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 “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

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

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. Whhhhheat Thins

    Unfortunately I'm guessing that she is..

    on another note, strange that would have evidence that might way a jury but isn't worthy of sharing with the public to catch the perp before...something...worse than abduction...happens.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      My guess, the video clearly shows some identifying feature, but not enough to really pin-point a person, and the police don't want any witch hunts.

      Either ethnicity, or a specific tattoo, something like that.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • vee

      They have stated that they can't make the perps face out in the video so it's no real help to the public, the best thing is for the people in Anchorage to keep an eye out.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • NanookoftheNorth

      Stranger abduction is very rare up here...abduction of any kind is not something Alaskans usually have to fear. Very different world up here, in that regard, to the lower 48. Police have stated the video shows a very scared looking Samantha leaving with the abductor, who was holding a gun on her. That she has been missing for a week now is very disturbing to the community, which has come out in droves, posting her pictures everywhere and offering support to her family. Not much happens up here...unless Sarah's in town ;-)...or the avanlanches, plane crashes, moose and bear maulings, so a missing young woman is big news. Praying for Samantha's safe return.

      February 11, 2012 at 4:05 am | Report abuse |
    • David Hoffman

      The police might be playing head games. The video could be useless as far as facial recognition, but show other evidence only the real criminal would know. They might not want false leads and pranksters calling fake leads in based on seeing the video. They might not have told the public about other evidence, just to have that unannounced evidence as a tool to eliminate suspects during the investigation.

      February 11, 2012 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
    • OldCrew

      II noticed the same thing. It's ALMOST as if the police are more concerned about prosecuting a case than they are about finding the young lady before it's too late.

      To protect and serve...

      February 14, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • MMallon

      Don't second guess the hoops law enforcement has to jump through to secure a conviction. It's really, really hard to put someone in jail in this country, and for good reason: the only thing worse than failing to convict the person who actually committed the crime is putting someone behind the bars who didn't have anything to do with it. Because in that case, you got the wrong guy AND the real criminal is still out there anyway. But if they don't think it will substantially aid in the manhunt, keeping evidence under wraps is the right thing to do. Lots of people seeing the video played over and over on local news then being selected for jury will color their perception of anyone charged with Koenig's abduction.

      We can only hope she's not hurt or sick or in any kind of physical danger but for some reason just can't call for help or get back home on her own.

      February 14, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bbbubbba

    "I've got to start thinking, where would I dump the ... body if I were this guy?" – no offence, but I don't think I could bring myself to saying something like that if she were my little girl.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Easy for you to say, you're not in his shoes. You have NO idea what would be going through your mind – I'm sure quite a lot of irrational things would in that situation.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • TORI ©

      @Bbbubba, it is offensive. She is someone's child and her parents have to be insane with grief!!

      February 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. yahmez the mad

    It's time to start staffing these places with morbidly obese folks. Fat people are harder to kidnap.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      I was going to suggest something similar, except instead of fat people, go with armed people.

      If I had an 18 year old daughter locking up alone in some empty parking lot every night, you'd best believe she would have a gun, or at very least some industrial strength pepper spray or a tazer, at all times.

      People with guns are hard to kidnap.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. EnoughEnough

    Don'tcha just love the security of military towns?

    February 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      .What does the military have to do with a drive up coffee shop off base? Uh nothing. If anything since she was working in the lot of a gym maybe they should have helped provide security.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • NanookoftheNorth

      Anchorage hasn't been a "military town" in decades...much like San Diego is no longer just a "Navy town". Although there is active military presence in this town, it outgrew the military ref many years ago. Anchorage is mostly a tourist destination now with many cruise ships coming through and a population mostly employed in the service, restaurants, small shop owners, tour buses and trains. Now, even in the winter time, we have tours buses coming from Asian countries (something about the Northern Lights being good for making babies 😉 but unfortunately, it has to be very, very cold and clear for the No. Lights to be seen,so that usually means well after midnight and when Alaska is at it's coldest (Dec./Jan./Feb.). Favorite question asked of tour bus drivers: "What time do they turn on the Northern Lights ?" Again, prayers for Samantha's safe return.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. AKHLK

    Having some trouble getting my comments to post so I'm going to do this ONE MORE TIME.

