Man pleads not guilty to groping girls in Sonoma Valley


Samuel Johnson Lyons, 36, of Sonoma, is charged with two felony counts of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a minor -- one under 14 years old -- and four misdemeanor counts of sexual battery. He is being held on $200,000 bail in Sonoma County Jail.

Deputy District Attorney Rosanne Darling said there are six victims in Sonoma County and that Lyons is suspected of seven "similar acts" in Santa Cruz County.

Sonoma police arrested Lyons for allegedly groping a 21-year-old woman as she got into her car in the parking lot of a Sonoma Safeway store on Aug. 14.

The suspect left in a teal Honda hatchback, but the victim took a picture of the car's license plate with her cellphone. Lyons was arrested near Petaluma Avenue and Linden Street minutes later.

Lyons was already wanted on a warrant for allegedly grabbing a woman's breast at a medical facility on Andrieux Street in Sonoma in May, Sonoma police Sgt. Dave Thompson said.

Sonoma County sheriff's Detective Cecile Focha said Lyons targeted young women and groped them in public. One of the victims is a teen girl who was sexually battered on Aug. 13, according to the sheriff's office.

Investigators had conducted surveillance in the Sonoma Valley for several months and had circulated a sketch of the suspect. After his arrest, Lyons was identified by the victims as the groper, Focha said.

Lyons next court date is Sept. 6.

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