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. dondijon

    I do Pray this YOUNG Lady is found Safe and Sound!
    I don't know about Anchorage during this time frame, but Here in the Interior we were going through one of the coldest snaps to hit in many a Year, So I could understand wearing a coat! -58F without even factoring in wind chill, was no joke!!

    Any Employer who would not at least have a second person(Preferably a well trained security officer) present at closing time where a cash till is involved, should not own said Buissness. It risk Just exactly what has happened here!!! And Oh, incidentally, Security is a TAX WRITEOFF as a legitimate Buissness Expense...

    February 11, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. lorena

    this sounds like its someone she knows..... maybe a customer with a sick crush or something...but as planned as it sounds like it was, doesnt sound like he would just pick her randomly out of what sounds like hundreds of kiosks. he planned it all...even her. sad. she is probably dead already but hopefully... she isnt.

    February 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Brian

    Right - mentally ill people are always so good at logic and knowing right from wrong.

    February 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JBrady

    Alaska has one of the highest rates of armed citizenship. It's too bad this young lady wasn't carrying a pocket pistol. Could have been a very different story.

    February 11, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. MotoJB

    I pray that this young lady is alive...and it is so saddening that women in this world have to contend with sick men like this. Really hard to wrap my head around that. Prayers and thoughts going out to her family and friends.

    February 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. fearlessdude

    There are too many of these creeps recycled back onto the streets. It is time to get tuff and eliminate them from society. If you bleeding hearts don't want to execute them, let's build another Alcatraz on one small Island in shark infested waters. The same goes for home invasion and business invasion robberies. We may have to eliminate 10,000 or 100,000 bums but it is a small percentage of 350 million. You cant rehabilitate cancer, you have to cut it out.

    February 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. kim

    It's a terrible thing to be taken by a stranger taken from loved ones and friends force in the hand of a person that intends to do you harm I hope she gets rescued alived.

    February 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MRmedicinebox

    The police are acting typically hickish – such as would be expected from a small town force. Releasing the video could very well let someone identify who it was that abducted the girl regardless of whether it shows the man's face or not. They will have her blood on their hands if it turns out that the picture could have led to someone identifying the guy.

    February 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Well, the report did say that the perp did make an effort to hide his features from the video. Perhaps there just wasn't enough there that would have helped to find her to justify making the video useless in court later.

      February 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Satellite Steve

    Sadly, a week has gone by and I'm sure everyone in Washington knows you don't just sit in a cabin held captive. I am so sorry to have to say it that way. I truly hope she is found alive and I hope somebody calls the police. I can't help you all as I'm on the East Coast. We all saw how Susan Powell has played out....please forgive me if this is yet another story that plays out for the worst.

    February 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Xizziz

      I think if you are a woman, and someone decides to kidnap you – kick, bite, fight, scream, jab something into their eyes, what's worse, dying on the spot, or them taking you and torturing you? You know if someone is going to kidnap you, they are going to murder you as well – so do not let them take you!!!!!!!!!!! There's always a chance they will chicken out there, but not later when they have you alone!!!

      February 11, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Locode

      She was in Alaska dummy

      February 12, 2012 at 4:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bill

    Likely an ex-boyfriend or someone elas in a similar situation....rarely strangers, fact. Maybe these gals (Read:Barmaids)need to start looking at a different career path.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • AGuest9

      "Barmaid" in a coffee shop? Are you telling all the folks that work at a Starbucks to find another job? You know what the economy is like right now, don't you?

      February 11, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • hmmwaitasec

      Oh, shut up Bill.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Another Guest

      Lol Bill. 'Barista' refers to an employee of a coffee shop, not a barmaid. Clever.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dawn

      Bill, Sometimes you have to slop cow flop if need be to make ends meet. This gal was 18 years old. Do you expect her to be a world class brain surgeon at that age? Besides, her vocation is irrelevant to the fact that she has been abducted and presumably murdered. Get your head out of your backside.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • seattlekate

      RE: Bill @ February 11, 2012 at 6:10pm:

      C'mon Bill, grow another brain cell, so you'll have two ta rub together. Dip stick.

      Samantha and everyone else who slings coffee in these little coffee huts are BARISTAS, not barmaids.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • erin glibbner

      Why cant she sell coffee and not get molested, kidnapped, etc? When did that become a dangerous job and who made it dangerous?

      February 12, 2012 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
    • donna

      Bill – a Barista is a coffee server! It is a very popular and respectable job for HS and college age people!

      February 12, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  11. Curious

    How many abductors allow you to take you cell phone, purse and coat? All "abduction" cases I have seen on the different programs, the abductor does not let you take your personal belongings.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • MissE

      Agreed. I know its insensitive, but I'm thinking runaway.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Good thing they've got you on the case, Matlock.

      February 12, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jenna

    After this, if I had a daughter at one of those coffee houses, I'd be sitting in my car with a gun until she got off duty...or else I would pay her not to work there...this is very unhealthy for pretty, young women...they are sitting ducks for predators.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • malasangre

      a .380 with every female birth certificate would be the end of every freak in about 10 yrs.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. lilly

    hummm what if he is or was part of the military and live now in the woods and she is alive and hes holding her as his wife slave so they should look for someone who has been around the area watching but is able to survive in the wilderness. If there has not been a body yet she may be alive and he would be likable and friendly when in public and probably keeps a job but very private as well and dont have many friends outside of work a loner but one that no one was ever think about in a crime like this... I could be wrong just what I saw when I looked at it

    February 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dawn

      Your scenario is very far fetched. A vast majority of these type of cases turn out to be s e x crimes culminating in the murder of the victim within hours of the abduction.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jack

    Oh look a news stroy about a young blond haired white girl whose missing. How unique. Seriously tho, this is a laughably sterotypical stroy for CNN to cover. Rich white girl goes mssing? National new. Anyone else? Youll never hear about it. I honestly can beleive CNN ran this story

    February 11, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hawk

      She is likely not "rich" since she is an 18 year old working in a drive up coffee house at night. And you are seriously making this story a race issue? Maybe if you would use the right time to play your race card people would actually listen and give some serious thought to your statement.

      February 12, 2012 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. Dawn

    IIt is probably someone who has been there before and knows her.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
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