Entries in Alaska (29)


Alaska Serial Killer Committed Suicide with Hidden Razor and Bedding

Kevin Horan/Ston(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) -- Serial killer Israel Keyes committed suicide in his Alaska jail cell by embedding a disposable razor blade into a pencil and slitting his wrist and using bedding material to strangle himself, the FBI said Wednesday.

Keyes, 34, left behind "crumpled, blood-soaked paper" with writing on the pages.

Keyes' death came as he was slowly confessing to a string of methodically planned murders that spanned the country. He had admitted to eight murders at the time of his suicide, but had yet to tell investigators the identities of all his victims and left police wondering how many more victims there may have been.

The suicide occurred while Keyes was locked alone in a cell after 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 1. His body was discovered the next morning at 5:57 a.m., the FBI said.

He used a weapon he had apparently constructed by embedding a blade from a disposable razor into a pencil. He slashed his left wrist with the razor, and then used a strip of bedding to strangle himself.

"There is no indication of any criminal involvement from other persons," according to the FBI in Anchorage. "Pages of crumpled, blood-soaked paper that appeared to have writing on them were recovered from the cell."

The papers have been handed over to the FBI for laboratory processing.

Keyes, 34, was in jail after his arrest for the death of teenage barista Samantha Koenig. While in jail, he told investigators how he traveled the country to kill and bury caches of weapons, money and tools for disposing of bodies to use in future crimes.

The suicide was Keyes' last act of violence committed by a merciless killer who told police that he "liked to do it."

Along with details of his suicide, investigators also released the grim details about Koenig's final hours and her killer's intricate plan to kill.

Koenig was abducted, sexually assaulted and strangled by Keyes, who went on a two-week cruise before returning to dismember and hide her body, according to the FBI.

"These details are being provided both to fully explain the courage and resolve Samantha displayed in the final hours of her life, as well as in the hopes that the release of additional details will help investigators of other murders committed by Israel Keyes," a statement released by federal prosecutors, the FBI and Alaskan police.

They also released video of Koenig's abduction and part of their interrogation of the confessed serial killer.

When Keyes was on the prowl for a victim, he selected the Common Grounds coffee stand in Anchorage, Alaska, where Koenig, 18, was working. Keyes picked the coffee stand for its location and late hours, authorities said. He had no previous connection to the teenager.

A ski mask-clad Keyes approached the coffee stand just before closing time on Feb. 1 and ordered a coffee. After Koenig handed him the coffee, he pulled a gun and demanded money. She complied and surveillance footage released by investigators shows Keyes climbing into the coffee stand and tying Koenig up with zip ties.

He forced her outside and toward his white truck, which he had earlier prepared by removing the license plates and unmounting tool boxes off the bed of the truck.

"Samantha broke away from Keyes and tried to run away," investigators said. "Keyes chased her and tackled her to the ground. He put one arm around her and pointed a gun at her body with the other hand, telling her that she needed to cooperate, that the gun had a very quiet ammo and that she should not do anything to make him kill her."

Keyes "drove around town" telling Koenig that he was kidnapping her for ransom. She explained that her family did not have much money and tried to convince him to let her go. Police said he intended to kill her all along.

When Keyes realized that Koenig did not have her cell phone, he went back to the coffee stand to get it as it was an integral part of his plan. He used the phone to text Koenig's boyfriend and the owner of the coffee stand.

"The text messages made it appear that Samantha just had a bad day and was leaving town for the weekend," investigators said. "Keyes then took the battery out of Samantha's phone."

When he asked her for her debit card, she explained that it was in the truck she shared with her boyfriend at her house and gave him the pin number.

"Keyes put Samantha in the shed in front of his [Keyes'] house, bound her, and turned the radio up in the shed so no one would hear her if she screamed," the release said. "He also told her that he had a police scanner and would know if she attempted to alert the neighbors."

Keyes went to Koenig's house for the debit card and was confronted by Koenig's boyfriend, who was looking for her. The boyfriend went into the house to call for help and Keyes was gone with the debit card by the time he got back.

Keyes returned to the shed, sexually assaulted Koenig and strangled her, the statement said.

