The torching of a house and metal barn near Aledo seemed random, making it almost impossible to solve.Lanny Padgett, a Parker County fire marshals office investigator, had long ago run out of leads after the February 2012 arson fire.Then, lo and behold, it was the FBI that came forward and said they had caught the person who did it, Padgett said. But arson, as it turned out, was among the least of his crimes. Israel Keyes was an Alaska-based serial killer who is believed to have slain up to 11 people nationwide from 2001 to 2012. He was arrested in Lufkin in March 2012 and committed suicide in an Anchorage, Alaska, jail in December 2012, at age 34.Its surreal to think youre investigating an arson and then you realize later a serial killer was in your area, Padgett said.Keyes confessed to several killings, including the kidnapping, rape and murder of Samantha Koenig, 18, a barista in Anchorage, and the death of a Vermont couple taken from their home.But he withheld as much as he revealed, refusing to name his other victims or say where he left their bodies. Last week, in an attempt to find out more about his victims, the FBI released an interactive timeline detailing Keyes whereabouts since 1997.Keyes arrived in Houston in early February 2012 and was in North Texas on Feb. 16, when he robbed the First National Bank of Texas in Azle, according to the timeline. He insisted that Koenig was his last victim, but the FBI believes that he might have committed another murder while in Texas. He was arrested in East Texas on March 13, 2012, after authorities tracked Koenigs debit card, which was used to make withdrawals in Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Extra: Watch video of Keyes arrest in LufkinHe gave us a number of clues, FBI agent Jolene Goeden said. He talked openly about some of the homicides, but much of what he said only hinted at the things he had done. We are trying to get information out there about what he did tell us. We are letting the public know the types of cars he rented, towns he visited, campgrounds he frequented. Anything that might spur someones memory could help us.A lot of cops in TexasThe FBI did not specifically say what drew Keyes to Texas, but he has relatives who spent time in East Texas and he was stationed for a time at Fort Hood near Killeen while in the Army. At least one local sheriff hasnt ruled him out in a double killing, even though the crime doesnt track with the FBIs timeline. The bodies of Duane Arland Benson and his wife, Breanda Scheets Benson, were discovered in their rural home near Godley on Feb. 1, 2012 the same day Keyes kidnapped Koenig in Alaska. They had been shot.The medical examiner, however, believes that the couple had been dead for several days before they were found.Godley is about 12 miles northwest of Cleburne. Keyes was in the Cleburne area between Feb. 12 and 16, according to the FBI. His rental car, a 2011 Kia Soul, got stuck in the mud near Nolan River Mall.He is also believed to have visited Post Oak Cemetery in Glen Rose, southwest of Cleburne.Despite lacking evidence that Keyes was in Texas when the Bensons were killed, Johnson County Sheriff Bob Alford said investigators havent ruled out his involvement.Were very familiar with him, Alford said. He is a person of interest to us. Whoever did this knew what they were doing. They surprised them.After killing Koenig, Keyes flew to Houston on Feb. 2. He rented the Kia from Thrifty, stayed in Lafayette, La., for three nights and New Orleans for one, and embarked on a Carnival cruise from Feb. 6 to 11. Then, he returned to Texas.The fire near Aledo was set on Feb. 16, 2012.Keyes told investigators that he was on an adrenaline rush after killing Koenig, fueled party by reading news reports while in Texas. Setting the fire at 201 E. Terrace Court was spontaneous, he said. The idea occurred to him as he was rummaging through the house.Its not so much why I did it. Its just more like, Why not? he told investigators during an April 17, 2012, interview with the FBI. Audio recordings of the session were posted by the Alaska Dispatch. In the same session, Keyes said he contemplated killing someone else in Texas but decided not to, partly because he saw so many law officers on his travels.I was going to grab someone from an ATM and take them to the house, but there are a lot of cops in Texas, so I guess I chickened out a little bit, Keyes said.Keyes claimed to have watched the fire burn from a hillside next to a church, but Padgett, the fire investigator, said he doubts that happened.I dont know where he would have watched it from a distance, he said. We had people all over the place responding to that fire.Victims chosen at randomLater that day, about 16 miles north of Aledo, Keyes robbed the First National Bank of Texas in Azle.Azle investigators know that he first staked out the bank: A property owner had chased him away from a nearby parking lot. Keyes was calm and willing to back up his threats if the bank employees didnt cooperate, said Azle police Sgt. K.D. Rogers, who watched surveillance video of the robbery.You can see his finger on the trigger, Rogers said. You normally dont see that in bank robberies. It was pretty clear what his intentions were if someone didnt do what he wanted them to do. He wasnt going to leave until he got all of the money from the tellers.The next time Keyes movements were tracked was Feb. 24, when he took a photograph of Koenigs body back in Alaska with a 4-day-old issue of the Anchorage Daily News , making it appear that the young barista was still alive so he could seek a ransom.After Keyes arrest, FBI divers pulled Koenigs body from an Alaska lake on April 2, 2012.Authorities described Keyes, a Utah native, as a self-employed carpenter who traveled often and chose victims at random. He confessed to killings in Alaska, Washington state, New York and Vermont, although the bodies of Bill and Lorraine Currier of Vermont have never been found.Investigators said he killed the couple about two years after stashing a cache of weapons and supplies nearby.He talked about other kidnappings and killings but refused to divulge key details, including the names of the victims, FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said.He described several remote locations that he frequented to look for victims parks, campgrounds, trail heads, cemeteries, boating areas, etc., the FBI statement said. Keyes also admitted to frequenting prostitutes during his travels, and it is unknown at this time if he met any of his victims in this manner.Some of the crimes could have been committed outside the United States, the FBI said. Keyes might have visited Canada when he lived in upstate New York.He reported several trips to Montreal in which he sought out prostitutes, the FBI said.With Keyes suicide, investigators may never know the sum of his crimes. But they hope that releasing the timeline will help.Anyone with information is encouraged to call the FBI at 800-225-5324.At this point, this investigation is all about identifying the possible victims and bringing closure to their families, Gonzalez said. What makes this difficult is that, when it comes to the victims, it could be anyone. Male, female, young, old. This report includes material from the Anchorage Daily News.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna