published Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Chance LeCroy murder mystery still unsolved 1 year later

Terri Grizzard and Polly LeCroy look at a scrapbook and talk about Chance LeCroy’s death. Chance is Terri’s nephew and Polly’s grandson. He was shot to death Sept. 9, 2010.
Terri Grizzard and Polly LeCroy look at a scrapbook and talk about Chance LeCroy’s death. Chance is Terri’s nephew and Polly’s grandson. He was shot to death Sept. 9, 2010.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

BY THE NUMBERS

Homicide clearance rates in Chattanooga

• 2010: 80 percent cumulative clearance rate. Of 20 homicides, 13 were cleared by arrest, and three killings were cleared from previous years.

• 2011: 69 percent cumulative clearance rate (to date). Of 23 homicides, 15 were cleared by arrest, and 1 killing was cleared from the previous year. Eight homicides from this year remain open.

• National average: 65-67 percent homicide clearance.

• Total CPD clearance rate dating to 1976: 88.5 percent

Source: Chattanooga Police Department


GET INVOLVED

Anyone with information about Chance LeCroy's slaying can contact Crime Stoppers at 423-698-3333. Calls are confidential and can lead to a cash reward of up to $1,000.

Four hundred and forty-five days have passed since 21-year-old Chance LeCroy was shot and killed in the bedroom of his Hixson home.

But 445 days are not enough to ease the grief that pulls his family members to tears at any moment. Or bring answers to their questions: Who killed Chance, and why?

"We're no better than we were the day it happened," said Chance's grandmother Polly LeCroy, shaking her head.

"The longer it goes the worse we get," echoes Chance's aunt, Terri Grizzard. "When we do talk to [the detectives], it's always the same: 'Nothing's changed,'" said Grizzard. "And we know if something happens -- another shooting -- they're going to go work that one. And we're pushed further to the back."

Since Chance LeCroy was slain, 27 more people have been killed in Chattanooga. Of last year's 20 total homicides, 13 have been cleared by arrest, according to Chattanooga police. Of this year's 23 slayings, 15 have been cleared.

From 1976 -- when the police department started keeping statistics of its homicides and clearance rates -- 836 of the city's 944 slayings have been closed.

Chance LeCroy is listed as the 99th open homicide of the department's 108 unresolved cases.

But Assistant Chief Tim Carroll said the city's homicides aren't necessarily prioritized according to the order in which they occur, and unsolved cases are regularly revisited and updated. He said Chance's father calls almost monthly, asking for updates.

"He wants to know that his son's case isn't sitting on a shelf. I know it's frustrating. It's frustrating for the guys working these cases. ... But we don't forget," said Carroll, who still remembers every detail of the first homicide he worked as a detective in 1989 -- which remains unsolved.

"We go under the premise that they're all going to be solved at some point," Carroll said.

The details of Chance LeCroy's Sept. 9, 2010, killing are sparse. His roommate, Tucker King, told police he was sleeping on a couch at the house the two rented at 1211 Johnston Terrace when he was awakened by the sound of a gunshot.

King said an armed man wearing sunglasses and a bandanna pointed a gun at him before the gunman and another man rushed out of the house and hopped into an old, gray "work truck." King then discovered his roommate's body, with gunshots in his back and left shoulder.

Police say there was no sign of forced entry and have speculated that the assailants likely knew there was money in the house. Family members say about $500 may have been taken from a safe Chance kept in his room.

Few details of the case have emerged since then.

The department has forensic evidence that will allow them to link a person to the crime, and they have entered that into a database. But no clear matches have come through yet.

"We've got persons of interest we're looking at, but we're just not in a position to make any arrests," said Carroll.

To the family, the knowledge that police have persons of interest but no firm suspects is almost maddening.

"There's somebody out there that knows something," said Polly LeCroy.

That is why the family is still doing everything they can to keep Chance's name -- and face -- in the public eye.

Grizzard has printed hundreds of fliers, posting them in gas stations, liquor stores and other shops throughout Chattanooga, and lining the roads from Jasper to Bakewell, Tenn.

She's had the case information read on the radio and published in "Just Busted." The family has called to ask for help from the Chattanooga mayor, along with state senators and congressmen.

"We're getting nowhere, said Grizzard. "But we're just trying to get it out and keep it in people's heads, and maybe something will come of it. Just whatever we can do. If I have to travel around the world, I'll do it."

"Any of us would," said Polly LeCroy.

For the last several months, Grizzard has found therapy in piecing together scrapbooks of Chance's life. She has never made a scrapbook before, but each page is carefully designed to display his personality.

There's Chance as a baby, with "Little Man" -- the nickname his father gave him -- spelled in block letters at the top. There are photos of little-boy Chance grinning from a sofa, of teenage Chance riding his bike and playing bass in a rock band. Photos of him laughing while on a cruise with Grizzard.

Grizzard has pasted snapshots of the cars Chance drove over the years, and certificates he received at Soddy-Daisy High School commending him for acts like lending his own shirt to another student so that student would be in dress code.

She's attached journal entries Chance scrawled in high school, including his "Laws of Life": "Never hurt anyone who doesn't deserve it. Always treat others with dignity and respect. Never take what isn't rightfully yours. Don't trust the government. Don't spit into the wind."

There's one photo of him the summer before he died, wading into the ocean for the first time.

Then a page is turned, and Chance is smiling on a wordless page Grizzard has framed with blue sky, clouds and sunshine.

"This is where the bad stuff starts," she says. From this point, the pages are filled with clippings of CrimeStoppers and photos of the flowers at his grave site.

She has included the notes his friends have written him: "Miss you, buddy." "You are forever in my heart."

At the back of the book are photos of the candlelight service Chance's family held at the first anniversary of his death. About 40 people signed balloons for Chance and let them go into the night sky.

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