Suspect in 12 Rapes, Sent Out of State in Error, Fights Return

Times Staff Writer

A North Hollywood man accused of being the "automated teller rapist" who robbed and sexually assaulted 12 San Fernando Valley women, was fighting extradition in Nevada on Monday after he mistakenly was transported out of state.

David Keith Lewis, 26, a part-time gardener, was transferred on Aug. 17 after he exchanged wristbands with an inmate who was being extradited to Indiana on theft and forgery charges, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Finley said.

Lewis, who was being held in Los Angeles County Jail in lieu of $1-million bail, apparently intended to bail himself out of jail in Indiana on the lesser charges faced by the other inmate, Los Angeles County district attorney's spokesman Al Albergate said.

Lewis was in Nevada, en route to Indiana, when Los Angeles officials discovered the error at about midnight on Aug. 17. They alerted the prisoner transportation firm moving Lewis and he was taken to a jail in Minden, Nev., 18 miles south of Carson City, Finley said.

Escape Count Added

Finley would not say how deputies discovered the mistake.

A felony escape count has been added to the 75 counts of rape, kidnaping and robbery that Lewis already faces. No charges have been filed against the other inmate.

Johnson said Lewis intends to fight extradition, although his return to California is "inevitable."

"He likes the food and he has his own cell, so he's in no hurry to come back," Johnson said. "He also says he fears for his life and safety if he comes back to Los Angeles County Jail.

"He wouldn't go into detail on that. I asked him why and he just smiled at me."

Suspect Blames Jailers

Johnson said Lewis told him the mix-up was a mistake by jailers.

It was Lewis' second escape attempt. His feet were shackled during his preliminary hearing in May because of the first attempt, police said.

Lewis is accused of raping and robbing 12 women after he kidnaped them from supermarket and department store parking lots, while using a gun or a knife, in December and January. Police called him "the automated teller rapist" because he allegedly forced several of his victims to withdraw money from banking machines.

Lewis has pleaded innocent to the charges, and was scheduled to appear for a Sept. 6 hearing on a series of pretrial motions.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World