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.

Post by: ,
Filed under: Alaska • Crime
soundoff (405 Responses)
  1. Cindy

    OK – why would a kidnapper allow her to get her coat, purse and cell phone? I smell a rat- for her sake I hope I am right.

    February 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Yeah maybe the individual were the girls boyfriend and they wanted to run away and thought the extra cash would help..

      February 13, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bill

    What is a Barista

    February 13, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • memberoflife

      you probably thought it was a british lawyer. it is a person who works a coffee bar.

      February 14, 2012 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kill the Kidnapper

    When we find him, we should cut him apart limb by limb.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JUST PEEKING IN

    While reading this story, a couple of things to question. Being kidnapped how is it she was able to get her purse, her coat and her CELLPHONE. According to the camera's, did the kidnapper appear to know where the cameras were? Maybe he has actually been in the place before and knew right where the cameras were to avoid them.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Barry

    I too think it is possible she ran away with her boyfriend or something if her coat and phone and purse were taken. Let us hope she is safe.

    February 13, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sunshinegrl007

    The question in hand right now is not finding a jury..... But finding Samantha who is a daughter, sister, granddaughter and a friend....hours and minuets matter in a situation like this. We can always go out of state to find a jury. In my opinion the police have failed by not showing the video!

    February 14, 2012 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
    • memberoflife

      I agree with!! it is so stupid to worry about getting a jury! Get the young lady first!! The cold must affect their brains!

      February 14, 2012 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  7. memberoflife

    If she took her phone then maybe they can track her?

    February 14, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. lu

    I don't really see this as abduction. Not yet. She was safe in a booth. She didn't have to let anyone in, and she didn't have to leave the booth. Let's remember the college woman in St. Louis last month. Media said she was 'abducted' from a St Louis college campus. National news. She emerged, just fine, a couple of weeks later. NO FOUL PLAY.

    February 14, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. That Dude

    bikini-clad women, all alone in the middle of the night. You make yourself a target, someone will get you. its only a matter of time.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  10. Rick

    Probably her boyfriend, check her relationship links, like facebooks.

    February 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ty

    I agree check her facebook activity to see if this is someone she knows

    February 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mistylynn

    I sure hope Samantha is found safe and reunited with her family. My heart aches for her family. I can't imagine the pain they are going through,. This is terrible. What is wrong with some people? I really don't understand.

    February 14, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. OldCrew

    May everyone you love be brutally murdered leaving you so alone that you fall into a long downward spiral of alcohol and heroin abuse until you finally take your own life with a shotgun to the face.

    February 14, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. inurface

    X2..

    February 14, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Allen

    That's terrible to say that OldCrew. This person is surely demented, but to wish other people harm for this moron's failings? That's terrible.

    February 15, 2012 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13