"When I knew I had done them, I was sad, not excited. No joy. Just confusion or remorse. I thought, 'There goes somebody's business.'"
Paul Kenneth Keller is a serial arsonist responsible for several fires that caused millions of dollars worth of property damage and the deaths of three people. He has claimed to have committed as many as 76 in total.
A hyperactive child, Keller displayed a fascination with fire at a young age; according to his father George, he even torched a vacant house next to his own when he was only eight or nine years old. This was one of many nuisance fires he set when he was young. He continued even after being lectured by firemen about the hazards it entailed. He received medication for his hyperactivity as a child (it was described as an undiagnosed case of Attention Deficit Disorder), but stopped taking them and refused personal counseling. Fascinated with their lights and sirens, he liked chasing after firetrucks and aid cars. Later in life, he even started riding along with friends who were firefighters. Using his own scanner to listen for emergency broadcasts, he would race the fire-trucks to the scene. At the time, his family thought he was getting a good outlet for his excess energy. Keller had a religious upbringing and was a regular churchgoer to the First Baptist Church in Marysville and also went to a Christian high school for his whole education.
In 1988 or 1987, he worked as a bookkeeper at an Everett firm, but was fired when his desk mysteriously caught fire. He later started working for his father's advertising agency. After he divorced and filed for bankruptcy, Keller became more troubled and started abusing drugs and alcohol. During the period between August of 1992 and February of 1993, Keller committed dozens of arsons. Only one of them, that of the Four Freedoms Retirement Home in Seattle in September of 1992, is known to have caused fatalities, the victims being three elderly residents. At first, it was attributed to a misplaced cigarette, but the investigators later deemed it arson when it turned out to have originated in multiple locations. Keller was arrested in March of 1993. First he was convicted of 32 arsons (he claimed to have committed another 44) and sentenced to 75 years in prison. In 1994, he was sentenced to another 99 years for the Four Freedoms fire. He continues to serve his sentence.
Keller is said to have found targets through his job at his father's advertising agency. Using handy materials, including wood, cardboard boxes, trash and even lawn chairs and straw mats, as fuel, he would start the fires with a cigarette lighter. Like many arsonists, he would stay behind after setting the fires to watch the firefighters work.
- Set at least thirty-two victimless arsons prior to the Four Freedoms Retirement Home fire
- September 22, 1992: Three killed in the Four Freedoms Retirement Home fire. They are:
- Bertha Nelson, 93 (died of smoke inhalation)
- Mary Harriet Dorris, 77 (died of smoke inhalation like the previous victim)
- Adeline Gertrude Stockness, 70 (died of a heart attack caused by the fire)
On Criminal MindsEdit
Keller was mentioned in the Season Two episode Ashes and Dust when it was believed that Vincent Stiles, the unsub of focus, used his job, as well as a company car, to select where he would commit his arsons, much like Keller. Also, Stiles was driven to commit arsons due to the divorce of his wife, exactly like Keller.