Stakeout nets suspect

Local physician’s assistant arrested on kidnapping, assault charges

Chico Police Lt. Mike O’Brien stands in front of a photo of Lonnie Scott Keith, who is alleged to have committed at least two kidnapping and sexual assaults, but is suspected in a series of other cases as well.

Chico Police Lt. Mike O’Brien stands in front of a photo of Lonnie Scott Keith, who is alleged to have committed at least two kidnapping and sexual assaults, but is suspected in a series of other cases as well.

Photo By vic cantu

Chico police believe a man officers arrested on Jan. 26 is responsible for committing two south-campus sexual assaults that took place last fall. Both involved the kidnapping of a woman who was injected with an unknown tranquilizer.

The suspect, Lonnie Scott Keith, 40, is also being investigated for possible involvement in a series of 11 attempted or actual rapes, kidnappings and assaults of college-age women that took place in the same area over the past 18 months.

At a Tuesday (Jan. 29) press conference, Chico Police Lt. Mike O’Brien explained how detectives Stan Duitsman, Scott Franssen and patrol officer Mark Hoffman were on a stakeout in the early-morning hours of Jan. 26 and had stopped Keith for a minor traffic violation.

The detectives noticed the rear windows were partly covered with bedding and blankets, similar to the vehicles described in the September and October assaults. Keith consented to a search of his vehicle, where detectives found what may be incriminating evidence: a combination stun gun/flashlight in a cup holder near the driver’s seat, two syringes filled with an unknown liquid, latex gloves, several nylon stockings, and strips of adhesive tape.

The suspect in at least one of the fall incidents wore latex gloves and a nylon-stocking-like face covering, and both victims had their eyes shut with strips of tape. Keith voluntarily accompanied the detectives to the police station, where he was subsequently arrested.

Police obtained a search warrant for the car and found looped zip ties hidden in the trunk. They also discovered a secret compartment hidden under the driver’s seat containing more latex gloves, several syringes, metal handcuffs, metal leg restraints, more plastic zip ties and several vials of sedative prescription drugs.

O’Brien explained that in the fall attacks the victims’ hands and feet were bound with plastic zip ties and some of the vials in the secret compartment contained the same substance used in the October assault.

He also said that in December Keith sold two vehicles similar to those described in the September and October assaults: a dark SUV and a dark sedan. Police were able to locate and confiscate both for evidence testing. DNA evidence has been collected in several of the incidents with no timetable set for results, he said.

Keith, who is married and has four children, has no arrest record. He works as a physician’s assistant at both Enloe Occupational Health and at Oroville Medical Center.

During questioning following the press conference, O’Brien said that Keith, in his profession in the medical industry, was authorized to inject patients and prescribe them medication. He also said Keith had done medical testing for the Chico Police Department as part of his duties at Enloe.

Keith is being investigated further for possible theft of the medications found in his possession. He was arraigned the same day of the press conference on a count of rape, two counts of kidnapping and one count of assault with the intent to commit rape. His bail was set at $3.2 million. If convicted on all charges he could face 32 years to life in prison, according to a CPD press release. O’Brien pointed out that although several of the assaults involved a second suspect, none has yet been found.

The Butte County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a similar assault that occurred a few blocks from the area of the other incidents, said O’Brien.

“This arrest is especially important for the victims and any potential victims,” said O’Brien.

“Almost all of these incidents have happened to a single victim walking alone,” O’Brien warned. “You should walk with at least one other person or a group of people.”