"Keyes left her in the shed and then went back inside his house, where he packed for a pre-planned cruise that he was taking from New Orleans," authorities said.

He left Feb. 2 and returned Feb. 17. Upon his return, he used a typewriter to prepare a ransom note and demanded that $30,000 be deposited into the account tied to the debit card.

He went back to the shed and took a Polaroid photo of her tied up. His arm was in the photo holding a newspaper from Feb. 13, the statement said.

He put the note in a park and texted its location to Koenig's boyfriend. Police recovered the note.

"In the days that followed, Keyes dismembered Samantha's body and drove out to Matanuska Lake, where he cut a hole in the ice and put her body in the lake," investigators said.

Koenig's father deposited donated reward money into the ransom account and Keyes was arrested after ATM withdrawals were made in Anchorage, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The FBI has also released an ominous list of 35 trips Keyes made around the U.S., Mexico and Canada over the last eight years.

Keyes, the owner of an Anchorage construction company, had been facing a March trial in Anchorage federal court -- and possibly the death penalty -- for the killing of Koenig.

While in jail he had been confessing to at least seven other killings in Washington, New York and Vermont. Police have confirmed that he was responsible for the deaths of Bill and Lorraine Currier of Essex, Vt.

Investigators are now piecing together a deadly puzzle that is uncovering a macabre lifestyle of Keyes traveling to kill simply because he "liked to do it," prosecutors said.

Police and the FBI spent hours talking to Keyes in the months after his arrest and he was cooperating, talking to investigators as recently as Thursday.

The FBI is asking for the public's assistance with any information about Keyes' travels in order to identify additional victims. They ask that anyone with information contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Alaska Barista Murder Suspect Traveled to Kill Because He 'Liked to Do It'

Kevin Horan/Stone(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) -- A man charged in the death of a teenage barista in Alaska told police that he traveled the country with the sole purpose to kill strangers because he "liked to do it," prosecutors said Monday.

Vermont and federal prosecutors detailed the meticulous and cold-blooded murder of Bill and Lorraine Currier in Essex, Vt., last year and said the information came from Israel Keyes before he killed himself in an Alaska jail cell Sunday. Keyes provided details that only the perpetrator would know, police said.

Keyes, 34, the owner of an Anchorage construction company, was in jail charged with the February murder of Samantha Koenig, 18. While in jail he had been confessing to at least seven other killings in Washington, New York, and Vermont.

Now that he is dead, investigators are wondering how many more killings Keyes might be responsible for and why he committed the crimes.

"He provided some motivation, but I don't think it's really [possible] to pigeonhole why he did this," Tristram Coffin, U.S. Attorney in Vermont, said at a news conference Monday. "He described to investigators that this was a volitional act of his. He wasn't compelled by some uncontrollable force, but it was something that he could control and he liked to do it. Why someone likes to act like that, nobody knows."

Authorities described the murders of the Curriers in great detail, offering insight into how the twisted killer traveled to murder, his criteria for choosing random victims and his careful planning of the murders.

"When [Keyes] left Alaska, he left with the specific purpose of kidnapping and murdering someone," Chittenden County State Attorney T. J. Donovan said at the press conference. "He was specifically looking for a house that had an attached garage, no car in the driveway, no children, no dog."

The Curriers, unfortunately, fit all of Keyes' criteria. He spent three days in Vermont before striking. He even took out a three-day fishing license and fished before the slayings.

In June 2011, Keyes went to their house and cut a phone line from outside and made sure they did not have a security system that would alert police. He donned a head lamp and broke into their house with a gun and silencer that he had brought with him.


Keyes found the couple in bed and tied them up with zip ties. He took Lorraine Currier's purse and wallet as well as Bill Currier's gun. He left the man's wallet.

He put the couple in their own car and drove them to an abandoned farmhouse that he had previously scoped out. Keyes tied Bill Currier to a stool in the basement and went back to the car for Lorraine Currier.

"Keyes saw that Lorraine had broken free from the zip ties and observed that she was running towards Main Street," Donovan said. "He tackled her to regain control of her."

