A 63-year-old former Bridgewater man who fled the state 18 years ago to avoid investigation and prosecution for at least four brutal rapes dating back to the 1990s will spend the next 44 to 50 years in prison, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III announced today.

Ivan Keith pleaded guilty in Fall River Superior Court Tuesday to five counts of aggravated rape, two counts of kidnapping, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of threats, and one count each of breaking and entering, failure to register as a sex offender, failure to provide DNA, and perjury.

The charges in Bristol County relate to sexual assaults that occurred in Taunton and Easton in the late 1990s.

The first rape occurred on July 27 in 1997 outside the Bristol-Plymouth Regional High School in Taunton. A 36-year-old woman was exercising on the track outside the school when a masked man jumped out in front of her, forcibly led her to a wooded area, tied her up and raped her. The second occurred on November 22, 1998, when a 47-year-old woman was working late cleaning offices at the Steve Porter Appraisal Services in Easton. A masked man entered the building as she opened the to take out the trash. He then forcibly raped her before binding her hands and fleeing.

Investigators from the Bristol County DA's office began reviewing the cold case early in 2019. They identified Keith as responsible for the Bristol County crimes and also linked him to two unsolved 1996 rape cases in Norfolk and Plymouth counties.

Investigators combined available DNA evidence with genetic genealogy, Quinn's office said. They sent DNA evidence from the Bristol County cases to a private lab, and a report revealed a link between the suspect and a particular family. Investigators looked at immediate and extended members of that family and were able to pinpoint Ivan Keith as the chief suspect.

The defendant had been convicted of sex crimes in Plymouth County in the 1980s and 1990s, and had a conviction in Maine in 2000, but failed to register as a sex offender, and failed to provide a DNA sample to the state, Quinn's office said. On October 29, 2003, the defendant was set to appear in Brockton District Court for a jury trial on an open and gross lewdness charge. He never showed up and instead fled to Maine.

In July of 2019, investigators gained arrest warrants for Keith connected to his failure to register as a sex offender and for making false statements. The warrants were entered into the National Crime Information Center. With help from Massachusetts State Police, Maine State Police, the Bar Harbor Police Department, and the FBI, investigators found Keith living under a new name in Seal Cove, Maine. Police took him into custody on August 2nd.

Before his arrest, Keith was seen smoking from a vape pen, which he placed into his front shirt pocket. The vape pen was subsequently seized and further DNA testing was conducted. The DNA on the vape pen matched the DNA profile from four unsolved rapes, Quinn's office said.

Keith on Tuesday was sentenced by Judge Sharon Donatelle to 25 to 30 years in prison. That adds to a 19- to 20-year sentence Keith started serving last year after being convicted of similar rapes in Plymouth and Norfolk counties. In total, the defendant will serve 44 to 50 years in prison, effectively condemning him to life in prison, Quinn's office said.

Both Bristol County victims provided impact statements to the judge. The woman assaulted in Easton told the court that the attack "took away my joy, my laughter, and my peace of mind." She said she lived in constant fear for years and stopped doing ordinary things like taking walks, exercising and socializing with friends. She said she neglected her health because she did not want to be touched by a doctor.

The Taunton victim said the attack changed her life forever. She said she felt disconnected from her body, had to quit her job, became isolated from loved ones, experienced feelings of shame, and even considered suicide. "I longed for the internal pain to stop. I still carry the scars of what happened to me. What I experienced was nothing short of pure evil," she said.

The cases were prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney William McCauley and Assistant District Attorney Caleb Weiner.

"These were outrageous acts of violence against two innocent victims, who were just going about their everyday lives," said DA Quinn in a statement. "The crimes committed by the defendant are some of the most brutal and chilling cases I have ever seen. I am pleased that Judge Donatelle imposed consecutive sentences for each sexual assault committed against the victims. The sentences imposed by the court will keep the defendant in custody for the remainder of his life, which he rightly deserves."

Quinn commended the victims and said he has "nothing but respect and admiration for their courage and perseverance." The DA said new technology and cooperation between jurisdictions led to solving the cold cases.

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