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. appleofmyeye

    Is it possible that maybe could of been a person who used to work at this place knowing where the camera was?

    February 10, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Veronica

    I've distributed flyers, looked in wooded areas near my home which is less than 5 miles from the coffee shop, I have posted flyers any place possible. I've never met Samantha, but my heart is with her and her family. Godspeed home sweet Sam

    February 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • NanookoftheNorth

      Good work Veronica ! Sounds like you've really gotten out there to work on doing what you can :-)

      February 11, 2012 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. rob2tall

    Good for you-I hope the FBI reads this and comes to arrest you-or would it be some foreign security agency?

    February 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. TedBundy

    Didn't do this one.

    February 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Ark Angel

    Seriously? this guy is either sinister, or happy to serve the devil. Believing he will get his glory in hell for being a jack a loup. If you do have her and are liking all this attention, then may GOD stike you down with a bullet. Our highest hopes are for her safety, and you Allah Ackbar are a sick excuse for a human. Go ahead and gloat your time is coming. Watch your back!!!!

    February 10, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. TheDood

    Sounds like probable cause for a search warrant. How about providing this information to the authorities CNN?

    February 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Barbara J Wilson

    My heart truley goes out to her father family and friends,every since this story broke into the media, i have prayed for her safe return, diffinately gives all of us people here in alaska just how vulnerable we really are... I pray that all you young ladies out there be more on your guard especially those young ladies working alone in this darkness and cold weather we get here in alaska late in the evenings...please raise awarness of your surroundings, it may make a difference between going home or not,,, again my prayers are with you Samantha and her father...please lord bring her home safely and unharmed!

    February 10, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • NanookoftheNorth

      Well said Barbara, I think all of Alaska is praying fo this young lady and her family !

      February 11, 2012 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. CC

    Terrible about this woman but it's nothing new-jobs where you work alone after dark are categorized as 'target'. Especially if you handle money. Even when jobs are hard to find, just say no-and tell the employer why. Maybe they'll find a way to put a second person in there-like combine the job with night watchman or something. Or like in some cabs where the customer can't get to the driver-unless the driver lets him/her.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Caitlin

    I live in Anchorage, I don't personally know Samantha, many of us don't, but she has affected nearly every single one of us. We will not stop looking, we won't give up. As for the video, it's true that the abductor was wearing a dark hoodie, and wasn't identified...at the time. Police say they have a suspect, but they are not releasing the name to the public. There is hope, there always is hope.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • NanookoftheNorth

      Hey Caitlin, long way to go (CNN) to meet up with a fellow Alaskan :-) Folks have been asking all week why the vid has not been released – even though you can't see the abductor's face, many say perhaps height, weight, 'body language' would be recognized by someone – I was wondering if those closest to Samantha had seen the vid and this article states that the cart's owners had, so I'm assuming the parents, co-workers and friends have also seen it. Praying they find Samantha safe and sound !

      February 11, 2012 at 3:50 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jacko

    Can't say too much about the intelligence of the people who announce what and where the mace and other self defense options are.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • NanookoftheNorth

      Why not ? The more people know the girls have some protection, the better ! Praying for Samantha's safe return.

      February 11, 2012 at 3:40 am | Report abuse |
    • JCC

      Can't say much about your intelligence either Jacko. They are just stating what they would do. How would you know which one of them was the one who posted it when you go to rob them? Personally I think a gun would be a greater deterrent as no spray would stop a bullet.

      February 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mcohen 808

    I am an adult male that worked at a coffee stand just like this one, in Jackson Hole WY. However, the owner, whose husband was a police detective, told me she partly hired me to work with the girls as a deterrant, especially with a couple of the young high school girls. Sometimes we would start before first light and continue after dark. I can't believe people are so naive to think "not in our small town." Also, I hate to say it, but I don't think her dad will be taking her home "today" or any time soon. In the lower 48 we know all to well how these things typically end. No one wants to be convicted of kidnapping by a live witness, so...sorry, but its true.

    February 11, 2012 at 12:49 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Windows 98

      god you are quite the jew..just keep going jew, i am behind you..

      February 11, 2012 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Windows 98

      Your the UBER JEW!!!!

      February 11, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim B.

      You're = You are. So simple for some, so difficult for others.

      February 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Entcelat

    Evil must be punished and nothing on the other

    February 11, 2012 at 6:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. J. Stewart

    Hope she is found safe and as soon as possible. No child deserves this and no parent deserves this.

    February 11, 2012 at 7:58 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Kamarasune

    Your chances are better to stand and take the b ullet right then, rather than let them take you somewhere, use and abuse you, then toss your body like garbage when no one can see them take your life.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Hoosier

    Security solution - Either the owner of each kiosk or another employee (as a condition of employment) needs to be present to accompany the other at opening, and at closing. The way to ensure that this is done is by customer demand, for the well-being of their baristas. If it's not done, heaven knows that the customers have their choice of other places to go.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse | Reply
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