Man arrested for allegedly killing teller during 1997 bank robbery
03/14/2023 1:54 pm PDT
VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. (TCD) -- Cold case detectives arrested a 55-year-old man almost exactly 26 years after he allegedly robbed a bank and killed a 39-year-old bank teller.
The Ventura County Sheriff's Office announced Friday, March 10, that Kevin James was taken into custody on suspicion of murder regarding the April 28, 1997, killing of Monica Leech.
On Tuesday, March 14, Ventura County Sheriff James Fryhoff spoke at a press conference and shared more details about Leech's killing and what led to James' arrest. On April 28, 1997, at approximately 10:15 a.m., two men dressed as construction workers walked into the Western Financial Bank in Thousand Oaks and robbed the bank. Fryhoff said the two suspects wore "pantyhose-like stockings over their faces" as well as raincoats and hard hats.
One of the two suspects reportedly jumped over the counter and demanded money from the four bank employees who were working that day. The robbers forced three of the four employees to open the bank's safe. According to Fryhoff, the suspects handcuffed two employees, including Leech. Then, during the robbery, one of the suspects shot Leech in the back of the head.
Fryhoff said Leech was "cooperative and not a threat to the bank robbers, so investigators don't understand why she was shot."
Following the shooting, the two robbers fled the bank with just over $11,000. Leech was declared dead at the scene from a gunshot wound.
The case went cold, but Ventura County investigators reopened it in March 2021. Fryhoff said new evidence and DNA advancements helped identify James as a suspect in the case. Detectives arrested him in San Bernardino without incident and transported him to Ventura County.
According to Fryhoff, James was a member of a gang at the time of the shooting, and investigators are still searching for information regarding the second suspect.
Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko also spoke at the press conference and called Leech's slaying a "senseless, unprovoked, and vicious murder."
His office is charging James with first-degree murder with special allegations of murder while engaged in a robbery and use of a firearm.
James remains held in the Ventura County Jail without bail.
- Homicide Investigators Arrest Suspect in Monica Leech’s Murder - Ventura County Sheriff's Office
- Ventura County Sheriff and District Attorney: 1997 Cold Case Homicide Arrest - Ventura County Sheriff's Office
- San Bernardino Man Charged with 1997 Murder of Monica Leech - Ventura County District Attorney's Office
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