Old Time Crime: TV pitchman and business owner Rick Chance murdered by jewel thieves in 2002

Posted at 1:53 PM, Aug 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-09 16:53:27-04

A business owner, well known in the Valley for the television commercials he did for his auto glass company, is murdered by jewel thieves in Tempe.

The Crime:

In the morning of August 9, 2002, Paradise Valley Police received a missing person report from the business partner of Rick Chance, after he failed to show up for a business meeting. 

Many in the Valley recognized Chance from his television commercials for 'Empire Glass," an automobile glass replacement company that Chance owned.

In the satchel was about $1 million worth of gems and jewelry

The news soon dominated radio and television newscasts, and tips began to come into the police. His body was found the next day in a room at the Best Western Inn in Tempe. A satchel of jewelry he was carrying was missing. In the satchel was about $1 million worth of gems and jewelry designed by Chance himself.

Incidentally, Chance was supposed to shooting a new commercial, the day his body was found for his new venture, ''Fidelity Diamond Reserve."


The Investigation:

Chance was meeting with an Asian female who he met on an internet dating site

It was soon determined that Chance was meeting with an Asian woman who he met on an internet dating site. He was supposed to be showing the jewelry to her and her friend at the hotel that night.

A surveillance photo of Hungerford at the hotel where she and Chance were registered was released to the media and over 100 tips were sent to Tempe police. It was these tips that lead police to identify the woman as Brandi Lynn Hungerford, a stripper who also worked for an escort company. Other tips pointed to her ex-boyfriend Robert Lemke.

Search warrants were conducted at her home and the home of Lemke, where police found a Rolex watch and several small tags unique to Chances' jewelry.

It was learned that Lemke and Hungerford had made their way to Tacoma Washington where Lemke began selling the watches. He was arrested by police in Tacoma on unrelated charges on August 14 after Tempe police notified Tacoma authorities that he might be traveling there with Hungerford.

The next day Hungerford was found at the home of Lemke's mother in Tacoma.

When questioned by police, Hungerford laid out the plot to kidnap and rob Chance. She told police that didn't realize Chance was dead she got to Tacoma.

The Plot Explained:

Hungerford told police that at Lemke's request, she met Chance and expressed interest in buying his jewelry. They would set up a meeting where they would rob him of it. She said it took them about six weeks to set up the meeting.

She watched, as Lemke put on a mask and entered the hotel room

On August 8 as Chance checked into the hotel room Hungerford called Lemke, letting him know Chance was there. She watched, as Lemke put on a mask and entered the hotel room with a gun. After hearing a gunshot, she saw Lemke leave the room with Chances' jewelry bag.

Some of the jewelry stolen included necklaces worth $70,000, diamond rings worth $50,000 and earrings worth $22,000. Only two items were recovered, including one item worth $93,000.

Hungerford told police that Lemke promised to split the money with her so she could buy a car.

Hungerford was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison. According to DOC records, she is first eligible for release in 2018.

Lemke was sentenced to life in prison in 2007 and is first eligible for parole in 2032, but is also serving sentences for two other crimes.