Jenea Chance, director, murders her husband over affectionate messages
Jenea Chance went from being a single mom with dead end jobs to being an elementary school principal thanks to her intelligence and determination. And according to prosecutors, she used those same skills in an attempt to get away with a murder.
Jenea grew up in Bakersfield, California. She married her high school sweetheart but they broke up after learning he was cheating on her, Californian Bakersfield the newspaper reported in 2020. She was pregnant at the time.
At 22, Jenea became a single mother, giving birth to a daughter, Jessica Bullman. While obtaining a teaching diploma, she held three jobs, including that of a cashier in a pharmacy. There she met security guard Todd Chance. They married in 1996, a year after their first date.
âWhen my mom and Todd got married, while they were exchanging rings, he gave me a pearl bracelet with my name on it. He was so amazing to me. I mean, he was in every aspect my dad and he never made me feel left out, âBullman toldâ Snapped, âairing. Sundays To 6 / 5c to Oxygen.
Todd got a job as a truck driver while Jenea completed her teaching degree. After earning her certification, Jenea quickly rose through the ranks, moving from teaching to administration and eventually becoming principal of Fairview Elementary School in Bakersfield.
Life was good for Chances. They had two daughters together and with their combined income they were able to afford a luxurious family vacation.
But on the morning of August 25, 2013, a farm worker discovered a corpse in an almond orchard in Bakersfield, ABC News reported at the time. He warned his boss, who called the police.
Agents from the Kern County Sheriff’s Office found a wallet on the victim that identified him as Todd Chance, 45. Her cell phone was found about 40 feet from her body, according to PEOPLE.
“I located two gunshot wounds on the side of his chest,” former Kern County Sheriff’s Coroner Janelle Malena told the producers. âHe also had what appeared to be a gunshot wound to his hand from a very short distance. “
The presence of Chance’s wallet ruled out theft as a motive. “It was a planned and considered murder,” prosecutor Andrea Kohler told the producers.
Investigators informed Jenea and the girls of Todd’s death. Jenea said she last saw her husband around 7:30 am He planned to attend a gun show and drove off in his flashy black Ford Mustang.
Jenea said Todd was an avid gun enthusiast and collector. When asked to check out her collection, she said that one of her pistols was missing, an old .38 revolver.
âJenea said it would be rare for him to take this gun with him and have it in the vehicle himself with him,â Kohler told the producers.
Detectives wondered if Todd had been the victim of a car theft. They were then informed that his car had been found in the southwest of Bakersfield.
âThe first thing they noticed was that the car was unlocked. Second, there was a key on the floor and the handle of a gun was also visible on the floor, âsaid prosecutor Arthur Norris.
The weapon matched the mark of the missing .38 from Todd’s gun collection. Two used cartridges were still found in the cylinder. The area where the car was found was known as a haven for criminal activity.
âYou have this very nice car with the key right there, nice and visible, and with a gun. The fact that the car has been unlocked is almost like a “Please rob me” sign. It seemed absolutely staged, âNorris told the producers.
Police spoke to witnesses who noticed a suspicious person walking through the neighborhood at 9 a.m. that morning. One of them even filmed the person on his security camera.
“Surveillance showed a person of average height, of medium build, fairly well disguised, wearing a hat, wearing glasses and bulky clothing,” said Ray Pruitt, former information officer of the County Sheriff’s Office. Kern to “Snapped”.
Other security camera footage captured the suspect entering a Starbucks, according to Californian Bakerfield. Once there, they entered the bathroom, coming out five minutes later in different clothes. Witnesses described the suspect as a white woman, PEOPLE reported. Examining the footage, detectives determined that his hair had tucked into his baseball cap and his face was obscured.
Security footage from a hardware store across from Starbucks showed the suspect stripping off her original outfit behind stacked bags of dirt. Unfortunately, the trash was picked up and disposed of before detectives could retrieve it.
Investigators searched Todd’s phone and found that in 2012 he had started to correspond with his former fiancee, Carrie Williams, on Facebook Messenger. There were flirtatious texts and sexually explicit images, according to NBC-affiliate Bakersfield KGET.
âTodd had asked his ex if they were both getting together, but his ex had refused. I believe his exact words were, ‘No way, married man,’â Norris told the producers.
A search of the car revealed another clue. A single fingerprint was found on the driver’s side door of Todd’s Mustang. It belonged to Jenea, WGET declared in 2020. His DNA was also found on the driveshaft.
IIn a prior interview with detectives, Jenea claimed that she had never driven her husband’s car.
Jenea was questioned and denied any involvement in her husband’s murder. When detectives pressed her, she asked for a lawyer, at which point they arrested her and charged her with murder, CNN reported at the time.
Citing a lack of evidence, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office refused to press charges and Jenea was released after five days, according to a 2013 report Los Angeles Times article.
As investigators sifted through the evidence in hopes of building a better case, they discovered a photo of the Chance family visiting an exhibit titled “CSI: The Experience” on one of their family vacations.
“This was basically a tourist exhibit in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Hotel dedicated to the show ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’, in which people are presented with various scenarios to try to solve a crime using forensic techniques, âNorris explained.
One of the scenarios involved a woman who shoots her ex-husband and leaves his body in a deserted area, according to Californian Bakerfield. Authorities believe Chance learned how to remove DNA and dispose of clothing from the exhibit.
Another break came because Chance claimed she was at home on her computer when her husband was murdered. However, an inspection of his computer by the FBI would not reveal any computer activity at that time.
It would take three years for prosecutors and the police to build their case. Finally, in December 2016, Leslie Jenea Chance, 49, was arrested and charged with first degree murder.
During his murder trial in January 2020, prosecutors argued that Jenea murdered Todd after learning his sordid texts with his ex. Jenea was making a lot more money than Todd, and if they get divorced, she’ll have to pay him child support. They claimed it was cheaper to kill him and cash out his $ 250,000 life insurance policy, according to The Bakersfield Californian.
On January 31, 2020, after a four and a half week trial, the jury found Leslie Jenea Chance guilty of first degree murder.
Jena Chance’s conviction is said to be repeatedly postponed due to illness, the COVID-19 pandemic and requests for a new trial. She was ultimately sentenced on September 16, 2020 to 25 years in life with an additional 25 years in life for gun improvement, according to ABC-affiliate Bakersfield. KERO-TV.
Jenea Chance will be eligible for parole in 2041 when she turns 74.
To learn more about this case and others like it, watch “Snapped”, aired Sundays To 6 / 5c to Oxygen or stream episodes here.