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ROBBER KILLS TELLER IN `SAFE' THOUSAND OAKS : CAMARILLO WOMAN SHOT IN VICIOUS HEIST.



Byline: Enrique Rivero, Jaxon Van Derbeken and Teresa Jimenez Daily News Staff Writers

Shattering the sense of security in America's safest city, a 39-year-old bank teller A bank teller is an employee of a bank who deals directly with most customers. In some places this employee is known as a cashier.

Tellers are considered a "front line" in the banking business.
 was shot to death in the back of head Monday after she surrendered the money to two masked gunmen.

Monica Lynne Leech leech, predacious or parasitic annelid worm of the class Hirudinea, characterized by a cylindrical or slightly flattened body with suckers at either end for attaching to prey.  of Camarillo, a churchgoing church·go·er  
n.
One who attends church.



churchgoing adj.
 mother of two children, was slain after she complied with orders to kneel in the vault "In the Vault" is a short story by American horror fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft, written on September 18, 1925 and first published in the November 1925 issue of the amateur press journal Tryout.  of the Western Financial Bank, 2920 E. Thousand Oaks Thousand Oaks, residential city (1990 pop. 104,352), Ventura co., S Calif., in a farm area; inc. 1964. Avocados, citrus, vegetables, strawberries, and nursery products are grown.  Blvd.

The robbers escaped in a white sports utility vehicle sports utility vehicle sport nvéhicule m de loisirs (de type SUV)

sports utility vehicle n (esp US) → fuoristrada m inv 
 in a dramatic getaway in which they hit a car. The gunmen are described as a white man and an African-American man, both in their mid-20s, 170 pounds and 5-feet-11.

``It was just a vicious and cold-blooded killing,'' said Ventura County Sheriff's Department The Ventura County Sheriff's Department (VCSD) provides law enforcement for the unincorporated areas of Ventura County, California, USA, as well as several cities within the county. The cities that VCSD serves are Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai, and Thousand Oaks.  Chief Deputy Bob Brooks. ``I've been here 23 years and I can't recall anything like this.''

Leech's husband, Floyd, drove to the bank after learning of the shooting. Her children, Andy Mintz, 13, and Stephanie, 10, were consoled by Traci Fenimore, youth pastor of Camarillo Church of the Nazarene Church of the Nazarene (năz'ərēn`), U.S. Protestant denomination established in 1908 through the union of the Church of the Nazarene, based in California; the Association of Pentecostal Churches, a New England group; and the Holiness .

``As I sat with her kids, they had to talk about not having a mom anymore,'' Fenimore said.

``They said, `Why?'

``I said, `It shouldn't have happened to anyone. We'll never exactly know why.'

``We talked about faith, and we prayed together. We talked about one day being reunited "Reunited" was a #1 hit in the United States in 1979 by the Washington, D.C.-based group Peaches & Herb.

Preceded by
"Heart of Glass" by Blondie Billboard Hot 100 number one single
May 5 1979 Succeeded by
"Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer
 in heaven with their mom again.

``My biggest fear was facing the 13-year-old boy,'' Fenimore said. ``His mom was everything to him, their mom was everything to both of them. He wanted to know why, I couldn't tell him. We just cried.''

A devoted mother

Fenimore said she spoke to Monica Leech on April 22, when she dropped Andy off at a meeting of the church's junior high youth group. The two talked, as they did every week, and Leech said how happy she was with her month-old job at Western Financial. It was closer to home and had better hours than her previous job at an Oxnard bank.

``She was excited about the change,'' Fenimore said. ``She was a dear friend, a wonderful mother.''

Neighbors who knew Leech also talked about her devotion to her children.

``She was a wonderful mother. She cared about the kids, saw to it they came in and did their homework,'' said Lois Walker, who lives near the Leeches' wood-shingle home on Willow View Drive in Camarillo. ``It's so unbelievable. She was such a great person, such a devoted mother. it seems unbelievable that would happen to her.''

Next-door neighbor Eve Geohagan said Leech was ``very concerned about raising her children with manners.''

``They were good people who would greet you,'' Geohagan said. ``I almost think that in this society, in this day and age, something like this hits all of us.''

The robbery

Two masked gunmen entered the bank about 10:20 a.m., and told the four employees that a robbery was in progress, authorities said. There were no customers at the time.

