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Looking back, ahead of Leslie Chance's retrial

Posted at 7:21 PM, Dec 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-06 22:47:18-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — It's a story six years in the making, about a man shot to death and left to die in an almond orchard in 2013.

The accused killer, his wife, former Fairview Elementary School principal Leslie Chance.

The long awaited retrial is set to begin in court on Monday.

This case, put on hold for several years after a conflict of interest with the public defender's office led to a mistrial earlier this year.

Leslie Chance's trial was postponed, but opening statements are set for Monday at 10 a.m. Key witnesses and evidence will all be re-examined in a Kern County Superior Court.

It all began back in 2013, when the body of Todd Chance, 45, was found riddled with bullets in an almond orchard off Noriega Road, just east of Enos Lane.

Detectives with the Kern County Sheriff's Office said his black Ford Mustang was found about 20 miles away in a neighborhood near Panama Lane and Highway 99 in Southwest Bakersfield.

Four days after Todd's body was discovered, on August 29, 2013, Leslie Chance, 46-years-old at the time, was arrested and booked on suspicion of murder.

"We do believe she is the person who drove his vehicle to that neighborhood and left it in that neighborhood and then walked away from the vehicle," said former KCSO spokesperson Ray Pruit, shortly after her arrest.

Despite evidence and what investigators believed at the time, Chance was released from jail a day before she was schedule to appear in court. The DA's office told 23ABC the case was sent back to KCSO for further review.

Chance was placed on administrative leave from Fairview Elementary after serving as the principal and working in the district for 16 years.

Teachers, staff and district officials said they were stunned by the news at the time.

"Shock. Disbelief and people feeling like they got the wrong person, or made a mistake," one district official told 23ABC News. "Just kind of out of character."

Nearly three years later, Leslie was arrested for the second time and charged with first degree murder of her husband with special circumstances of financial gain.

Court documents reveal Leslie filed claims on 4 separate life insurance policies two years after Todd's death, worth $500,000.

"We're confident that there's enough evidence to show that Leslie Chance is responsible for Mr. Chance's shooting death," Pruit said in 2013.

Now, nearly six years after Todd's body was found, a jury has been selected in the case.

The trial is expected to last three to four months.