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. Klaas Jan

    Such a beautiful young woman, what a shame.

    February 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Artie2

      Doesn't matter how cute she is or isn't.... it is still a shame these things happen.

      February 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jane

      So if she was ugly you wouldn't care?

      February 12, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hawkeye1010

      "So if she was ugly you wouldn't care?"

      Nope.

      February 12, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. scott

    There are too many disgusting people that think they have a right to a woman's body are psychotically bent. I hope this girl comes home soon!

    February 12, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hayley

    I used to run a cafe alone at night when I was 17 and I was almost kidnapped twice. My boss wouldn't change my schedule even after that so I had to quit. Girls shouldn't work alone at night! We are bait!

    February 12, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nola

      When I was 18, I also ran a cafe alone (cook, waitress, barmaid). Amazing how the flash of a big pocketknife in the direction of someone approaching me as I closed up late managed to keep me from being assaulted/abducted on several occasions. When I turned 21, I always put on my concealed handgun before leaving the building to cross a wide expanse of parking lot to get to my car. Ladies, if you accept that YOU are the only one who can truly prevent a crime against your person, and take preventative measures, you have a significantly higher chance of not being a victim. A well-meaning family member gave me a copy of "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker to read when I was 15, and it pulled my ego out from an insulated, middle-class, Caucasian household in a gated community to make me realize what kind of violence is possible (and occurs every day) in this real world. If you're not comfortable carrying or using weapons, then at the very least, please consider taking one single self-defense class to learn how to defend yourself using only your body.

      Please, please recognize and accept that a policeman will not immediately materialize next to you if you place a 911 call the moment you realize you're about to become the target of a violent criminal. You have a choice: either rely on yourself for your own safety (which will produce instant results), or you can rely on others for safety (which takes time, and time is all a criminal needs to change your life forever).

      February 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • PaulMc1981

      Very well put, Nola.

      February 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • OldCrew

      @Nola Brilliant

      February 14, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BigMac

    "...those videos that were taken in by these security cameras..." “But if we are to present them now it would have the effect of tainting the jury.”

    These statements by the police make no sense! The police haven't even caught this guy and they are already worried about "tainting the jury"?

    Someone in the public may recognize this masked man just by the clothes and items he is wearing! This is why we have surveillance cameras people!

    Something isn't right here. Makes me think the police are hiding something.

    February 12, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crocker's Common Sense

      I think they probably meant to say POTENTIAL JURY. You know, if things turn out badly for the missing girl and she is the victim of foul play. Hope this helps.

      February 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      I agree 100% with you. It seems likely the only clue they have- and the chance of her being alive lessen with every passing day. None of it made sense to me either, unless the police know more than they are telling.

      February 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • xvet

      It seems to me that the immediate release of the video might have resulted the in the early capture and possibly saving the life of this poor girl. The face doesn't necessarily have to show for an identification, clothes, mannerisms, voice may bring up someone who might recognize this person. Worry about the jury after the suspect is caught. The important thing is preventing this girl from further harm.

      xvet

      February 12, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zach

      If the police thought it would help by showing the video publicly, they would have. Most security cameras have no ability to capture sound and owners in small cities like Anchorage don't update surveillance or security devices because "crime doesn't happen here". All the video probably shows is an armed man kidnapping the victim at gun point and not much more other than the possible height of the criminal. It's quite easy to commit a crime like this if you have the will and the competence to pull it off sadly, not to mention striking somewhere that isn't as heavily populated or highly concerned about safety. Sad how things only truly change through pain and death.

      February 12, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. anevay

    When most people are abducted either in their homes, from their cars, anywhere, they usually leave their belongings behind. This girl was taken with her purse, phone, and coat? Was she carrying her purse the whole time while working? Was she wearing her coat? Did the abductor care about her enough to make sure she had her phone and coat before he took her?

    February 12, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. From Anchorage, AK

    We love and miss you Samantha! We will never stop looking for you till you are home agian. We are praying for you and your family everyday. You are a part of us all. May God bless you and keep you safe where ever you are right now.
    Love Always, Anchorage, AK

    February 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jack Murphy

    Why is she so orange? Tanorexia, perhaps?

    February 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Alaskan

    The news sources have all had conflicting stories about whether she took her purse/ personal belongings. Also she wasnt working in a shop, its more like a coffee trailer. You drive up to the window etc.

    February 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tcaros

    They need to round up a civilian posse to look for this man.
    The police in these rural areas never do enough early on. They need to release the tape. Somebody will recongize the man.

    February 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. tcaros

    It's possible she is still alive. They need to get looking for her and follow up all tips.

    February 12, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tcaros

    Alaska is an odd ball place. They need to round up locals and go looking for her.

    February 12, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cortanis

    The bad part is that Alaska is a very large and empty place... plenty of places to hide a body or let the water and the world do its thing to break it down.

    February 13, 2012 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
  13. jp

    follow the snowmoblie track...mosrlikely a loser living out in the woods.....

    February 13, 2012 at 6:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. HeyZeus

    well, they say that too much dark affects people negatively, it would seem so. Hope they find the young lady, but they need to start paying a second person to be there with them.

    February 13, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. Derek

    Doesnt matter if this was Alaska or Maine, its ashame this crap happens. I hope they find her healthy!

    February 13, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
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