Keyes took Lorraine Currier to the second floor of the farmhouse and tied her up. He rushed to the basement when he heard commotion and found that Bill Currier's stool had broken and he was partially free.

"In an attempt to subdue Bill Currier, Keyes hit him with a shovel, but he continued to struggle and yell wanting to know where his wife was," Donovan said. When Keyes was unable to subdue Bill Currier, he shot him to death, the state attorney said.

"They fought to the end," a choked up Donovan said at the news conference.

Keyes then returned to Lorraine Currier and sexually assaulted her before strangling her. He put each of his victims in garbage bags, put them in the corner of the farmhouse and covered them in debris.

Keyes drove away with the intention of robbing a bank, but had some trouble with the Curriers' car, so he abandoned it and drove his rental car to Maine. Shortly after, he stopped at a national forest to burn the couple's property and then went back to Vermont to visit the crime scenes.

He disposed of the two guns and a silencer in a reservoir and began to make his way back to Alaska.

"By all accounts, [the Curriers] were friendly, peaceful, good people who encountered a force of pure evil acting at random," an investigator said at Monday's news conference. Authorities called the ongoing investigation a "huge case, national in scope."

Before his death, Keyes indicated that he also killed four people in Washington State and one person in New York, but did not give the victims' names, authorities said.

Keyes had been facing a March trial in Anchorage federal court -- and possibly the death penalty -- for the killing of Koenig.

Samantha Koenig was last seen Feb. 1 on surveillance video that showed her leaving the Common Grounds Espresso stand in Anchorage with an armed man. All of the coffee stand's cash was also missing.

After allegedly killing Koenig, Keyes used her phone to send text messages to conceal the abduction, according to prosecutors. He flew to Texas and returned Feb. 17 to Anchorage, where he sent another text message demanding ransom and directing it to the account connected to the stolen debit card, according to prosecutors.

Keyes was arrested in Lufkin, Texas, March 16 after he used Koenig's debit card. The FBI contends Keyes killed Koenig less than a day after she was kidnapped. Her body was recovered April 2 from an ice-covered lake north of Anchorage.

Police and the FBI spent hours talking to Keyes in the months after his arrest and he was cooperating, talking to investigators as recently as Thursday, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Authorities wouldn't say how Keyes killed himself, only that he was alone in his cell. An autopsy will be conducted.

Alaskan officials were expected to release a timeline of Keyes' U.S. travels Monday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Did a Serial Killer Commit Suicide in Alaska Jail?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) -- A murder suspect who apparently committed suicide in an Anchorage, Alaska, jail on Sunday is suspected of being a serial killer, according to the FBI.

Authorities said that Israel Keyes, 34, died of an apparent suicide while being held in the Anchorage jail on federal charges related to the kidnapping and death of an 18-year-old Alaska woman, Samantha Koenig.

Police say Koenig was abducted from an Anchorage coffee kiosk last February.  Keyes was later arrested in Texas after he was caught using the victim’s debit card.  He was facing the death penalty.

A spokesperson for Alaska State Troopers said Keyes was alone in his cell, and authorities do not suspect foul play.  The exact nature of his death was not disclosed.

Mary Rook, the FBI special agent in charge of the Anchorage office, told reporters the agency had developed information that Keyes was responsible for “multiple additional victims.”  She said they believe Keyes is responsible for the deaths of four people in Washington state, one in New York state and a married couple in Vermont.

U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler said the investigations into the deaths will continue even though there will be no prosecution.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Man Missing in Alaska Wilderness Since September

Siri Stafford/Thinkstock(THREE RIVERS, Wis.) -- Alaska state troopers are currently searching for a 31-year-old man who set out alone on the last leg of a three-month trip into the Alaska wilderness and has not been heard from in almost two months.

When Thomas Seibold of Three Rivers, Wis., journeyed to Alaska in June he planned to put years of survivalist training into practice in the state's frigid backcountry. A native of Germany, Seibold had spent the previous six years teaching and training at Three Rivers' Teaching Drum Outdoor School, a survivalist school that teaches American Indian values along with weather forecasting, shelter building and primitive hunting and gathering techniques. He spent much of his time under the tutelage of the school's founder, Tamarack Song, who described Seibold as a very experienced outdoorsman and a "wandering spirit."

