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Opening arguments begin in drunken-driving murder case

Agua Dulce resident charged with killing neighbor as she walked her dogs

Posted: September 26, 2012 6:54 p.m.
Updated: September 26, 2012 6:54 p.m.

LANCASTER — Opening arguments were heard Wednesday in the murder trial of an Agua Dulce resident accused of running down his neighbor while driving his car intoxicated.

Dennis Keene, 64, appeared in Antelope Valley Superior Court, charged with murder and drunken driving in the 2011 crash that killed Lori Lindlief, 55, while she was walking her dogs on an Agua Dulce street.

Keene, with thinning gray hair and a gray goatee, sat hunched in a tweed overcoat before a jury of six men and six women.

Deputy District Attorney Susan Choi showed the jury photos of Lindlief and her fiance, Austin Dingman, the couple’s dogs and aerial photos of the rural house the couple purchased on White Fox Lane a year before the fatal collision.

She also showed jury members a photo of Lindlief hospitalized before she died.

“On that day, August 13, 2011, the defendant was playing golf at the Valencia Country Club, where he drank alcohol while playing golf,” she said in her opening statement.

“He started playing poker at 3 p.m. that day and drank more alcohol while playing poker,” she said. “At 7 p.m., he left Valencia and went to a restaurant in Agua Dulce called Maria Bonita and had another drink.”

Choi said she would call witnesses to testify that Keene looked intoxicated that night.

In finishing her account of what happened the day of the fatal crash, Choi explained Keene drove from the Agua Dulce restaurant 1.8 miles to his home on White Fox Lane.

Lindlief and Dingman were walking on nearby Mabana Street with five dogs.

Keene hit Lindlief with his 2007 Chevy Silverado, causing her death, the prosecutor said.

“Implied malice is also second-degree murder, and that’s the murder we have here,” she said.

Keene’s defense lawyer, James A. Bates, said he will call witnesses who will testify that Keene did not appear intoxicated while golfing, playing cards or at the Agua Dulce restaurant he visited that day.

One of those witnesses will be a Santa Monica police officer, he said.

“He was playing golf and had a few beers but was pacing himself,” Bates said. “It was so hot that day that the beer had ice in them so he could drink them slowly.”

While Keene was playing poker he drank mostly soft drinks, he said.

Bates said he will call on a man who saw Keene at Maria Bonita Restaurant who will testify his client did not appear intoxicated.

In his account of what happened after the collision, Bates said: “Keene was alone in the cab of the truck.

“It was 20 minutes before the CHP arrived,” he said. “The CHP searched the truck and found a half-empty bottle of rum.

“The CHP said the smell of alcohol was strong, indicating it was consumed very recently.”

Bates said he will call an expert witness to testify how difficult it is to determine how much alcohol was consumed before the accident and how much was consumed after the accident.”

Bates called the accident scene “difficult to investigate” due to all the marks made in the dirt with “footprints all over the place.”

“The only verdict you can come up with is not guilty of all these charges,” Bates said.




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