By JUDY SHERIDAN
and CHRISTIN COYNE
In April of 2012, as the FBI in Anchorage, Alaska, prodded a suspected serial killer for information about his crimes, 34-year-old Israel Keyes confessed to setting fire to a house in a town he called “Alto.”
“If you want I can give you an arson in Texas,” Keyes negotiated. “I burned a house down. But I want a cigar for it.”
Investigators now believe “Alto” is really Aledo, and the house Keyes referred to a 3,500-square-foot Annetta South residence that burned to the ground Feb. 16, 2012, along with a barn some 40 yards away.
The connection was confirmed for the FBI by Investigator Lanny Padgett, of the Parker County Fire Marshal’s Office, who learned of Keyes’ admission shortly after his
December death — ruled a suicide — in an Anchorage jail.
“He did confess and give away enough information for me to confirm it,” Padgett said. “It was close enough that I could understand the association.”
An unlikely suspect
Padgett was certain that the large, hot fire that spiked flames above the treetops in the 200 block of Terrace Court East was the result of arson, but interviews with the home’s owner and family, initially considered “persons of interest,” convinced him they were innocent.
“Most arsons are insurance fraud, a form of retaliation or just to get rid of the whole structure,” he said. “This was a little surreal.”
Keyes alluded to killing as many as 11 people, according to the FBI, and confessed to kidnapping and murdering an Alaskan teen days before setting the Annetta South house ablaze.
He details his activities in the Aledo area in a chilling April 17, 2012, interview with investigators posted by the Alaska Dispatch.
Keyes in Aledo
Confiding he was “kind of out of control” from the publicity associated with the “stuff in Alaska,” Keyes said he set out from Dallas on the morning of Feb. 16, 2012, in search of a small-town bank to rob.
He chose “Alto” because it was “a ways off the freeway,” he said, and picked out a bank near the center of town.
The house that appeared vacant in Annetta South drew his attention because it was “four or five miles out of Alto,” he said, far enough to draw law enforcement away from his target.
“I couldn’t tell if there was local police in ‘Alto’ or not. I never found the police station,” he told investigators. “I figured if I started the fire that would get them all the way from town, and I’d hit the bank after that.”
Keyes reveals that he was looking for someone to abduct as well, but was leery of the police presence.
“I was looking for an out-of-the-way ATM,” he said. “I was going to grab somebody 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.”
He initially parked by the house, Keyes said, waiting for the bank to open, then discovered tools and gasoline in the garage.
After using a piece of steel from the garage to pry open the back door, he spent an hour or two “digging through stuff,” he said, unsuccessfully searching for guns, but eventually making off with “jewelry and a couple other things.”
“I found some pretty nice fur coats and had the coats by the door,” he said, “but when I lit the fire I forgot to grab them.”