To make the trip to the Arctic frontier, Song told ABC News that Seibold had taken a six-month leave of absence from Teaching Drum Outdoor School.

Seibold began his trip at an Alaska Native fish camp in the southeastern part of the state, and from there traveled north along the Tanana River near Fairbanks, all while living outdoors.

By September, Seibold had traveled to the northwest Alaska village of Ambler. Traveling farther north, Seibold trekked about 30 miles up the Ambler River to the cabin home of a woman Song's contacts had put him in touch with, and her 13-year-old son. Seibold remained with the mother and son until Sept. 27, when he left with the intention, Song said, of hiking farther north to Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.

No one is reported to have seen or heard from Seibold since that late September day. Alaska state police were alerted when Seibold missed a Nov. 11 flight from Kobuk that was supposed to begin his return trip to Wisconsin.

Megan Peters, a spokeswoman for the Alaska state troopers, told ABC News that search and rescue workers had done extensive aerial searches in the unpopulated expanses near where Seibold was last seen. Troopers were concentrating their search near the confluence of the Ambler River and Ulaneak Creek, where they believe Seibold may have built a base camp.

"He could have run into a wild animal," Peters said. "He could also be fine. But not knowing where he intended to go makes the search more difficult."

According to Song, Seibold has camped alone in extreme northern wintertime climates before, but that he "has always been responsible and clear about his intentions" when striking out alone. Song said an unfinished letter Seibold left behind at the cabin indicated he only intended to be gone "for several days."

Those several days have stretched into almost two months, but Song expressed confidence that as long as Seibold's faculties remained intact, he could survive.

"He is well-experienced," Song said. "He's gone on reindeer hunts in Norway's interior. He's a midwinter guide. If he's not injured or delirious, he will stay alive."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Grizzly Bear Mauls San Diego Man to Death in Alaska's Denali National Park

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DENALI, Alaska) -- A San Diego man was mauled to death by a grizzly bear in Alaska's Denali National Park after he stopped to take pictures of the animal, officials said.

Richard White, 49, had been backpacking alone for three nights when he encountered the bear on Friday near the Toklat River, according to the National Park Service.

It was the first known fatal mauling in Denali National Park.

Backpackers must undergo "Bear Aware" training in order to receive a permit to hike in the backcountry, park officials said. The training includes a 30-minute safety video and a briefing from rangers.

Friday afternoon, three day hikers found an abandoned backpack and "evidence of a violent struggle."

The hikers alerted National Park Service staff, who launched an aerial search of the park and located White's remains, however a short time later the grizzly bear returned and began to circle around the rangers, park officials said.

The rangers fired two shots at the bear, but the animal was not hit. The rangers decided to retreat until daylight, officials said in a statement.

On Saturday, rangers and state troopers returned to the site and shot the bear.

White's remains were taken to the medical examiner in Anchorage.

Investigators examined the stomach contents of the bear and photographs White had taken and were able to determine they had killed the bear responsible for mauling White, officials said.

While the portion of the park where White was mauled is closed, other areas of the park remain open, officials said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Alaska Aquarium Cares for Rescued Baby Beluga Whale

File photo. Hemera/Thinkstock(SEWARD, Alaska) -- The first rescued baby beluga whale in U.S. history is being cared for in an Alaska aquarium.

The whale, believed to have been separated from its mother in a storm, was found near South Naknek in Alaska’s Bristol Bay on June 18. The calf was just two to three days old.

Beluga specialists from across the country have arrived in Alaska to help the Alaska Sealife Center with the whale’s extensive care. Three full-time staff are with the calf at all times, administering tube feedings eight to 10 times a day.

The vulnerability of the calf’s immune system is their main concern.

“The state of his immune system is not where I would like it to be,” said veterinarian Dr. Carrie Goertz. “He will be at risk for infection for months until his own immune system starts kicking into gear because he never received milk from his mother.”

Specialists from Atlanta, Chicago and San Diego have provided invaluable knowledge.

