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California man arrested in 1997 cold case murder of bank teller Monica Leech

By Jessica Schladebeck, New York Daily News,


A man has been arrested for the murder of California bank teller Monica Leech nearly 26 years after her death.

Leech had just started her job at Western Financial Bank in Thousand Oaks when she was shot and killed on April 28, 1997, Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff said during a news conference on Tuesday. Two men disguised as construcion workers burst into the bank around 10:15 a.m. and demanded money from employees, KTLA reported.

The pair brought Leech and two others into the vault and ordered her to open the safe. She was then forced onto her knees, handcuffed and shot at close range. The 39-year-old Camarillo resident died at the scene.

“Monica was cooperative and not a threat to the bank robbers, so investigators don’t understand why she had to be shot,” Fryhoff said.

The robbers then fled the scene in a 1994 Ford Explorer, but crashed nearby. They managed to escape on foot but the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office recovered the vehicle. The men made off with around $11,000.

At the time, there was not enough evidence to identify or arrest any suspects and the case went cold, Fryhoff said.

In March 2021, authorities reopened the case and advances in DNA testing allowed investigators to reevaluate some pieces of evidence. They were eventually able to link the slaying to Kevin Ray James, who was arrested in San Bernardino on March 9.

Officials on Tuesday said he has been charged with first-degree murder in the commission of a robbery and using a firearm in the commission of the offense. He is currently being held in the Ventura County Jail.

Authorities are still seeking the second suspect in the case.

“We want the public’s help to bring the second perpetrator to justice,” District Attorney Erik Nasarenko said.

A $30,000 reward offered by the FBI and the City of Thousand Oaks is still available for information leading police to the second suspect in the case, Fryhoff said.

With News Wire Services

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