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. Don Ronny

    Ex-boyfriend probably. Always is. Worthless waste of human mass and resources.

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

      "Always is" an ex-boyfriend? Uh, no. But that's definitely a good place to start.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shy-Ronnie

      Cmon Ronny, isn't it time you moved on and stopped blaming your ex boyfriend for everything that goes wrong in: your life, the economy, and/or Alaska. We realize you hate your ex-boyfriend Ronny, but this isn't the time or the place to talk more trash about your ex.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • David in Corpus

      The key is to let them shoot you before ever going anywhere with them. Just say NO and if you get shot at least you ONLY got shot instead of r a p e d, beaten, tortured, then strangled with your own under garments.
      WOMEN – stop being victims. Sometimes death is better. These types of men bet on you being weak and easily taken. If more of fought back there would be an almost immediate drop in these kinds of crimes.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don Ronny's Ex

      Yeah, that's why I got the restraining order against you Don. I dumped you and you just couldn't accept it.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not always

      @David, aren't you aware that victims are often gagged, choked, etc., and unable to decide to stay where they are? Maybe the attacker knows her personally and she was trying to prevent him from killing someone else. It's never the victim's fault!

      February 10, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Truth Hurts

    Unfortunately, if she wasn't found in the first 24 hours, she is probably already dead. Thousands of people disappear each year in this country and I still can't figure out how they pick which story to cover – or maybe Bombo's "Good looking girl," comment is all I need to know.

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

      you people always got something 2 complain about shut up already

      February 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Becky

      It's because it's Alaska, and things like this don't normally happen there. I also think it's the manner in which she was taken – very odd. I hope they find her in good health.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neil

      @ Becky
      You're absolutely right that this type of thing is a rarity up here. That said, the Daily News-Miner here in Fairbanks reported that at Wednesday night's local vigil, around 90% of the women who work at one of the coffee stands reported having been in an "uncomfortable" situation involving a customer. One even said a man tried to pull her out of the window since they're required to lock the doors.
      Some are investing in self-defense classes. Anything to help prevent another tragedy like this from occurring.
      These single-employee drive-through coffee stands are ubiquitous up here (getting out of a car to walk inside at -55 isn't fun...) and it would be a shame to see them closing up out of fear of being kidnapped or worse.
      Keeping her in our thoughts.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chrstphr

    Heard this years ago on Oprah show. Never let them take you to a second location!!!

    February 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pam

    Maybe a small good sign is that he took her coat, if he was just going to kill her, why would he care if she was cold?

    February 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. longtooth

    Pepper spray is a good start for these ladies. A .38 or an iron pipe is good after the spray. Then you'll have time to call 911

    February 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shy-Ronnie

      Pepper Spray = Angrier Attacker, who covers you in Capsaicin during you the abduction.

      a .38 requires proper training to use, and is just as likely to get you charged with murder if you use it with lethal effect. Just ask Richard DiGuglielmo Jr.

      An Iron Pipe!? What is this....Clue the Boardgame? If a 90 pound girl hit someone with an iron pipe it's more likely to make them mad, at which point they grab the pipe and cave the girl's head in.

      This kind of thinking spreads the misinformation that practicing active self-defense leads to a safer outcome. The most effective forms of self defense are: 1. Seeking Help, 2. Running. 3. Hiding. Standing up to a most likely planned, prepared, and psychotic attacker is putting yourself at a severe disadvantage.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • CDMH

      @Shy-Ronnie: 1) Seeking help – yes, yell for help (yell "Fire" – more people likely to respond; 2) Running away – yes, by all means try to escape; but barring that, HECK YEAH I'M FIGHTING BACK!!!

      February 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wisco30

      shy Ronnie – yelling for help will do jack $ hit when no one else is around to hear it and guess what? The attacker isnt giong to care if you're screaming. The number one thing to do is defend yourself and NEVER let them take you to the next location. Maybe you need to take a defense class or two.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bookldy209

    As a small business owner, no way in heck I'd leave an 18-year old or even a single employee alone to close up shop. Too many crazies out there and the recession has brought out the worst in others.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. svscnn

    Yeah, it's probably because she was a barista that she was kidnapped; nothing to do with her being pretty.

    Yeah, that's it.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bill

    forget the pepper spray get a 357 mag

    February 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. PeterD

    She looks like Casey Anthony.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      She looks nothing like Casey Anthony.
      If it *were* Casey Anthony, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

      I hope this young lady is found safe and sound.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wisco30

      PeterD – I guess you dont get an opinion today.
      banasy – I acutally thought she looked like Casey Anthony too so he's not that far off base. Brush the chip off your shoulder dude.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DMM

    Pepper spray sitting on the counter is as useful as a gun in a holster – the criminal has the drop on you. You can't hold a can of bear spray up to each customer (the first time it accidentally goes off, lawsuit!, in addition to just scaring away customers).

    February 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bobcat (in a hat) ©

    Check the sleeper units of those ice road truckers.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Hmmmmm....not a bad idea there, bc(iah)...and hello.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat) ©

      Hello banasy,
      How are you today ?

      Some of these things don't make sense. With no obvious urgency displayed, he allowed her the time to retrieve her coat purse and other items. Kinda out of the norm, wouldn't you think.

      Things that make you go Hmmmmm.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Koffeelover

    A father so tough as to be imagining where someone would dump her body. This is the type of
    man that my heat bleeds for the most- a stalwart dad, who is an eagle eyed realist. I hope this criminal is caught and
    I read about it very, very shortly.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jimmyhat

    When are the employers going to realize That having a single employee on a late night shift isn't safe?
    I've worked in convenience stores in the middle of the night, and they show you where the safe is and the "Alarm Button".
    Makes you feel REAL safe.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jimmyhat

    It's only 10-12K of their profit a year. She should have had backup. I hope the owner gets sued for wrongful death

    February 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • erin andrews perky breasts

      lol? ...

      February 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wisco30

      Well Jimmyhat, I hope you get sued for being such a giant moron.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. conradshull

    Get a gun, girls. It is Alaska, after all.

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