Young barista's abduction sparks fear in Anchorage
February 10th, 2012
11:56 AM ET

Young barista's abduction sparks fear in Anchorage

[Updated at 5:25 p.m. ET] Eighteen-year-old barista Samantha Koenig has been missing for more than a week, kidnapped on a dark, snowy Alaska evening from the parking-lot coffee stand where she worked.

Her father, at times, has feared the worst.

"I am hitting every place I can possibly think of to get any tip or inclination," James Koenig was quoted as saying by the Anchorage Daily News. "I've got to start thinking, where would I dump the ... body if I were this guy?"

The community is in fear, too, for the employees who staff many of the other coffee kiosks that dot the Anchorage area.

Samantha Koenig was taken from the Common Grounds Espresso stand, in the parking lot of an Anchorage fitness club, around 8 p.m. on February 1, according to reports. Police have told local media that security footage shows an armed man wearing a dark hoodie entering the shop and taking Koenig away. Gone, too, was the cash from the stand's register, as well as Koenig's coat, purse and cell phone, reports say.

The abductor’s face was not visible, police have told the media, and they have not released the video, saying they want to preserve its usefulness to any possible prosecution.

“There is an evidentiary nature to those videos that were taken in by these security cameras and they can be used later on in court,” police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker is quoted as saying by KTVA.com. “But if we are to present them now it would have the effect of tainting the jury.”

The owners of the coffee stand, Tyler and Michelle Duncan, have seen the video. They reported the case to police after arriving at their business the morning after Koenig's abduction, according to the Daily News.

"This perpetrator took obvious and deliberate means to avoid being captured on video," Tyler Duncan told the Anchorage paper.

Police said Friday they're making progress in the case, without releasing any details.

"(Investigators) are doing additional interviews and following up on leads," Parker told CNN. "They've not released the name of any person of interest or suspect."

"We're just hoping and praying that we find Samantha, and she gets home safely," he said.

The FBI is also helping in the search, according to local news reports.

But police said Alaska’s winter weather is hampering the investigation, reports say. More than a foot of snow has fallen around the crime scene since the abduction, possibly concealing evidence, and heavy snow falling the night Koenig went missing may have prevented people in the area of the coffee stand from seeing anything, Parker said, according to a report from KTUU.com.

Koenig's family is offering a $41,000 reward for information leading to her return. More than 1,000 people are expected to attend a candlelight vigil for Koenig in downtown Anchorage on Saturday evening, James Koenig told CNN on Friday.

The vigil will come 10 days after her disappearance and a week after her father pleaded for help. He said he and volunteers - from close friends to strangers - have distributed about 45,000 fliers door-to-door and conducted searches.

He and volunteers are using a donated motor home, which they've parked near the coffee stand from which Samantha Koenig was taken, as a 24-hour base of operations, coordinating searches and flier distribution, working on plans for the vigil, and keeping an eye on the baristas who continue to work at the stand.

"I don't know if I have the word for (the support)," James Koenig told CNN on Friday. "I never expected people to drop their lives like this. They are the true heroes. Most of them I don't even know - they're treating (Samantha) as one of their own."

The crime has struck at one of the hallmarks of the Anchorage community, the tiny coffee stands around town, says Daily News columnist Julia O'Malley.

O'Malley wrote in her Thursday column:

Coffee shops are a thing here, a signature Anchorage phenomena. A study in 2005 said there was a coffee opportunity for every 3,300 residents in the city. At the time, that was the highest coffee-to-person ratio in the U.S. It’s a competitive business and it doesn’t hurt to have a cart staffed with attractive young women. While that makes caffeine and pretty faces easy to find, it also means a lot of women like 18-year-old Koenig will be closing up shacks in dark parking lots of car washes and gas stations tonight. Plenty of them will tell you that’s a vulnerable feeling. Koenig’s disappearance dials up the unease.

The unease is real for Ashton Stoltzfus-Avis, who works - usually alone, she said in a KTUU report - at the Hot Spot coffee stand.

"As a fellow barista, it's always been in the back in my mind, but for it to actually happen, and happen so out of the blue, I mean it's scary. It is, for anybody. Even not as a barista, just as a young lady," Stolzfus-Avis is quoted as saying.

Baristas say they are worried and are taking precautions.

“I know a lot of girls are scared that work in coffee shops. My family got me pepper spray. I know a lot of girls’ families are doing that,” Sari Phillips, who works at a stand called the Kodiak Kup, told KTVA.com.

At another stand, Qwik Cup Espresso, there's a can of bear mace by each service window, according to the KTVA report.

