Man arrested in 1997 cold-case killing of teller during Thousand Oaks bank robbery


A suspect in the fatal shooting of a teller during a 1997 bank robbery in Thousand Oaks has been arrested, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday.

The suspect was identified as 55-year-old Kevin Ray James of San Bernardino.

Little information about the arrest was disclosed Friday with officials set to hold a news conference about the case on Tuesday in Thousand Oaks.

The case has haunted law enforcement and the family of 39-year-old Monica Lynne Leech, who was shot and killed in the robbery at Western Financial Bank.

On the morning of April 28, 1997, two masked men dressed in long jackets and yellow hardhats entered the bank on Thousand Oaks Boulevard. The men berated bank employees, including Leech, forced them into a small room and handcuffed them.

Leech was shot in the back of the head, execution style.

Why Leech was shot with such violence has baffled investigators and others who were present at the robbery.

“Why Monica? That’s one of the things that’s so hard to deal with. Why in the world did they do that,” former bank manager DeeDee Smith told The Times in 1998, a year after the incident. “It was the violence — just the sheer violence of it.”

The Sheriff’s Office said in 2021 that Leech had obeyed the suspects’ orders and had not resisted.

After the shooting, the suspects fled the scene in a white 1994 Ford Explorer with around $9,000.

In 2021, the Sheriff’s Office said that new DNA evidence and technology “bolstered optimism that a suspect will be located, arrested and prosecuted.”


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