Admission of guilt

Local physician assistant cops to kidnappings, rape charges

Lonnie Scott Keith

Lonnie Scott Keith

Local physician assistant cops to kidnapping, rape charges

Lonnie Scott Keith, 41, who has been incarcerated in the Butte County Jail since January 2013 on multiple kidnapping, rape and assault charges, took a plea deal Aug. 28 in Butte County Superior Court.

Public defender Robert Marshall, Keith’s attorney, explained that he and Keith spent countless hours looking at the evidence before determining there would be no reasonable parole in Keith’s lifetime if he were convicted by a jury. “We wanted a determinate sentence—a set number of years—because Mr. Keith likely had no chance to be paroled had he been convicted on life sentences,” Marshall said in a telephone interview.

Keith, a physician assistant who worked at both Oroville Hospital and Enloe Prompt Care, originally faced charges related to crimes that occurred on Sept. 22 and Oct. 28, 2012, in Chico. In custody, Keith was later charged in connection to another incident that took place in April 2012. The women gave similar accounts of being forced into a dark-colored sedan or sport utility vehicle with coverings on the rear windows. They were blindfolded and injected with a substance that caused drowsiness, and then assaulted.

According to Marshall, the DA’s office insisted on 26 years. “They also wanted a plea of ‘guilty’ instead of ‘no contest.’ They wanted the ‘G’ word.”

Marshall said he’d been preparing for what was certain to be a lengthy trial with heavy media coverage. Each side had more than 60 witnesses ready to testify. Additionally, Keith’s public defender said his client knew the trial would cause “lots of additional embarrassment for his family and would be stressful for the witnesses. That, combined with seeing a light at the end of the tunnel—no life sentence and in prison for the rest of his life—allowed us to move forward.”

Keith pleaded guilty to one felony count of forceful rape and three felony counts of kidnapping (his DNA was found on the underwear of one of the victims). All counts are strikes under California law. He was scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 17, just after CN&R’s deadline. He will have to serve 85 percent of his proposed 26-year sentence before he is eligible for parole in March 2035. At that point, he will be in his 60s and will be subject to psychological testing as to whether he is a sexually violent predator. Also, he will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Stacey Edwards, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, said she was satisfied with the results and so, too, were the victims. When asked how this case compared with others she’s prosecuted, she replied, “I’ve had cases that are high profile, but I’ve never had a case that had this much media attention and the large number of witnesses … I’ve dealt with really sophisticated and smart criminals, and Lonnie Keith is definitely one of them.”