Qwik Cup barista Christina Johnson told KTVA that no one expected this kind of crime in Anchorage.

“This shouldn't happen, especially in our small little town at the coffee shop around the corner, that's really scary,” she's quoted as saying.

James Koenig said he didn't sleep for five days after Samantha's abduction and now operates on one or two hours. He said Friday that he believes the case will be solved.

"She's coming home soon," he said. "I'm trying to get her home today. Hopefully there will be a celebration tomorrow, rather than a vigil."

See the Help Find Samantha Koenig Facebook page.

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Filed under: Alaska • Crime
soundoff (405 Responses)
  1. BOMBO ©

    Good looking girl. I hope they find her alive and well. How do you get a nice tan like that in Anchorage? Maybe it's a summer picture, 20-odd hours of sunlight.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wisco30

      did you seriously just complement her on her tan? Wow, what a tool.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • lu

      bombo is a moron. period. YEAH IT'S HER TAN THAT MATTERS. RIGHT "BOMBO"?

      February 14, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. teresa, ohio

    just notes from this article: odd, that they say they dont want to release any video. i know here in ohio, they release that VIDEO ASAP in a case like this. There is something on that video that the cops dont want the perp to know they know. also, odd that she was permitted to take her coat, purse and cell? what kind of perp allows that? none. Is her cell on by the way? got any PINGS? who was the last call to? ( I'm thinking the Cops think she knows the perp)

    So its a cash and kidnap thing. Usually it is just one.

    I pray she is found safe and unharmed quickly.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. HE'S WALKING AROUND IN FRONT OF YOU

    SPLIT THAT MONEY BETWEEN EVERYONE IN TOWN AND GIVE SEARCH CHECKS TO EVERY HOME! GOOD LUCK & CATCH THE CREEP!

    February 10, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Badly-Bent

    Good thing they had cameras. Too bad there were none looking up as well as down. Might have a shot at identifying the culprit.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. richp

    Pepper spray ?!?!? how about .38 lady smith. How about equipping these stand alone stands with a fraking air powered panic HORN.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BOMBO ©

    Pepper spray is pretty darn nasty.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • David in Corpus

      Not if you are used to. Military personnel, cops, and gangstas go thru such training. I did. You can hose me down with that stuff and I will just get meaner. It isn't hard to fight thru burning eyes and running noses. In fact, it is an aphrodisiac for violence.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jerry

    Damn I really hope she is found ok, who knows the trauma this whole experience must have been on her.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Matthew Carberry

    Teresa,

    Recall that it is the middle of winter up here. She likely would have put up more resistance if he made her leave her stuff. The key for these predators is to get the victim to start complying, holding out hope that they will not hurt them by granting little things. It makes it easier on the attacker if the victim goes along with them.

    The hard and fast rule remains, if someone threatens to kill you if you don't go with them, you refuse and fight like hell. Statistically if you willingly leave the first crime scene the next one -will- be the murder site. Better to fight on ground not of their choosing. Make them kill you out in public.

    After all, if they meant you no harm they would not want to escalate a robbery to a kidnapping.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. boarddog

    My daughter got a hand held stun gun for her 18th birthday when she started work at a restaurant. She turns the safety off when she walks out to go to her car and keeps it in her hand. This thing is wicked! All women who face a dark parking lot alone she carry some type of self defense. It may save their life.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ron

    They probably haven't released the video because there is still a possibility that it is an inside job.......

    February 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • David in Corpus

      They need to check survellance video for all customers in the place in the last 3 months, find those customers and question them. Random this was not.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      Agreed.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. davis

    I just saved a bunch of money by switching to Geico

    February 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sunflower

    Define barista..... I looked it up in webster's and it wasn't in my edition......

    February 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • the tree of knowledge

      It's a South American lawyer. Don't you know anything?

      February 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Debbie

    Let's face it-whether your daughters are 8, 18, 28 or older:they are always going to be your babies. We need to provide our children with the proper tools, knowledge,intuition and instinct needed to stay safe in an ever increasingly dangerous and predatory world. I am praying she is found safe andunharmed.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jesus Is Lord

    Fathers, pray for your daughters that the Lord will protect them.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JulianCA

    Where I used to live there was a law that prevented employers from having employees working alone in service jobs after hours. It is an important employee protection because otherwise of course any gas station or liquor store owner would love to get away with having only one person working the shop - but it is just too dangerous. My in-laws used to run convenience stores, and it was guaranteed that they get armed robbers a couple times a year. It is not uncommon.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
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