Gunman gets life in Rick Chance murder

Robert Lemke

A former stripper was sentenced to life in prison Friday afternoon after pleading guilty this month to gunning down Paradise Valley millionaire Rick Chance in 2002 during a robbery.

Watch Tribune reporter Nicole Beyer's video report

Robert Lemke originally pleaded not guilty to the charge, and a jury deadlocked in 2005 over the question of whether he shot Chance, although the jury convicted him of theft. He received 27 years in prison for stealing Chance’s watch.

On Sept. 5, Lemke avoided a second trial on the murder charge by accepting a plea agreement from the state, which offered him life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. He is also required to pay $10,000 in restitution.

At the Friday sentencing, the victim’s brother, Michael Chance, addressed Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Tim Ryan on behalf of the family.

“I know that this period of entering into closure for us will be very beneficial,” he said, noting the public nature of his brother’s death has interfered with his family’s ability to mourn. He paid tribute to the work of Tempe police investigators, county attorneys Richard Romley and Andrew Thomas and the prosecutors, calling their efforts heroic. He also took several minutes to address Lemke directly.

“You wanted to surround yourself with diamonds and gold,” Michael Chance said to Lemke. Things his brother had earned through hard-work, he said. “Now you’ll be surrounded by cold, hard steel and concrete.”

Lemke, 29, has served almost five of the more than 33 years to which he was sentenced to for the watch theft and a prior theft conviction.

Chance, 44, was a well-known Valley figure who starred in commercials for his auto glass company, Empire Glass. He was found slain Aug. 9, 2002, in a Tempe hotel room.

At Lemke’s 2005 trial, his girlfriend, former stripper Brandi Hungerford testified she lured Chance to the hotel with promises of sex and convinced him to bring $1 million worth of jewels to show to friends.

Hungerford pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Chance’s death and was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Sept. 20.

After Lemke’s sentencing, Michael Chance, of Maricopa, said his final words to Lemke: “Godspeed — and bon voyage.”

Rick Chance is survived by a 21-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son.

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