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. Dawn

    It was probably someone who has been to the bar and knew her. Im sure they are checking earlier footages of the bar in the days prior as well.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. tcaros

    They need to round up a posse in Anchroage and look for this animal. If the police can't do it then citizens need to go out and look in groups.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tcaros

    The police are dumb. They don't release the video and the trail is going to go cold. Get the video out !!!!

    February 11, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Taffy

    What a sad story and to boot, mean-spirited posts regarding "barmaids." A different career path? How vicious. She was a young woman working hard to support herself. How about the novel thought of feeling safe wherever you work? This is a tragedy. I hope whoever did this will be brought to justice. I am praying for this beautiful young lady and her family. On another lighter note: she worked at a coffee house not a coffee shop (which is a small restaurant).

    February 12, 2012 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  5. Locode

    she must be in the land of oompa loompas

    February 12, 2012 at 4:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. tcaros

    I wonder if bloodhounds would help. They are pretty amazing at finding people and direction.

    February 12, 2012 at 4:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. Granny

    My condolences to the parents. How agonizing. The story does not make sense to me though. Boyfriend, accidently was late– and perp accidently picked the right night when boyfriend was late.? I wouldn't know where the cameras were- much less how to stay off the camera. Don't cell phones have tracker? I was told this feature is present, even though phone is turned off. Story gets weirder and weirder.

    February 12, 2012 at 6:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. pranger

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

    What is the point of mentioning such details? the kidnappers will be prepared next time they hit the stores. for the sake of the safety of these hardworking women, there should be some censorship on your part.

    February 12, 2012 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. Craig Vale

    I fail to see the logic of withholding that video as it may hold a clue as to just who the abductor is. Should she still be alive I would think asking the public for help would be of paramount importance for the police. It seems they are more concerned with a post facto conviction that the actual opportunity to save this girl. It appears to border on criminal negligence to me !

    February 12, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. Edward Hoeger

    She did nothing wrong by working. THE PROBLEM LIES WITH THE SCUMBAG KIDNAPPER

    February 12, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  11. Samlv

    Isn't that place so small you could just round up the entire population?

    February 12, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • midogs2

      291,000 people Samlv. There is not enough room at the police station to interview them all.

      February 12, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  12. POD

    Outlaw Hoodies.....period

    February 12, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • midogs2

      And ski masks, and halloween masks, and masqurade masks............

      February 12, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Ezo

      You're kidding...right?

      February 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Debbie

    My thoughts and prayers for her safe return and for her family and friends.

    February 12, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  14. Rick Springfield

    Buy a Keurig. Its so much cheaper than Starcrap and you can sit in the comfort of your own home instead of having to listen to the new age crap they play in most Starbugs places.

    February 12, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. OregonTom

    If you work alone at a counter carry a pistol.

    February 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
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