A man convicted of sexually assaulting several women was arrested Thursday in the 1980 cold case rape and killing of an 81-year-old woman in Oxnard, police said.
The victim, Leah Sarah Bullis, was found severely beaten inside her home almost 40 years ago and was pronounced dead in the ambulance while she was being transported to a hospital, the Oxnard Police Department said.
Investigators collected evidence and determined that she died of blunt force trauma, but the killing remained a cold case until in December 2018, authorities ran DNA collected from her autopsy and it matched a convicted offender identified as 58-year-old Lenard Len Chester, Oxnard Police said.
Chester had previously been sentenced to 44 years in prison for breaking into homes and sexually assaulting four different women, according to police.
He was listed as a “sexually violent predator” and placed on civil hold while he received treatment at a state hospital after he was paroled, authorities said.
“These allegations make Chester eligible for the death penalty or, in the alternative, specify a sentence of life without the possibility of parole,” the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office said.
The suspect is in the custody of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and being held at a Ventura jail without bail, according to police.
His arraignment was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the Ventura County Superior Court, the DA said.
“This case is an example of how the passing of time, advances in forensic technology, and multiple law enforcement agency collaboration come together to further cold case homicides,” Oxnard Police said.
Authorities said the case has been evolving.
“Investigators are examining other similar cases from that time period to see if Chester is a possible suspect,” police said.
Anyone with information was asked call Detective Jeff Kay at 805-385-8174 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.