The mystery over whether a beloved Bakersfield, Calif., elementary school principal killed her husband grew deeper this week after Leslie Jenea Chance was set free pending further investigation.
Todd Chance, 45, a truck driver, left the couple’s home at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 25. His bullet-riddled body later turned up 15 miles away in an almond field, where Kern County Sheriff investigators believe he was killed. Cops say his black 2011 Ford Mustang was discovered abandoned in a neighborhood.
After speaking with Leslie Chance, 46, several times, detectives arrested her Aug. 29 for suspicion of murder. The investigators’ case includes evidence Chase drove her husband’s car that morning, Kern County Sheriff s spokesman Ray Pruitt says.
“Based on the information and evidence, we believe there is probable cause to believe that she is the person who shot her husband, Todd Chance, multiple times,” Pruitt tells PEOPLE. “There is no indication that anybody else was involved in his death.”
Pruitt also told the Bakersfield Californian that detectives are aware of a possible motive, although he declined Wednesday to discuss the matter with PEOPLE.
But on Tuesday afternoon, as Chance was scheduled to be arraigned for first-degree murder, authorities instead set her free after the district attorney held off on filing charges.
Andrea Kohler, supervisor of the special prosecutions unit of the Kern County District Attorney, tells PEOPLE the office is not rejecting the case outright or denying that Todd Chance was murdered – prosecutors just need further investigation.
Kohler declined to specify what further evidence was requested.
According to the Bakersfield Californian, the Chances have two children and Todd helped raise Jessica Bullman, Leslie’s 23-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. “He was the best guy, the best husband, the best dad,” Bullman told the newspaper. “He’s been in my life since I was 4. He was my dad and he was everything,”
Chance, who also goes by Jenea Chance, did not return calls seeking comment. Her attorney, Kyle J. Humphrey, told the Californian that Chance is “adamant about her innocence,” and, given that she’s been set free and not charged with a crime, he’s curious to see the sheriff’s evidence against her.
Chance worked for the Greenfield Union School District for 16 years as a teacher, academic coach, and assistant principal before becoming principal at Fairview Elementary School, and remains on the payroll. According to the Californian, district officials planned to meet privately Tuesday evening to discuss their next step – however, on Wednesday, Chance was still on paid administrative leave, the district’s assistant superintendent of personnel, Kenneth R. Chichester, told PEOPLE.
Many parents have stepped forward to say Chance is a beloved principal who doesn’t seem capable of such a crime.
“I couldn’t believe it was her,” parent Rosenda Lora tells NBC affiliate KGET.
Lisa Ramos said Chance watched her kids grow up at the school over eight years and helped with a family matter. She added that Chance always brought her family to school events.
“She’s an amazing person. I don’t know why so many people are throwing stones at her so soon,” Ramos tells the Bakersfield Californian in reference to readers’ online comments.
According to his obituary, Todd Chance had been married for 17 years to Jenea and was a car and motorcycle enthusiast – his Mustang is his Facebook profile photo. He has three grandchildren, and his obituary says he “spent his free time playing video games with his girls and practicing sports.”