“We don’t have any other stranded belugas to compare it to,” said Brett Long, husbandry director at Alaska Sealife Center. “We’re relying on help from other beluga holders and their decades of experience. That’s what’s driving our successes right now: collaborating with others.”

Specialists from San Diego, in particular, have some familiarity in caring for a baby beluga. Two years ago, a beluga mother rejected her offspring at San Diego’s Seaworld, forcing the park’s specialists to raise the calf.

The National Marine Fisheries Service will determine what facility will be the whale’s long-term home, as he will never be able to return to the wild.  Right now, however, caregivers are focusing on the short-term.

“We’re not sure we’re going to have an animal around, truthfully,” said Dennis Christen, Georgia Aquarium’s director of animal training.

The calf still faces many risks, but its handlers remain hopeful, citing several signs of improvement. It is slowly starting to gain weight and become more vocal and energetic in the pool.

“When we get in the water, he comes over and runs into us, like he’s playing. It’s a rough job,” Long said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Debris Found on Alaskan Glacier from 1952 Plane Crash?

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) -- Military officials think debris they found on an Alaskan glacier is actually the remains of a military plane that went down 60 years ago, killing all 52 people onboard.

It will take at least six years to be sure because officials need to process DNA samples from relatives and compare them to the victims' remains, according to reports.

The Alaska National Guard discovered the wreckage on June 10, and Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command was called in to assess the site and recover material from it, according to a press release from JPAC, which specializes in recovering missing soldiers from past conflicts and returning them home.

The team found life support equipment and possible human bones, according to the release.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Alaskan Hiker Mauled by Brown Bear

Roberta Olenick/All Canada Photos/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- An Alaska man was mauled by a brown bear early Sunday morning while hiking on the Bird Creek Trail south of Anchorage.

Ben Radakovich, 30, was three miles from the trail on Eagle River when he came face-to-face with a mother bear and her cub, the Alaska Department of Public Safety said.

“He scared the cub and that’s when the sow came out and attacked Ben,” trooper spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said. “A pure adrenaline rush propelled him 30 feet up a nearby tree, where he escaped.”

According to Ipsen, Radakovich was wearing a backpack and carrying ski poles, which he used to fight the bear.

The attack happened around 7:45 a.m. when 911 dispatchers got a call from Radakovich, who was stranded in the tree.

“He said he could hear the bear below him while seeking shelter,” Ipsen said. “Rescuers got to the scene around 9:20 a.m., because both had to drive in from South Anchorage.”

Ispen says the trail sits off the Seward Highway, around Mile 101.

When troopers arrived, they found Radakovich had suffered from puncture wounds to his back all the way to his armpit and scratches down his neck.

Officials met up with medics from Girdwood Fire and Rescue, where they hauled Radakovich in a stretcher behind an ATV towards a trooper helicopter. He was transported to Providence Alaska Medical Center, where he was treated and later released.

“He did have pepper spray, but he couldn’t get it out,” Ispen said.

According to Ispen, State Department of Fish and Game officials are closing the Bird Creek Trail for a few days and the Penguin Creek Trail for a week.

The bear has not been located.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Alaska Man to Live Incommunicado on Island for a Year

Courtesy Charles Baird(NEW YORK) -- In three weeks, 40-year-old Alaska oil company employee Charles Baird leaves his home in Anchorage to spend a year on remote Latouche Island in southern Alaska, a dream he’s been eager to pursue for the past 17 years.

“I think it will change my perspective on things.  What really matters and what doesn’t really matter at all,” Baird told ABC News.

A logistics specialist for BP and a filmmaker, Baird will live in a 12-by-12 cabin that he’ll build himself on the uninhabited island and document his life in the wilds on videotape.

“It’s going to be just me and my dog,” Baird told ABC News.

He won’t know how the November election will turn out, or even if  his family gains a new member.  One could compare Baird’s isolation  to Tom Hank’s in the 2000 movie Cast Away, or at least a planned and organized version of that.

“It’s kind of funny because my name is Chuck (the name of Hank’s character) and my dog’s name will be Wilson (the name of the volleyball that Hanks’ character starts talking to),” Baird said laughing.  “But you know, mentally, I’ve been preparing for years now.  I feel ready to go.”

