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Decrepit site scoured for murder

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CONSTABLE — A property with an abandoned cabin in Franklin County owned by Israel Keyes, currently held in Alaska on murder charges and suspected of killing three other people in Vermont and New Hampshire, was the subject of an intense two-day search by federal agents last week.

Although FBI spokesman Paul Holstein would not comment, Anchorage TV station KTUU reported that the search in Constable on Tuesday and Wednesday was carried out by the FBI and coincided with another search warrant that federal agents executed at Keyes’s primary residence in Turnagain, Alaska.

In addition, a Burlington, Vt., TV station, WCAX, reported Thursday that a neighbor said he called police after discovering what appeared to be a shallow grave on the 10-acre property at 511 Poplar St. in Constable. The unidentified neighbor is said to have led the FBI to the location.

Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne, who also holds a special assistant U.S. attorney designation, could not be reached Friday, and the U.S. attorney’s offices in Syracuse and Plattsburgh did not return requests for comment.

WCAX reported that the search may be connected to the investigation into the possible deaths of Bill and Lorraine Currier, who went missing from their Essex, Vt., home during the summer of 2011. Their bodies have not been discovered. Keyes is believed to have been staying in Essex when they disappeared.

Keyes was arrested in March in Texas, extradited to Alaska and subsequently charged with the Feb. 1 murder of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, who worked as a barista in Anchorage. Her body was discovered in a lake near Anchorage that same day.

An April 17 federal indictment alleges that Keyes kidnapped and killed Koenig, stole her debit card and extorted ransom money from her family. The indictment says he left Anchorage for Texas, returned to Alaska, then fled back to Texas, where he was apprehended. Authorities found him allegedly by tracing where he withdrew money from Miss Koenig’s bank account.

In addition to the Currier case in Vermont, Keyes is believed to be a suspect in another 2011 murder, in New Hampshire.

The Union Leader newspaper from Manchester, N.H., reported July 28 that FBI and Alaska authorities were sharing information about Keyes with New Hampshire prosecutors, possibly in connection with the July 25, 2011, slaying of 11-year-old Celina Cass of Stewartstown, N.H., a month after the Curriers disappeared.

In Constable, the decrepit Poplar Street property has been abandoned for some time, but is now rife with visible evidence that it was searched recently. There are foot paths blazed and in several spots the earth shows signs of having been recently disturbed. None of those signs was present when a Johnson Newspapers reporter visited the property in August.

Neighbors said Friday that the road was blocked off, for about a quarter mile in either direction from the property, by state police on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“They were keeping people really as far away as possible,” said Chana O’Leary, who lives about a quarter mile from the Keyes cabin.

Lt. Scott Heggelke of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation said state police did not participate in the actual search.

Pasquale “Pat” Guagliano of Malone said he was riding his bike to Ms. O’Leary’s house to help her split wood and was allowed to pass under state police escort.

He said he saw about 30 people exiting unmarked cars when he passed the scene shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday. He said he noticed a card table set up that had a stack of orange-blaze hats and vests and a clipboard. He said a few of those present wore windbreakers and ties.

Ms. O’Leary said investigators who refused to identify themselves or their agency came to her house and questioned her. She said they asked her how long she lived at her Poplar Street home and if she owned her property, and wanted to know her whereabouts in 2011. She said she had been in Europe doing missionary work for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Ms. O’Leary said she believes she was interrogated because she has a connection to Texas, as does Keyes.

She also confirmed seeing investigators wearing the orange hats and vests searching the woods.

Bonita Patnode, who also lives near the cabin, said she was approached by state troopers early Tuesday, but was not questioned.

“They just told us there was going to be something going on, that they were investigating something,” Ms. Patnode said. “I figured it had to be about the house up the road.”

She said she could hear the sounds of heavy machinery and at one point saw a HAZMAT truck going to the scene.

Ms. Patnode had said in August that she never saw Keyes there, but recalled an Amish family living in the house during the summer of 2008 or 2009. She said the Amish stayed a couple of months but that she never knew them. She said they suddenly left and she never saw them again.

A Facebook page, “Have You Ever Met Israel Keyes? Possible Serial Killer” has been set up by Samantha Koenig’s father and is dedicated to tracking Keyes’s whereabouts over the years.

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