May 2, 2019
A suspect in an unsolved murder case was arrested nearly four decades after the rape and slaying of an 81-year-old woman, Oxnard police said Thursday.
Crediting DNA evidence for the break in the case, police said Lenard Chester, 58, was booked into Ventura County jail Thursday on suspicion of raping and murdering Leah Sarah Bullis, in Oxnard.
The crime occurred Dec. 1, 1980, at Bullis' residence in the 1800 block of Coronado Place. Police arrived and found her conscious but severely beaten. She died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, authorities said.
An initial investigation found she had been raped and beaten in her home. An autopsy revealed she died as a result of blunt-force trauma bleeding, according to the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office.
Sexual assault evidence was collected during the autopsy, and investigators recovered several pieces of evidence from the scene of the crime. The evidence was kept secure by the Oxnard Police Department while the investigation continued. Two detectives were assigned to the case in 1980 and interviewed potential suspects, but ultimately no arrests were made.
In 2018, the Oxnard Police Department devoted a criminal detective to investigate unsolved homicides, including the death of Bullis. In collaboration with the Ventura County District Attorney's Office, the evidence collected for the case was sent to the Ventura County
n late 2018, investigators learned of a match between DNA evidence from the sexual assault and Chester's profile in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Combined DNA Index System, which stores information about those who have been arrested across the country.Sheriff's Office crime laboratory for analysis.
Chester had been arrested in 1982 and convicted of breaking into homes and sexually assaulting four women. He was sentenced to 44 years in prison for his crimes, but later received parole.
A hearing by the Ventura County District Attorney's Office required him to be listed as a sexually violent predator and ordered him to receive treatment at a California state hospital.
Chester is currently being held without bail.
According to online court records, the Ventura County District Attorney's Office filed criminal charges against Chester on April 24. He faces a murder charge and special allegations that the killing occurred while he was engaged in a rape and burglary.
Police said investigators continue to examine the case as well as similar ones that may have involved Chester. Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call Detective Jeff Kay at 805-385-8174 or email him at .
For more information on the Oxnard Police Department's cold cases, visit coldcase.oxnardpd.org.