On July 6, 2021, Santa Rosa man Kevin Seltenrich entered Fort Bragg’s Rite Aid, told the cashier he had a firearm he would be willing to use if his demands were not met, and fled after the teller acquiesced. Fort Bragg police officers got word he had run down a nearby alley, cornered Seltenrich, drew their firearms, and placed the man under arrest.
A criminal complaint from Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster revealed this was not Seltenrich’s first rodeo. Since 1973, he has been convicted of twelve separate robberies, six of which are federal bank robberies.
The Mendocino County criminal complaint began as a concise description of Seltenrich’s purported robbery on July 6 in Fort Bragg where he took money from a Rite Aid employee using “force and fear .” This initial count gave way to laundry list of strike allegations providing a list of twelve robbery and burglary convictions from Seltenrich’s past:
- September 14, 1973→ Felony Robbery in the Second Degree
- January 1st-December 31st, 1977→ Three Separate Felony Robberies in the Second Degree
- July 7, 1982 → Two Separate Convictions for Felony Robberies in the Second Degree
- December 1984→ Two Separate Convictions for Felony Bank Robbery
- April 15, 2009→ Three Separate Convictions for Felony Bank Robbery
- October 10, 2017→ Felony Bank Robbery
Seltenrich’s capers are chronicled in a series of newspaper blurbs throughout his career. The first mention of his crimes comes from San Rafael’s Daily Independent Journal. On October 10, 1972, they reported that then 20-year-old Seltenrich would be appearing in court the following day for the burglary of his neighbor’s apartment stealing a $120 stereo. Reportedly, the “equipment was pawned that day at San Rafael Loan Company.”
Seltenrich would plead innocent to these charges, according to a November 1, 1972 article from the Daily Independent Journal. The article describes how the District Attorney redacted the burglary charges from felony to a misdemeanor after the victimized neighbor told the prosecutor “Seltenrich had agreed to pay for items taken and asked that the charges be dropped.”
Santa Rosa’s Press Democrat newspaper offers the next glimpse into Seltenrich’s misdeeds. A small blurb from October 10, 1976, referred to him as a “Calpella Carpenter” and says he was arrested for residential burglary
On November 4, 1976, Press Democrat’s “Sonoma County Court Action” section said Seltenrich, then 24-years-old, would be pleading not guilty to burglary.
An article from the Chino Champion on July 2, 1982, indicates Seltenrich, who was 30-year-old at the time, had been arrested in San Francisco and “may someday be charged with the March 25 robbery of Ontario Savings and Loan.”
A September 11, 2009 article from the Santa Maria Times provides further insight into Seltenrich’s prolific life of crime. The article states that he was behind bars, yet again, after robbing three San Francisco Bay Area banks. This bank robbery spree occurred after Seltenrich had “fled a halfway house in late July, after being paroled from a federal prison in Florida where he spent 23 years for a series of bank robberies in 1984.”
The article details his Bay Area robbery spree including two San Francisco banks and one in Oakland in which a recognizable modus operandi was followed–he would approach the employee unarmed, pass them a note, then demand money.
In the process of researching Seltenrich’s criminal past, Leagle.com, an archive of legal documents associated with court cases, an order regarding motions in limine was located from a trial in 2017 entitled the United States of America v. Kevin A. Seltenrich. A “motions in limine” is an evidentiary motion that determines what information to exclude or admit into evidence before a trial begins.
The first motion filed by Seltenrich’s defense attorney, provided his client “one final opportunity to articulate the basis for an insanity defense.” This process would “exclude information contained in his prison medical file but would allow prior positive drug tests into the record.”
The second motion asked the judge to exclude any evidence related to a 2008 bank robbery. The judge denied this motion because “the identity of the robber is a key question in this case.” From the judge’s statements, it was clear prosecution intended to use Seltenrich’s modus operandi in 2008 with the robbery in 2017. The defense attorney argued to exclude details of previous properties so prosecution could not compare elements of the two crimes including the similarities of the note handed to the bank teller.
Prosecution filed nine separate motions and the following are most notable:
- The judge granted prosecution the ability to admit a lay witness (a non-expert) who would testify as to the identity of the bank robber caught on surveillance camera.
- Prosecution’s motion to admit facts about Seltenrich’s supervised release and reentry center was granted stating that it would be used to establish “the identity of the robber and to provide the content of the crime to the jury.”
- Another intriguing motion by the prosecution was the condition that if Seltenrich were to testify in trial and proceed to contest the identity of the robber, prosecution would use his 2008 bank robbery conviction to “impeach his credibility…” Nodding to Seltenrich’s prolific criminal career, the judge made note the 1985 bank robbery conviction “will not be admitted, however, because it is too remote in time.”
Another legal document found providing insight into Seltenrich’s navigation of the justice system was a document from 1996 entitled Kevin A. Seltenrich, Petitioner-appellant, v. Patrick Whalen, Respondent-appellee, 79 F.3d 1156 (10th Cir. 1996). This document outlines Seltenrich’s attempts to appeal a parole board’s ruling that he would be imprisoned until March 2009. Seltenrich’s attorney attempted to cite the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 as applying to his client’s incarceration and the parole board’s decision was an “ex post facto law in violation” of the United States Constitution. The appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision to deny Seltenrich’s petition and added that the “petitioner’s motion for bail pending appeal is denied as moot.”
Though the patchwork of articles and legal documents leave much to be known about Seltenrich’s criminal career, he now sits in the Mendocino County Jail accused of a crime he knows all too well.