A man who is standing trial for the alleged murder of a young Alaska woman tore free from his leg irons and unsuccessfully tried to escape from court, according to a report from MSNBC.
The man, 34-year-old Israel Keyes, was somehow able to escape from his leg shackles and tried to leap over the bar that separated court spectators from him and his attorney, but his flight did not last very long.
Sources say that security officers in the building quickly disabled Keyes by striking him with a stun gun, and the courtroom was cleared soon after the escapee was caught.
There remains, however, some suspicion about how Keyes was able to free himself from his leg chains. In the words of the supervising deputy, Dave Long, “I’ve been doing this 20 years and have not seen one pulled like this.”
The mystery of the detached leg irons may never be solved, but the court has bigger concerns to address. Chief among these concerns is determining who killed 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, an Anchorage resident, this February.
This week, Keyes is starting a criminal defense against the state’s allegations that he kidnapped Koenig from the coffee stand where she worked and killed her less than a day later after the abduction.
Sources say that Koenig’s abduction was a major news story in Alaska for weeks, until her body was found almost two months later in an ice-covered lake north of Anchorage.
One month earlier, police had arrested Keyes in Texas. Sources say that Keyes withdrew ransom money from an ATM using a debit card he had stolen from Koenig. Keyes is believed to have stolen the card and her phone from her vehicle after he abducted her.
Police believe that surveillance footage showing a man in a hooded shirt taking Koenig away from her workplace shows Keyes, although his criminal defense attorney may dispute this at trial.
Perhaps the state’s strongest evidence against Keyes is the record of text messages he sent using her phone in an effort to conceal his actions. Later, Keyes would use her phone to demand ransom money, which he wanted to be deposited into the account that was accessible through her debit card.
Keyes’ desire to escape the courtroom is understandable, given the stakes of his trial. The state of Alaska does not have the death penalty but sources say that the crimes of kidnapping and killing do carry the possibility of the death penalty under federal law.
At press time, however, the U.S. attorney had not yet decided whether the federal government will seek the death penalty in this case.