August 17, 2011 in City, Idaho
FBI: ‘Bad Hair Bandit’ in custody after Calif. robbery
A series of bank robberies involving a woman wearing a variety of unattractive wigs may be the work of a nurse employed at the Kootenai County Jail until just last week.
The FBI announced Wednesday that Cynthia Lynn Van Holland, 47, is believed to be the serial robber nicknamed the Bad Hair Bandit, who’s been on the FBI’s most-wanted list since June and is suspected in at least 20 robberies in four states.
Van Holland, of Hayden, was arrested Monday after a bank robbery northeast of Sacramento. Her husband, 26-year-old Christopher S. Alonzo, also was taken into custody. The two remain in the Placer County Jail in Auburn, Calif.
A family member said Van Holland met Alonzo while working as a nurse at a prison in Southern Idaho. Alonzo is a convicted felon on parole for forgery and fraudulent use of a credit card in Bonner County. The two married in Kootenai County in March.
Van Holland has been a licensed practical nurse in Idaho since 1986, according to state records.
She worked at the Kootenai County jail from April to Aug. 10 of this year as an employee of Correctional Heathcare Companies, which contracts with the jail to provide nursing staff, said Lt. Stu Miller.
The FBI believes Van Holland robbed at least eight banks during that time, including a May 9 robbery at a Chase Bank in Spokane.
“It’s interesting that somebody can be so close to you and be doing, allegedly, what she was doing,” Miller said.
Van Holland’s cousin, Marlene Kootstra, of Bakersfield, Calif., was shocked to learn of her arrest.
“I didn’t think it could possibly be her, but from looking at the pictures it’s hard to deny,” Kootstra said.
Kootstra said her cousin has long worked as a nurse in jails and prisons, where she makes good money. Kootstra said Van Holland is not a drug addict and has no reason to rob banks. She noted that the robberies began after Van Holland met Alonzo
“I would never think that she would do anything like this honestly, and I’ve known her my whole life,” Kootstra said.
Van Holland is suspected in a string of 20 bank robberies that began in Tacoma in December and included robberies in April in Ellensburg and Moses Lake.
The robber hit banks in Lake Oswego, Ore., on July 1 and Richland on July 18 before authorities reported a similar robbery at a bank in Butte, Mont., on Aug. 11.
The FBI believes the same woman may have robbed two banks in Spokane in June and August 2010.
Placer County sheriff’s Lt. Mark Reed said the Monday robbery was similar to those attributed to the Bad Hair Bandit. The woman handed a bank teller a note indicating she had a gun but never displayed one.
Witnesses provided a description of the getaway vehicle – a silver Chrysler Sebring – and sheriff’s deputies caught up with the car about 12 miles away on a freeway, Reed said. Alonzo was driving. The couple were arrested without incident.
Reed said Van Holland has been interviewed; he declined to reveal what she said.
Before moving to North Idaho, Van Holland owned a home for at least five years in Boise, where she worked as a contract nurse with the Idaho Department of Corrections.
Department spokesman Jeff Ray didn’t have dates of her employment but said she passed an employment background check in 2005.
Alonzo was released from prison last October, Ray said.
Kootstra said she saw Van Holland and Alonzo just three weeks ago at a family reunion in Lake Tahoe. They seemed happy and relaxed.
“She was happy to introduce her new husband to everybody,” Kootstra said.
Kootstra said her family is heartbroken by Van Holland’s arrest.
“She’s got a good Christian family and they’re hurting so much,” Kootstra said. “These are not the kind of people that are involved in this type of thing. This is not normal.”