GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Ashley Young’s mother told jurors that murder suspect Jared Chance led her on a wild goose chase up until the day before Ashley’s dismembered body parts were found in his Grand Rapids home late last year.
Chance, 30, is standing trial on charges of second-degree murder, mutilation of a dead body, concealing a death and three counts of tampering with evidence.
The jury, along with a courtroom packed with Young’s friends and family, heard opening statements from the defense attorney and prosecutor before testimony started Tuesday.
Kent County Prosecutor Lawrence Boivin spent 90 minutes going over the more than 20 witnesses he plans to call to convince the jury that it was Chance who killed Young, 31, of Oshtemo Township. At the end of his statement, Boivin asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty of second-degree murder.
Defense attorney Andrew Rodenhouse countered in his opening statement that his client is the victim of a rush to judgment and an investigation that failed to consider any other possible suspects. Rodenhouse displayed a projection on the courtroom wall saying the amount of evidence that his client killed Young is “ZERO.”
“No one can tell you how Ms. Young died. The DNA results point to other possible individuals and other likely suspects are not even investigated,” Rodenhouse said. “The problem is that some people want vengeance and vengeance makes some people act hasty and not use reason. They have to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt that Jared, not someone else, not she died in some other way, but that Jared caused her death.”
The first witness to take the stand was the victim’s mother, Kristine Young, who fought back tears as she told of her desperate search to find her daughter.
“Ashley was kind, she was loving, she was infectious. Everybody wanted to be around her,” the mother told the jury.
Her search included talking to Chance and demanding video from one of the bars where Chance and her daughter had gone late Nov. 28 and early Nov. 29, 2018. While looking at one of the videos that showed her daughter, the mom was asked if she saw her daughter on the screen.
“Yes, I wanted to pull her off the screen,” the mother said.
Kristine Young exchanged numerous text messages with Chance between Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, where he claimed Ashley Young had gone to Kalamazoo. He gave her useless numbers to call to talk to people she was allegedly with, including one to a man who said he had no idea who Ashley was.
Chance also told the mother that he had talked and texted with Ashley before he broke off contact on Dec. 1.
Meanwhile, at the Franklin Street home where Chance lived, downstairs neighbor Mario Nelson was finally convinced by his girlfriend to investigate the foul smell coming from the basement. He described to the jury what he saw on Dec. 2.
“There’s a tarp laying there and just a stream of blood out of it,” Nelson testified.
His call to police led to an eerie search of the darkened basement captured on police body cameras and shown to the jury.
Chance was arrested.
A week after her daughter went missing, police told Kristine Young that the remains were that of her missing daughter.
On Tuesday afternoon, a forensics technician testified about taking photos of the crime scene and testing for blood on saw blades, plastic wrap and other items from Chance’s home.
Chance seemed unaffected as he listened to testimony. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
On Monday, he rejected a proposed plea agreement that would have required him to plead to all the charges against him and provide a full confession in exchange for a lighter sentencing recommendation.
Despite the huge stack of evidence against Chance, prosecutors are pursuing a conviction for second-degree murder rather than first-degree, which would require them to prove premeditation. That’s because Young’s head, hands and feet haven’t been found so they can’t say exactly how she died, though they think she may have been shot.
The trial has been booked into early next week, though it could conclude before that.
News 8 will be in the courtroom for the duration of the trial with continuous coverage online and daily reports on air.