Currier Murder Investigation Collided With Public's Right To Know

9:23 AM, Dec 5, 2012   |    comments
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(BURLINGTON FREE PRESS) -- Confessed serial killer Israel Keyes was a study in contrasts - a remorseless murderer who shared with investigators just enough information about his crimes to keep them guessing.

His actions required an extraordinary level of secrecy from authorities in the investigation of the double murder of Bill and Lorraine Currier he committed in Vermont - and, when a local TV station broke through that barrier, officials say, it set back the investigation.

"He was aware of that, and he stopped talking to investigators for a while," said Essex police Detective Lt. George Murtie, the lead investigator in the Currier case. "He did stop. He did signify his being concerned that that information had come out, and for a period he stopped talking to investigators."

The role of secrecy in the Keyes case, explained for the first time following his suicide Sunday in an Alaska prison cell, is raising questions about journalism ethics and the balance between the public's right to know and the confidentiality that oftentimes surrounds active police investigations.

"As a general rule, our job is not to be cops. Our job is to be journalists," said professor Lee Wilkins of the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, where she teaches and researches journalism ethics. "We're not a tool of law enforcement."

Keyes was arrested in March in Texas on charges related to the murder of 18-year-old Anchorage resident Samantha Koenig, whom the authorities say he abducted, raped and killed in February. Keyes, 34, quickly confessed to that crime and to the unsolved 2011 slaying of the Curriers. He also claimed responsibility for at least five other murders across the country, but was slow to provide crucial details, withholding even the names of his victims.

He noted to the authorities that his killings had received little attention from the media and from law enforcement, including one instance in which a death he claimed responsibility for had been officially ruled an accident, not a murder, according to the FBI. He became a voracious consumer of news about the Currier and Koenig murders, yet also demanded that investigators release no information connecting him to the Vermont slayings. Otherwise, he threatened, he would stop cooperating in the unsolved homicides.

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