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December 03, 2012

U.S. Attorney Coffin: Currier Couple "Fought to the End" Against "a Force of Pure Evil"

Coffin:Donovan photoIn their final minutes of life, Lorraine and Bill Currier fought valiantly for their lives against a cold and calculating serial murderer with no obvious modus operandi and who targeted them for no other reason than the random circumstances of where and how they lived.

In a compelling and at times emotional press conference in the federal courthouse in Burlington this afternoon, Vermont authorities released new and previously undisclosed information about the abduction and murder of the Essex couple first reported missing on June 9, 2011. Those details included the fact that both Curriers nearly escaped their kidnapper and that Lorraine Currier had been sexually assaulted before being strangled to death.

Police also explained why authorities withheld from the press these and other critical details turned up in their search of the Curriers' home. According to U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin (pictured), those details helped confirm for investigators that the Curriers had been abducted and murdered by Israel Keyes, a 34-year-old self-employed carpenter and Army veteran.

Keyes was being detained in Alaska on charges related to the murder of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig of Anchorage. At about 11:15 Sunday morning, Alaska authorities informed authorities in Vermont that Keyes had been found dead in his jail cell of an apparent suicide. Keyes' method of suicide had not yet been made public.

According to Coffin, Vermont investigators were first contacted in April by authorities in Anchorage who became convinced that Keyes had committed other murders around the country. In the course of the Alaska investigation, Keyes confessed to murdering four people in Washington State and one in New York State as well as Koenig. In subsequent interviews, Keyes also confessed to killing the Curriers in Vermont.

"Keyes provided substantial, non-public information regarding the deaths of Bill and Lorraine Currier," Coffin said. "Although searches in Essex and Coventry, Vermont were unable to locate the Curriers' remains, investigators obtained enough details to confirm that Keyes did murder the Curriers."

6a00d83451b91969e2017c343ae157970b-200wiThose previously undisclosed details, some obtained from 16 separate search warrants, included nearly a dozen critical facts about the Curriers' murder, including the layout and description of the couple's home and vehicle; how Keyes gained entrance into the Curriers' house late on the night of June 8, 2011; the make and model of the handgun Keyes stole from the Curriers as well as the location in New York State where police later recovered the weapon; and the fact that Keyes cut the phone line to the house before his break-in to test whether the Curriers had a security system in place.

Citing anonymous sources,WCAX was the only local news outlet to identify Keyes as the prime suspect several months ago following a massive but unsuccessful search of the Coventry landfill looking for evidence of the couple's remains. This afternoon, Coffin revealed why his office did not previously confirm what WCAX continued to report as fact: Keyes had told investigators in Alaska that he would discontinue cooperating with their investigation if they confirmed that he was the suspect in the Curriers' disappearance. According to Coffin, Vermont authorities agreed to not to disclose that information, a decision supported by the Currier family, in the interest of identifying victims of other unsolved murders.

On Monday, Coffin also emphasized that the Curriers did not do anything wrong or contribute in any way to their own deaths. "By all accounts, they were friendly, peaceful, good people who encountered a force of pure evil acting at random," he added.

In a prepared statement, Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan outlined what state and federal authorities now know from extensive interviews with Keyes prior his death. Those details are as follows:

Following a request from the Currier family members on June 9, 2011, Essex police visited the couple's home at 8 Colbert Street and found all the doors locked. The officer could see that the Curriers' car was gone but that the window in the door leading from the garage into the home had been shattered. Police did not find any signs of struggle in the house, but did find the couple's bird cages covered, something which the couple typically did before going to bed. Police also found Lorraine's cardiac medicine and Bill's diabetes medicine in the house. Lorraine's glasses and contact lens, which she needed to drive, were also still in the house, as was Bill's wallet and all his IDs.

However, neither Lorraine's purse nor wallet was present. Also missing was Lorraine's gun, which Donovan described as a Ruger snub-nosed .38 calibre handgun that she kept for protection when she went to the couple's camp in Norton, Vt.

