An audible sigh of relief came from Todd Chance’s family members in the corner of the crowded courtroom as the maximum sentence for his 2013 murder was handed down by Judge Charles Brehmer on Wednesday morning.
Leslie Chance was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison at the Kern County Superior Court for the murder of her husband. Chance was sentenced on one count of first-degree murder along with a firearm enhancement conviction, which each brought sentences of 25 years to life.
“I thought it was absolutely appropriate (for the judge) to not take the firearm enhancement off,” said Assistant District Attorney Andrea Kohler in a press conference after the sentencing. “This was not a mitigated murder. It was a premeditated, sophisticated murder.”
Tony Lidgett, Chance’s defense attorney, pleaded his case throughout the proceedings for Brehmer to dismiss the firearm enhancement charge by citing Chance’s previously clean criminal record and strong community reputation. He said that 25 years in prison was a sufficient punishment and an additional 25 years would be a “death sentence” for Chance, who is 53.
Brehmer acknowledged Chance’s past as being good, but said the facts of the case depicted an “intimate” murder.
“(The murder) has to have been planned in advance. This is a horrific case that had to have been planned,” Brehmer said.
Chance, a former elementary school principal, was convicted in January of murdering her husband, who was 45. Prosecutors presented evidence that Chance left home with her husband the morning of his murder, killed him and left his body in an orchard. She then deposited his car in a run-down neighborhood before disguising herself as she made her way back home by taxi and on foot.
Diana Chance, Todd Chance’s mother, spoke during the sentencing hearing where she emotionally expressed her gratitude to the jury, prosecutors, detectives and victim advocates who have supported them. She also described the defendant as being “not human” and “pure evil from head to toe.”
“There’s no such thing as real justice when a loved one is gone,” Chance said. “The day the verdict was read (in January), nobody won. There was no victory that day.”
Diana Chance explained that her entire family had been victimized the way her son was murdered by his own wife. Diana Chance read a letter on behalf of her family that called for the maximum punishment so that her son’s killer would no longer have control over anyone and would have to be controlled by others.
“May you feel the pain and agony that Todd felt,” Diana Chance said to Leslie.
Leslie Chance and one of her daughters declined to speak at the hearing. However, her oldest daughter, Jessica Bullman, gave a teary-eyed testimony in which she expressed her love for Todd Chance, who was her stepfather, and asserted that she believed her mother was innocent.
“The fact Todd loved me as much as he did … it will always hold a special place in my heart,” Bullman said. “My mother did not do it.”
Leslie Chance was brought to tears by her daughter’s statement, as emotions and tensions remained high throughout the hearing. However, when Brehmer sentenced Chance, her response was stoic and emotionless.
While the prosecution and Todd Chance’s family expressed their satisfaction with the result of the trial, they lamented how long the process drew out the proceedings.
“Everyone wishes this would have gone quicker, but also wish Mrs. Chance would have called a divorce attorney instead of murdering her husband,” said Deputy District Attorney Arthur Norris.
Leslie Chance will also owe Todd Chance’s family $11,420.13 in restitution, along with an indeterminate restitution to the probation department and other fees, according to Brehmer.
District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer commented in a news release following the sentence, stating that “justice has been served.”
“Leslie Chance carefully premeditated and successfully executed a plan to kill her husband of 17 years,” Zimmer said. “However, Chance was not successful in avoiding the ramifications of the criminal justice system.”