The robbers jumped the counter and cleaned out the tellers' drawers. Then they herded Leech and the two women and man to a room in the back where the vault is located.

Leech was ordered to kneel after handing over the money, then was shot in front of the others, said Gary Auer, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), division of the U.S. Dept. of Justice charged with investigating all violations of federal laws except those assigned to some other federal agency.  in Ventura County, which is investigating.

The men fled in a white Ford Explorer
See also Ford Explorer Sport Trac for the spinoff pickup truck version


The Ford Explorer is a mid-size sport utility vehicle sold in North America and built by the Ford Motor Company since 1990.
 or Jeep, which collided with another vehicle a few blocks from the bank and then sped away. The driver of the car that was hit said the license on the suspect's vehicle started with ``3T,'' officials said.

The gunman who fired the shot is described as white, in his mid-20s, 5-foot-11, 170 pounds with light brown or blond hair. The other robber is African-American, also in his mid-20s, 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, with short black hair and a mustache.

Both wore dark knit caps, long yellow cloth jackets and blue jeans blue jeans also blue·jeans
pl.n.
Clothes, especially pants, made of blue denim.

blue jeans npltejanos mpl; vaqueros mpl

, officials said. And although they wore nylon stockings over their faces during the robbery, the robbers took off their masks as they left the bank, allowing some witnesses to get a glimpse of their faces.

At least one of the other female employees was handcuffed during the holdup, said Frank Lussier, who was on the scene shortly after the shooting.

Victims rescued

Lussier said he and his wife, Mary Alva Anderson, were at Atlas Chiropractic chiropractic (kīrəprăk`tĭk) [Gr.,=doing by hand], medical practice based on the theory that all disease results from a disruption of the functions of the nerves.  a few doors down from the bank when someone rushed in saying that the bank had just been robbed and someone had been shot.

He followed the chiropractor chiropractor

a practitioner in chiropractic.

chiropractor A health professional trained in chiropractic; chiropractors do not perform surgery or prescribe drugs; of 50,000 licensed chiropractors in the US, many practice 'straight' chiropractic, ie
, Dr. Rick T. Swartzburg, to the bank and saw a woman with her hands cuffed behind her back and Leech lying in the room at the back.

While Swartzburg administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), emergency procedure used to treat victims of cardiac and respiratory arrest. CPR can be done in a hospital with drugs and special equipment or as a first-aid technique.  on Leech, Lussier unlocked the employee's cuffs with keys to a set of handcuffs hand·cuff  
n.
A restraining device consisting of a pair of strong, connected hoops that can be tightened and locked about the wrists and used on one or both arms of a prisoner in custody; a manacle. Often used in the plural.

tr.v.
 he carries with him as a ``security measure,'' he said.

``She was telling me to get out of the bank, she must have thought someoneelse was in there. But we told her we would stay with her,'' said Lussier,55, tears running from behind his dark glasses.

Crime on the move

Thousand Oaks has had 11 bank robberies since January 1996, including four this year.

``Big-city crime comes to Ventura County - we have always had a smattering of bank robberies, but still, not with the violence factor that this had,'' said William Rehder, the FBI's bank coordinator.

Western Financial Bank, with 26 banking offices in California and $3 billion in assets, is a subsidiary of Westcorp, an Irvine-based bank holding company established in 1973.

Donald Kasle, president and chief executive officer of Westcorp, described Leech as ``a valued staff member.''

Kasle said counseling has been provided for employees at the Thousand Oaks branch and any other branches where employees are shaken by the crime.

``You can't help but have an impact in a close-knit organization,'' he said. Kasle said the Thousand Oaks branch would not reopen today and that no decision has been made on when it will.

CAPTION(S):

5 photos, map

PHOTO (1 -- 2 -- color) Above, a Ventura County coroner's team removes the slain teller's body from Western Financial Bank in Thousand Oaks. Teller Monica Leech resided in Camarillo with her husband, Floyd, son, Andy, and daughter, Stephanie.

Andy Holzman/Special to the Daily News

(3 -- color) Employees of the bank branch are escorted from the building after Monday morning's takeover robbery.

Tina Gerson/Daily News

(4 -- color) Chiropractor Rich Swartzburg ran next door to aid the victim.

Andy Holzman/Special to the Daily News

(5 -- color) Monica Lynne Leech

Handed over money
COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 29, 1997
Words:1111
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