Police also found that the couple's phone line had been severed. Family members told police that the Curriers were "homebodies and not in the best of health" and further reported that they "had no enemies and there were no internal family disputes." The couple was not known to travel far from home often but when they did, Donovan reported, one of them usually stayed behind to care for their pets. The last activity on the couple's bank accounts, which have been continuously monitored by police, occurred on June 7, prior to when they went missing. No other activity has ever been reported.

According to Donovan, Keyes left Alaska on June 2, 2011 and flew to Chicago "with the specific purpose of kidnapping and murdering someone." Keyes brought a gun and silencer with him.

Upon landing in Chicago, Keyes rented a car and drove to Vermont, where on June 7 he rented a room at the Handy Suites hotel on Susie Wilson Road in Essex Junction. Donovan said that Keyes then specifically began looking for a house with an attached garage, one that had no cars in the driveway and no children or dogs. Keyes was also looking for a house where he could easily predict the floor plan and quickly identify where the residents would be sleeping. The Currier home fit that description, Donovan said.

After cutting the phone line, Keyes used a crowbar taken from the garage to smash the window into the home and engaged in what Keyes called a "blitz" attack on the Curriers. Keyes estimated it took him approximately five to six seconds to get from the entry door to the Curriers' bedroom, Donovan reported. During the home invasion, Keyes wore a headlamp in an otherwise darkened home.

Donovan further reported that Keyes found the Curriers in their bedroom and tied the couple up with zip ties. They were not gagged and Keyes questioned them and took several items, including their cell phones and Lorraine's handgun.

Keyes then forced the couple into their own car, and drove it to a farmhouse previously located at 32 Upper Main Street, which was vacant. "Keyes had earlier decided he would take the couple he kidnapped to this location and kill them," Donovan said.

Donovan went on to explain how Keyes took Bill Currier into the basement of the house and tied him to a stool. 

"Upon returning to the car, Keyes saw that Lorraine had broken free from the zip ties that had previously bound her hands and feet," Donovan said. Keyes then saw Lorraine running toward Main Street. He tackled her, brought her to the second floor of the farmhouse and rebound her hands and feet.

Upon returning to the basement, Keyes found that Bill had broken the stool on which he was bound and repeatedly shouted, "Where's my wife?" Donovan added.

"In an attempt to subdue Bill, Keyes hit him with a shovel," Donovan added. But when Keyes realized that Bill was not going to cooperate, "Keyes then retrieved the gun and silencer and shot Bill Currier to death."

A clearly emotional Donovan then described Lorraine's equally gruesome fate. "At this time, Israel Keyes sexually assaulted Lorraine Currier. During this sexual assault, Keyes strangled Lorraine to the point where she lost consciousness," Donovan added. Keyes then brought Lorraine to the basement and strangled her to death.

Donovan said that the Curriers' bodies were placed in separate garbage bags in one corner of the basement and covered with debris. Keyes then left the farmhouse in the Curriers' car, drove it to the Lowe's parking lot on Susie Wilson Road, then drove his rental car to Maine for a short stay. On his way back to Vermont, he burned the property he'd stolen from the Curriers, except for the handgun. The Curriers' bodies have never been recovered and authorities don't expect them to be.

After leaving Vermont, Keyes  drove through New York State, where he threw the stolen gun and his own, with the silencer, into a reservoir in Parishville, NY. both weapons were later recovered by FBI dive teams.

"It is clear from the facts of this case that, though confronted with death, Bill and Lorraine showed extraordinary bravery and extreme dedication and love for one another," Donovan added. "They fought to the end."

Essex Police Chief Brad LaRose then read a statement from the Currier family, in which they thanked friends, coworkers and strangers, as well as Vermont media for respecting the family's privacy.

"Also thank you to all law enforcement members and the prosecution team who have been very compassionate with us," the statement read. "You have guided us, lead us and supported us on this emotional journey. Although this chapter has ended in our lives, we begin a new chapter, of healing."

During the press conference, Donovan, Coffin and LaRose stood by their decision to withhold critical information about the Currier case, which they contend was invaluable to them in determining that Keyes was, in fact, telling the truth that he had killed the Curriers.

During the press conference, officials declined to answer certain questions about "multiple" other murders Keyes is suspected of committing, in the interest of maintaining the integrity of those investigations.

Photo credit: Ken PIcard

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