Crime, Fire + Courts

Police nab ‘Bad Hair Bandit’

By From page A1 | August 19, 2011

The "Bad Hair Bandit," caught on surveillance camera in Ellensburg, Wash., may have been responsible for as many as 20 bank robberies in four states, including one in Davis back in June. On Monday, police arrested Cynthia Van Holland, whom they believe to be the "Bad Hair Bandit," so-named because of the variety of wigs she wore during robberies. Courtesy photo

A woman known to authorities as the “Bad Hair Bandit” may have been responsible for as many as 20 bank robberies in four states, including one in Davis back in June.

“She was a very busy woman,” Sacramento FBI spokesman Steve Dupre said of Cynthia Van Holland, 47, who was apprehended in Placer County on Monday along with her alleged getaway driver.

The robber’s nickname stems from “the variety of wigs she wore during robberies,” according to an FBI news release. Most occurred in the state of Washington, though several others took place in Montana, Oregon and California.

On June 28, a woman with red shoulder-length hair and a blue sequined shirt entered the U.S. Bank branch at 304 F St. in downtown Davis, passed the teller a note demanding money and said she was armed, police said. No weapon was seen, and no one was hurt.

By that time, the Bad Hair Bandit had committed more than a dozen bank heists in Washington, FBI officials said. She struck several more times in Oregon, Washington and Montana during the month of July and in early August.

But her luck ran out Monday in Auburn.

There, a woman entered a Bank of the West branch on Lincoln Way at about 2:25 p.m. and, like the Davis incident, claimed to be armed while passing the teller a note demanding money, Placer County Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Reed said.

Witnesses saw the woman run from the bank and hop into a getaway car parked behind the building. They gave sheriff’s deputies a description of the vehicle, along with its license-plate number.

Deputies stopped the car 12 miles away on Interstate 80 near Rocklin Road, arresting Van Holland and alleged getaway driver Christopher Alonzo, who had turned 26 the day before.

“Placer County detectives identified Van Holland as a possible suspect in the ‘Bad Hair Bandit’ robberies after examining evidence and surveillance photos,” Reed said in a news release.

Davis police Lt. Paul Doroshov said his agency has linked Van Holland to the U.S. Bank robbery, though he declined to specify how.

“We’re just happy that this case is resolved and that she’s in custody,” Doroshov said.

The Bad Hair Bandit was the second female serial bank robber to pass through Davis in less than a year.

On July 21, 2010, Laura Jane Murray of Durham robbed Union Bank at Third and E streets but was apprehended after locking her keys inside her car. Murray, who authorities said had committed two other heists in Butte County the week before, was later sentenced to seven years in prison.

— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or (530) 747-8048. Follow her on Twitter @laurenkeene

Lauren Keene

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