GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As testimony wrapped up Thursday in the trial of a convicted killer’s father, jurors learned that James Chance told investigators his son dumped parts of Ashley Young’s body in various trash cans around metro Grand Rapids.
His son Jared Chance was previously convicted of killing Young, 31, of the Kalamazoo area in late 2018. James Chance is accused of perjury and being an accessory after the fact in her dismemberment.
“He was crying, he was emotional. He said, ‘I can’t believe I did it but I was so afraid.’ And he got this felony thing over his head and he was so afraid and he was extremely under the influence and then that is when he proceeded to hack this poor girl up,” James Chance described his son’s confession to the family, according to the transcript of a December 2018 interrogation.
“He indicated to me that he put parts all over town in trash things, the trash,” Chance’s statement from the transcript continues. “That is my inference. He indicated to me that he put them all over town.”
Young’s head, hands and feet have not been found.
James Chance was under investigative subpoena during the December 2018 interview, and the prosecution says that’s when he committed perjury by lying about certain details of transporting some of Young’s remains between Jared Chance’s Grand Rapids apartment, where she was killed, and the Chance family home in Holland.
Prosecutors also say Chance’s failure to say that the family stopped at the Costco on the Grandville-Wyoming border and near apartments in the area of 44th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue could have affected the gathering of evidence and recovery of Young’s remains. They also argue James Chance, a retired detective sergeant, should have suspected the box his son put in his car had limbs in it.
But in the December 2018 interview, Chance told them, “I figured the body was not or the pieces were not in the box because I didn’t smell anything. I didn’t go digging around in there. I didn’t do that.”
During the interrogation, Chance said he had a bad memory. He mixed up dates, made contradictory statements and confused the names of his two sons.
The prosecution contended the transcript shows James Chance was being evasive, while the defense said he was doing his best to help police and that it was investigators who failed to ask the right questions and take action.
The prosecution rested before noon and the defense decided not to present any of its own witnesses.
With the jury out of the room, defense attorney Laura Joyce then asked Judge Paul Denenfeld to throw out the case due to lack of evidence.
Dubious of the prosecution’s claim that James Chance tampered with evidence and participated as an accessory, Denenfeld asked Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Lawrence Boivin to explain his theory that James Chance believed Young’s head was in a backpack left at his son’s apartment. That backpack was mentioned by James Chance in a police interview, but was never part of the murder trial in September.
“Well, what did the defendant do? Knowing that there’s where he believes the head is, what does he do? He took, and he says it in the interview: ‘I took the trash out,’” Boivin said in court Thursday, using the theory to deflect the defense’s motion to dismiss the case.
It is rare that a defense motion to dismiss a case before it goes to a jury is granted because the prosecution is given the benefit of the doubt. But Denenfeld was clearly considering it.
“I think some of this is a close case,” he said.
Ultimately, Denenfeld decided to send the case to the jury.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday, after which the jury will deliberate.
If convicted, James Chance could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
His wife Barbara Chance pleaded no contest Monday to the same charges her husband faces. She’s expected to spend no more than a year in jail.
Jared Chance is serving 100 to 200 years in prison for Young’s murder.