Jury convicts Keith Asberry Jr. of Berkeley rape, kidnapping

In 2008, Asberry forced a teenage girl near Berkeley High into her car at gunpoint and then raped her, the DA's office said.

Jury convicts Keith Asberry Jr. of Berkeley rape, kidnapping
The René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland. Wally Gobetz

An Alameda County jury has convicted Keith Asberry Jr. of a heinous Berkeley sex crime from 2008 and a hot-prowl burglary from 2015, the DA's office announced Monday.

In 2008, Asberry forced a teenager near Berkeley High into her car at gunpoint and then sexually assaulted her on a dead-end street in West Berkeley, the DA's office said.

He also forced the 19-year-old to withdraw $200 from her bank account, according to Monday's announcement.

The jury found Asberry guilty of forcible rape, forcible penetration, forcible oral copulation, kidnapping to commit a sex crime and kidnapping to commit robbery, along with numerous associated allegations, including use of a gun, aggravated kidnapping, and tying and binding.

At one point, Asberry had also been charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl at the same time, but she was not mentioned in Monday's announcement.

Read more about sex crimes in Berkeley.

The jury also found Asberry guilty of a 2015 hot-prowl burglary in Berkeley in the 2300 block of Eunice Street (between Spruce Street and Glen Avenue).

"The resident had arrived home and was unpacking her groceries when she heard noise in the front part of her house," police wrote in a crime alert about the case shortly after it happened. "As she approached the front door, she was confronted by the suspect."

The man grabbed the woman, who "fought back, screaming and struggling with the suspect, who released the victim and fled from the house," BPD wrote.

Keith Asberry Jr. El Cerrito PD

On Monday, the jury found Asberry guilty of felony burglary and misdemeanor assault for the incident on Eunice.

But he was found not guilty of intending to rape the woman during the break-in.

In the announcement, DA Pamela Price thanked Deputy District Attorney Cathryn Dalton, Inspector Jason Turner and Retired Deputy DA Mark Melton for their work on the case.

Asberry also had been charged with the murder of an Albany woman in 2015, two weeks after the Berkeley home break-in on Eunice, but a jury found him not guilty of that crime during a separate trial in January, according to court records.

Authorities had also linked Asberry through DNA to a violent sexual assault case in El Cerrito on Valentine's Day in 2005.

But those sex crime charges and others were dropped for various reasons as the case made its way through the court process.

Keith Asberry Jr. case highlighted DNA backlog

Since 2015 when Asberry was arrested, the case has repeatedly made headlines, highlighting Alameda County's one-time backlog of 1,900 rape kits, which hampered DNA identification in numerous cases.

A 2016 investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle described how the 2008 Berkeley rape kits in the Asberry case were not processed until 2014, after the DA's office under Nancy O'Malley got federal funding to work through the backlog.

The Chronicle story also surfaced how Berkeley police had secured a warrant to arrest Asberry in 2014 but never did so.

Asberry was not picked up until June 2015, three months after the Albany murder.

According to the Chronicle story in 2016, he had been pulled over for a traffic stop in Emeryville. He's been in custody ever since.

Read more court coverage on The Scanner.

Some have said that the violence in 2015 would not have happened had Berkeley police tested the 2008 rape kit sooner or arrested Asberry when DNA linked him to that case.

DA Pamela Price called attention to that issue in Monday's press release.

"Justice was delayed in the 2008 case because the rape kit was not tested until 2014, six years after the crime," Price said in the prepared statement. "This resulted in Mr. Asberry being allowed to roam free, searching for more victims."

According to Monday's statement, Asberry's DNA had been in the system since at least 2005 due to a felony gun conviction.

Asberry now faces life in prison with the possibility of parole.

As originally charged under DA Nancy O'Malley, Asberry would not have been eligible for parole had he been found guilty on all charges.

But the DA's office under Pamela Price dropped special circumstance allegations against Asberry last year, making him eligible for parole.

He is scheduled to be sentenced May 24.