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Body of missing Alaska barista believed found

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The body of a missing 18-year-old barista was found in a lake Monday, almost two months to the day she was last seen on a surveillance camera video being led away from the coffee shack where she worked, Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew said.

A body believed to be that of Samantha Koenig of Anchorage was recovered by a forensic dive team from Matanuska Lake north of the city, Mew said at a Monday evening news conference. City police, state troopers and FBI agents spent hours at the lake scene earlier in the day.

The state medical examiner will conduct an autopsy, which will include verification of identity, he said.

"Investigators believe Samantha died within hours of her abduction," Mew said, adding the investigation is ongoing.

"Investigators further believe the person responsible for Samantha's death acted alone, and we are confident that we have that person in custody," Mew said.

The only man who has been listed by Anchorage police as a "person of interest" in the abduction of Koenig was arraigned March 27 in federal court in Anchorage on a fraud charge, shortly after being returned from Texas, where he was arrested.

Israel Keyes, 34, entered a not guilty plea to a charge of access device fraud. Federal prosecutors say he made cash withdrawals from a stolen debit card.

The card was not Koenig's.

"We are working closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office, and charges for Samantha's kidnapping and murder will be forthcoming," Mew said.

A message left after hours Monday with Richard Curtner, Keyes' appointed federal public defender, was not immediately returned.

When Keyes, the owner of an Anchorage construction company, was transferred to Alaska by federal marshals, Koenig's father said she did not know Keyes. James Koenig told the Anchorage Daily News he believes his daughter was the victim of a random abduction.

Mary Rook, the FBI's special agent in charge, confirmed the apparently chance nature of the abduction.

"Investigators found no direct association between the abductor and Samantha or any member of her family," Rook said at the news conference. "I believe it was largely the dissociative nature of this crime that so perplexed investigators, at least initially."

Neither Mew nor Rook took questions at the news conference.

Samantha Koenig was last seen on a surveillance tape at about 8 p.m., Feb. 1, being led away by a man with a weapon from the midtown Anchorage coffee shack where she worked.

Police classified it as an abduction based on Koenig's demeanor and the man's actions from the tape. Police refused to release the tape.

There are numerous such stand-alone coffee shacks in Anchorage and throughout Alaska. After her abduction, women who work these coffee stands alone began taking self-defense classes.

Koenig's family distributed thousands of flyers showing pictures of the missing woman and offered a reward for her return. Her face continues to be displayed on posters attached to cars, telephone poles and buildings throughout Anchorage.

Local and federal investigators continue to seek witnesses who may know something about the movements of Keyes' white three-quarter ton Chevrolet pickup, which was seized after Keyes' arrest in Texas.

"We would like to reiterate our request for information relative to the movement of the white pickup truck," Rook said. "Specifically, we want to hear from anyone who may have seen the truck in the vicinity of Matanuska Lake."

Investigators earlier said they're looking for people who may have seen the truck in late January and early February near the midtown Anchorage coffee shack where Koenig worked and in other locations.

The truck was equipped with green tool boxes that run the length of the box on each side. It also was photographed with a rack over the box, but the truck may have been driven without it, investigators said. It may have been off the truck at the time of the incident, the FBI said last week.

Keyes likely would have needed help moving the rack on or off the truck, and investigators would like to speak to anyone who may have assisted him.

The Keyes Construction website says the company offers "foundations to finish work." Rates were $35 an hour during the winter, $40 an hour during the summer.

It says Keyes worked in Washington state from 1995 to 1997, served in the Army for three years, and from 2001 to 2007 worked for the Makah Tribal Council in Neah Bay, Wash., and received a commendation letter for his work in the parks and rec department. He started his Alaska business in 2007.

Associated Press writer Kathy McCarthy contributed to this report from Seattle.