BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A husband and wife randomly targeted for death by an Alaska man who crossed the continent in search of victims both tried to escape but were ultimately killed and their bodies left in the basement of a vacant farmhouse the attacker had chosen.
His voice at times cracking with emotion, the Vermont prosecutor who laid out the sequence that led to the deaths of Bill and Lorraine Currier said they both fought Israel Keyes before the husband was shot to death and his wife was sexually assaulted and strangled.
‘‘It is clear from the facts of the case that, though confronted with death, Bill and Lorraine showed extraordinary bravery and an extreme dedication and love for one another,’’ said Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan on Monday. ‘‘They fought to the end.’’
Authorities were able to release the details of the Vermont case after Keyes, 34, apparently killed himself in an Alaska jail cell on Sunday where he was being held on charges he killed an 18-year-old barista, ending the need for silence about the search for the Vermont couple.
Keyes confessed to killing the Curriers in April after his arrest in the Alaska case and promised to help investigators in other cases as long as he wasn’t publicly connected to the Vermont case, officials said.
The disappearance of the Curriers, well-liked homebodies, baffled Vermont investigators following their June 2011 disappearance. They didn’t get a break in the case until Keyes’ arrest in March.
Keyes flew from Alaska to Chicago on June 2, 2011, rented a car and drove almost 1,000 miles to Vermont, carrying a gun and silencer, authorities said. He spent three days in Vermont, even buying a short-term fishing license, officials said.
Keyes told investigators he chose the Curriers’ home because it had an attached garage, no evidence of children or a dog, and the style of the house clued him in to the probable location of the master bedroom.
In preparing to break in, he cut the phone line to see whether it would trigger an alarm. He removed a fan from a window to get into the garage on June 8 and smashed a window into the house with a crowbar that had been hanging on the wall of the garage.
‘‘Keyes then engaged in what he called a ‘blitz’ attack on the Curriers, and ran to the room he had earlier predicted was the bedroom. Keyes estimated it took him approximately five to six seconds to get from the broken entry door to the Curriers’ bedroom,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘During this time, Keyes wore a headlamp to provide lighting in the otherwise dark home.’’
After binding the two with zip ties, Keyes drove the Curriers, both in their 50s, to an abandoned house in Essex that he had already scouted. He tied Bill to a stool in the basement. Lorraine Currier had been left in the car and managed to escape. Keyes tackled the fleeing woman and brought her back to the house, Donovan said.
He shot Bill Currier in the basement with the silenced gun. He then sexually assaulted and strangled Lorraine Currier, Donovan said, his voice breaking.
Keyes placed the bodies in garbage bags that he covered with debris in the basement of the abandoned home, which was later demolished. After Keyes began speaking to investigators in April, FBI teams spent months searching the landfill in northern Vermont where the debris was taken. The remains were never found.
After the killings, Keyes left the Curriers’ car in a parking lot and drove his rental car to Maine. He then returned to Vermont and noticed the crime scene tape around the Currier home.
Keyes told police he left Vermont and continued to follow the Currier case through the Vermont press. After his arrest in Alaska, he told authorizes he would stop cooperating if he was publicly linked to the Curriers.
He threw the gun he had brought from Alaska and the weapon he stole from the Curriers into a reservoir near Parishville, N.Y., where both were recovered by FBI dive teams.
Essex Police Lt. George Murtie, who interviewed Keyes about the Curriers’ killing, described his demeanor as ‘‘very calm’’ with ‘‘no display of emotion.’’
When Keyes died, he was being held for the slaying of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, who was abducted from a coffee kiosk in Anchorage in February. He was later arrested in Texas after using her debit card.
Authorities have said money appeared to be just a partial motive in Keyes’ crimes. Lorraine Currier’s purse was missing from her home.
In addition to the Curriers and Koenig, Keyes told authorities he had killed five other people, four in the state of Washington and one in New York.
Associated Press writer Rachel D'Oro in Anchorage and Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.