But getting ready for the trip has been no laughing matter.  An Air Force veteran, Baird knows exactly what he’s getting himself into and has been preparing for his dream for years.  Baird bought an acre and a half of land on the island for $8,500 two years ago.

“I like it because it’s a flat area to build a house and I should have a lot of wind for power,” said Baird.

He won’t be taking much with him, only what he needs to survive.  That includes a five gallon basket of grains, 20 gallons of water, a windmill, lumber for his cabin, weapons for hunting, warm gear for the winter and communication devices in case of an emergency. 

He plans to rely on the average of 70 inches of rain and 8 to 120 inches of snow a year for water.  He’ll install two solar panels for power, and says his biggest challenges will be coping with the isolation and the unpredictable.

“It’s meant to be as isolated as possible, that’s really the biggest challenge,” Baird said.  “My main concern would be to make good decisions.  Some people can take on risks that are unnecessary or make bad decisions, but I’m pretty even fielded, so I’m not too worried about it.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Air Force Base Quietly Pauses F-22 Fighter Ops After More Air Problems

U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Kasey Close(JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska) -- American pilots at an Alaskan military base have reported a sudden spike of incidents in which they experienced an apparent lack of oxygen while flying the nation's most sophisticated fighter jets -- a mysterious, recurring problem that already caused the $77.4 billion fighter jet fleet to sit idle on the tarmac for months last year.

In at least three incidents in the last two weeks, pilots of the $143 million-a-pop stealth F-22 Raptors at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson reported the "hypoxia-like" symptoms, leading the base to ground their F-22s for a day for "review," Air Force spokesperson Lt. Col. Regina Winchester told ABC News.

"In each case, appropriate procedures were applied," Winchester said, and the planes went back in the air the day after the temporary halt.  An additional case of a pilot experiencing hypoxia-like symptoms also popped up at Virginia's Joint Base Langley-Eustis earlier this month, another Air Force spokesperson, Lt. Col. Edward Sholtis, said.

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is home to the F-22's only fatal crash -- one brought on at least partially by an unknown malfunction that caused the plane to automatically cut off the pilot's oxygen supply during a training mission.

The Air Force has been struggling since 2008 to determine why its pilots have suffered relatively rare but repeated "physiological events" involving hypoxia-like symptoms while flying the F-22s -- about two dozen of them out of thousands of training missions flown.  Hypoxia occurs when the brain does not receive enough oxygen and can cause dizziness, confusion, poor judgment and inattentiveness, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Despite its rarity, the breathing problem became such a concern that in 2011 the entire fleet of planes -- around 180 jets that cost taxpayers some $77.4 billion total -- was grounded for nearly five months while the Air Force investigated the F-22s' life support systems.  The Air Force never found the cause and cautiously sent the planes back in the air in September 2011.

The problem, however, persists.

According to Air Force numbers provided to ABC News, pilots have reported nine unexplained instances of suffering "hypoxia-like" symptoms during flight since the grounding was lifted -- compared to a total of 12 announced by the Air Force in the more than two years prior to the grounding.  Sholtis said that new monitoring systems and greater pilot awareness of potential hypoxia-like effects could account for the relative uptick in cases.

The Air Force said the nationwide May 2011 grounding was unrelated to the November 2010 F-22 crash that claimed the life of fighter ace Capt. Jeff Haney.  Haney's plane went down in the Alaskan wilderness seconds after a mysterious malfunction caused the plane to automatically cut off his oxygen system.

After an investigation into that crash, the Air Force blamed Haney, saying he was apparently too distracted by not being able to breathe to properly fly the plane.  Hypoxia did not play a role in the crash, the Air Force report said.

Along with the F-35 fighter, which is less slightly expensive per plane, the F-22 marks America's foray fifth-generation stealth fighter jets that the Air Force said can dominate the air space anywhere in the world -- even if they've never had to prove it.  Not a single one of the Raptors has been used in combat operations from Iraq and Afghanistan to Libya since they went combat ready in late 2005.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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