be checked by a CO at least every 30 minutes, although it can vary to 45 minutes. Bryan Brandenburg, director of institutions for the Department of Corrections, was cited as saying that jail logs indicated an officer checked on Keyes according to specified procedure on Sunday morning. Yet according to this new story, troopers say that Keyes' suicide occurred while he was locked alone in his cell between the hours of 9:30 P.M. December 1st to 5:57 A.M. the following day. This leads to two questions:
(1). If the prisoners are supposed to be checked every 30 minutes, how is it that they can only narrow it down to a time window of slightly over eight hours? Perhaps subsequent reports will narrow the time frame considerably. Update: It's now been revealed that checks were completed, but it appeared as if he was sleeping face down under his blanket. Because that was the way he normally slept, it did not occur to corrections officers that anything was amiss until the morning when they noticed that there was no movement and went in and looked.
(2). Why was there a 26-minute window between the time Keyes' body was found (5:57 A.M) and the time troopers were notified (6:23 A.M.)? Of course, it is possible that the delay could be attributable to efforts at treating and reviving Keyes, which would be perfectly legit.
The investigation continues, and authorities may answer these questions in subsequent news releases, but these inconsistencies may be a reason why James Koenig, the father of the late Samantha Koenig, accused the Department Of Corrections of dropping the ball, writing in a Facebook post "DOC should be ashamed, and held accountable for allowing this to happen. How and why he would have access to anything to commit suicide in a segregated cell on 24 hour watch is beyond me.”
Mind you, the death of Israel Keyes is no great loss to the world, and spares us the cost of a trial and lifetime incarceration, but if these types of prisoners are supposed to be checked every 30 minutes, they shouldn't be found dead in their cells eight hours later.
Some typical public reaction:
billy meyer December 5th 10:34 A.M. (ADN):
Leave it to these nameless authorities, who failed to put this creep on suicide watch, to brag about how "no one else entered the cell". i am glad he is gone, but the families of victims might have learned a bit more about what happened to their loved ones if this piece was kept kinda alive. So, come on Governor Parnell, Commissioner of Corrections, talk about what was lost. Beyond that, this is just an early xmas gift for all of us.
Andrea Balluta December 5th 11:00 A.M. (KTUU):
What a coward!!! I don't feel like any of the families got their justice...should have let the court decide how he needed to be punished!! And to face Samantha's dad and and all the other families!!
TedtheBear said on Monday, Dec 3 at 9:25 PM (KTVA):
If Keyes was not considered suicidal, then he would have blanket, sheets and clothing that will allow any inmate to use for a suicide effort. Mr. [Bryan] Brandenburg used to run Mike Module, which is acute mental health ward/module so he is well aware of the mental health protocols of DOC Alaska. Shortages of officers during the night shift have been problematic. Segregation units should be manned 24/7 but it is not strange if it wasn't. Often the 30 minutes security checks won't prevent anyone from committing suicide since a determined inmate can just time the checks. Once the officer walked by, he know that got at least 30 minutes to do what he needs to do. If the officer have to leave the module to do other security checks, so much the easier. All modules should be manned 24/7 but that is not the case.