    I was really surprised by the comments of the barista at the end of the article : "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."

    Anchorage isn't a "small town" its a city of about 280,000 people. Most are very nice people. But just like anywhere else, we have our fair share of weirdies. Like many others that have posted, I was born and raised in Anchorage. I would NEVER presume to be "small town" safe here. Anchorage very high rates of assault compared to the rest of the US. Young ladies should ALWAYS know their surroundings and be ready for trouble. I've been thinking about Samantha every day and hope she returns home safe.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • queenbee

      Doesn't Alaska have one of the highest rates of single men to female ratios, the highest drop out rate for high school, one of the highest rates for rape and one of the highest American suicide rates? With numbers like that and the woman not looking bad, it is a wonder she was not grabbed sooner. With stats like that–bad is just waiting to happen. Put men in the kiosks–see if the other men want to kidnap them.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      you said "we have our fair share of wierdies".....some years ago, the stats showed that Anchorage had well more than its fair share. Anchorage was well above average, on a per capita baisis, for most violent crimes.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • AKHLK

      In reply to Dave, I understand what you are saying about "fair share." I should have said "more than our fair share." But I did mention the fact about how bad our crime levels are here. The point I was trying to make is that It really bothers me that some people who live in Anchorage think this is some safe small town when it's not. That attitude/outlook might get someone into trouble here. I hope that at least a few young ladies that live here read my comment and think more about their safety before they head out the door.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • AKHLK

      Yes Dave, MORE than our fair share of weirdies. Better now? That's why I mentioned that Anchorage very high rates of assault compared to the rest of the US. I can't say what kind of assault or CNN won't post my comment but you can guess that's it's usually against women.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Fiona

    My post was rejected, so I will rephrase...I remember reading about a coffee kiosk business in Washington that was staffed by top less women. That's taking the "bait" aspect of this marketing ploy (the cute, female, young barista) to the extreme. I bet the owners made sure the employees were safe in those stands, so why not in Alaska? You can't dangle the bait and neglect security, employers!

    February 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      I can't say agree with everything you say. But you do have me curious, given the nature of this post, what the rejected one looked like.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Would you like FRESH MILK in your coffee?

      Because, you know, it was a top less place. heh.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. larry5

    If she was purchased by someone then it's all over. In that's case there will be no ransom demand. The pickup was a professional job and there will be nothing to discover at the scene.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jason

    Hmmm, I hope for the best.... But 3 things stand out to me strange about this story... 1. Her cell phone and purse went with her. 2 the police have not released the video... Hmm. 3. The perp was well aware of the cameras! This means the abduction was planned, and a planned abduction of a Barista is curious. I hope I am right and that she is safe!

    February 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • William

      I was thinking the same thing. It seems strange that if you're going to rob a store/stand and whether it was or wasn't premeditated to kidnap her, allow her to grab (or he grabs) her purse, coat and cell phone.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. don don

    haha check our small pic #3, she has a weed bandana on!

    February 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ramirez

    After seeing "The grey" with Liam Neeson, I am beginning to think she may have been picked off by an alpha male wolf...

    February 10, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jack jim

    haha check our small pic #3, she has a weed bandana on!

    February 10, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jack jim

    Her 3rd thumbnail pic! She has a MARIJUANA bandana on! maybe her drug dealer stole her

    February 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Satan

    Someone REALLY wanted some coffee...

    February 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. GaPeach

    Ok I can read that some of the idiots have already posted. What difference what she has on or not! She was kidnapped!!! If it is a week bandana, it doesn't mean she was into drugs! For Gods sake, don't you people ever sympathize with the family and the victim! Why don't you just blame the victin! How dare she be working at a coffee kiosk and get kidnapped! Idiots!!!!

    February 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. GaPeach

    Also, I am certain most kidnappers wouldn't say "OK take your cell and purse"... Idiots!!!!

    February 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
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