Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Rick Chance

Dragnet

The murder went unreported for approximately 12 hours until Chance failed to show up for a meeting with his attorney, who filed a missing person's report. Across the valley, just after the posted check-out time, a hotel maid ignored the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door to a room she had been notified was vacant and discovered a crime scene. On the floor lay Rick Chance, clothed and dead from gunshot wounds. Police also found a single bullet casing, an orange pill and a white powder. At first, authorities didn't have a motive in the killing because Chance's wallet containing hundreds of dollars and credit cards was still at the scene. They didn't know about the jewelry until advised by family and friends. Within hours, the motive was clear.

The killer or killers left a wealth of forensic information in the hotel room Hungerford didn't bother to wipe down her plastic room keycard or the courtesy hair dryer for prints and it didn't take long for detectives to find the image of Chance and a young Asian woman checking into the hotel.  In addition to the photo of Hungerford with Chance at the front desk, they had security photos of her with him in the parking lot of the hotel and alone in the third-floor hallway. With the assistance of the media, they published the photos and asked for tips.

Within 24 hours they had hundreds of leads from people who recognized Hungerford from her dancing days. One of the tips came from an employee of the Maricopa County jail Hungerford's mother.

From there, the authorities quickly linked Hungerford and Lemke from cell phone records and found an image of Lemke on the hotel's security camera tapes. Lemke helped authorities somewhat by stopping in front of the camera and staring at it long enough for the camera to take a front portrait. A criminal check on Lemke led police to notify their Washington state colleagues that the pair wanted for questioning in the murder of the flamboyant glass replacement salesman could be headed their way.

Investigators learned that Hungerford had told friends she and Lemke were planning a robbery and were going to flee to Tacoma afterward. They found tags unique to Chance's jewelry stock in Lemke's apartment. Hungerford also led police to the murder weapon, which was placed in a pizza box and sold to a friend of Lemke's. Ballistics tests positively identified it as the gun used to kill Chance.

Brandi mugshot
Brandi mugshot

Brandi Hungerford was arrested in Tacoma on August 14. She was quickly charged with first-degree murder and waived extradition back to Arizona. Once back in Tempe, Hungerford confessed and implicated Lemke, giving police a detailed account of the duo's plan. She said she didn't know Chance had been killed until she talked by phone with a friend in Arizona who said her picture was all over the news.

In return for her cooperation, prosecutors offered Hungerford a deal. Before Thanksgiving 2002, Brandi Hungerford pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in return for an expected sentence of between 11 and 22 years. Her sentence will depend on how well she helps authorities in their prosecution of Rob Lemke.

Brandi plea with judge
Brandi plea with judge

Lemke was arrested two days after Hungerford and was initially charged with a variety of offenses in Washington as Arizona police developed their murder case against him. He fought extradition to Arizona, but once Washington authorities dropped their pending charges against him he was returned to Tempe. Lemke was charged with first-degree murder and faces a possible death penalty.

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