Reporting Ron Jones
CHICO (CBS13) – A 40-year-old physician’s assistant is suspected of targeting women near Chico State University over the past 18 months in kidnappings, attempted kidnappings and sexual assaults.
“I didn’t like him,” said Charlene Armitage, a former patient. “He actually irritated me.”
Lonnie Scott Keith, a married father of four, was arrested over the weekend and charged with two counts of kidnapping, one count of rape and one count of assault with intent to commit rape related to incidents in September and October of last year.
“We’ve had, for the last 18 months, a series of very disturbing incidents,” said Chico police Lt. Mike O’Brien.
The Chico Police Department said it is still investigating if Keith is the suspect in at least nine other assaults of college-aged women dating back to August 2011. The Butte County Sheriff’s Office is also investigating a similar attack in April 2012 in its jurisdiction.
During the two incidents in September and October, the male suspect forced the female victims into the back seat area of a dark-colored sedan (September) and the rear cargo area of a dark-colored, larger SUV (October). Both victims were then injected with an unknown substance that caused a sedating, drowsy-like effect. At least one of the victims was then sexually assaulted.
Both women said the back windows of the vehicles were covered. The white male suspect was described as wearing rubber/latex gloves and had a nylon stocking and/or mask over his face. Both women had their hands and feet bound with plastic zip ties and their eyes covered with tape.
Chico police detectives on surveillance in the South Campus area early Saturday morning observed a dark-colored sedan driving through the area at about 2:30 and 3:30 a.m.
After observing a traffic violation, the detectives stopped the car and noticed the back windows partially obscured. The driver, identified as Keith, provided consent to search the car, police said.
Detectives observed two syringes loaded with an unknown clear substance, latex gloves, several nylons and adhesive tape cut into strips.
After obtaining a search warrant, police also found a concealed compartment under the front passenger seat that contained metal handcuffs and metal leg restraints, plastic zip ties, multiple syringes, multiple vials of prescription drugs, each with a sedating effect, and additional gloves.
Also, a combination flashlight/stun gun was found in the vehicle, as well as looped zip ties concealed in the trunk of the vehicle.
Keith reportedly sold a sedan and an SUV in December, but police have seized both vehicles and are processing them for evidence.
Keith is employed as a physician’s assistant at Oroville Medical Center and Enloe Occupational Health in Chico. Police are still trying to determine if he obtained the drugs from his jobs. He does not have a prior arrest record and has been married 21 years, police said.
Neighbors on Wednesday described Keith as a devoted family man who was often seen outside playing ball with his kids. They told CBS13 his wife was planned the neighborhood’s Fourth of July block parties.
But patient Charlene Amitage says when she received treatment from Keith at Enloe, he was very abusive and controlling.
“He kind of creeps me out a little bit,” she said. “I had a knot on my shoulder and he was massaging it but he was asking if it hurt, and I was crying and I told him to stop but he refused to stop.”
To say neighbors are shocked is an understatement, they’re devastated. They’re close with Keith’s family and know him not as a suspect but as a loving husband and father of four.
“It’s too bad. I’m sorry to hear that for his family,” neighbor Loretta Quiring said.
Neighbors say Keith loved playing sports with his kids and his wife organized Fourth of July block parties.
Friends are very protective of a family going through a terrible time.
“These poor people are suffering anyway. It’s not their fault. You guys are horrible; it’s already bad enough what’s happened to them,” one woman said.
Keith was arraigned Tuesday and is being held at the Butte County Jail on $3.2 million bail.