Denver Chance murder trial: Jay Lingman found guilty

Jay Lingman and Denver Chance.
Jay Lingman and Denver Chance. Photo credit: RNZ/File photo, Supplied to RNZ

Warning: This story contains graphic content that may disturb some readers.

Jay Lingman has been found guilty of murdering Auckland man Denver Chance by shooting him in the head three times before using a chainsaw to fit the body into a chest freezer.

After deliberating for 24 hours the jury returned an unanimous verdict on Tuesday following a trial spanning almost three weeks in the High Court at Auckland.

Lingman denied murdering Chance, but he did plead guilty to three charges of possession of drugs, including cocaine and MDMA, for supply.

The Crown argued the Lingman shot Chance three times in the head from behind, before using a chainsaw to cut the body to fit it in a chest freezer.

The defence case was that both men were drug dealers, and Lingman was acting in self-defence after Chance threatened him with a shotgun over a perceived betrayal.

The verdict prompted a loud cry of "yeah" from one member of the public in court on Thursday, who was asked to control themselves by Justice Harland.

Denver Chance was last seen on February 24, 2019.

He told friends at his flat in Mairangi Bay that he was popping out and would be back soon, but his body was found two weeks later at a property in Kingseat, south of Auckland.

It was the Crown's case that Chance went to visit Lingman at his property for a pre-arranged meeting.

Crown prosecutor Gareth Kayes said Chance was standing at the front door to Lingman's house when Lingman shot him from behind after walking out a backdoor and around the side of the house.

Kayes said Lingman fired at least six bullets at Chance using a Ruger 10/22 .22 semi-automatic rifle fitted with a suppressor and three of these bullets hit his head.

Lingman then dragged the body from the front door down to a carport, Kayes said, before purchasing a chest freezer the next day.

He said Lingman used a chainsaw to fit the body in a freezer and left it there until police found it two weeks later.

The Crown said Lingman attempted to cover up the shooting by cleaning up the blood on the driveway and front steps using a water blaster and bleach, and buying a shipping container to hide Chance's distinctive red Nissan Skyline car in.

Meanwhile, the defence case was that the two men were drug dealers and Lingman shot Chance in self-defence following a perceived betrayal.

Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield told the jury there was no dispute that Lingman had shot a number of bullets at Chance, including the three that hit him in the head and killed him.

Mansfield said there was also no dispute that Lingman purchased a chest freezer and used a chainsaw to fit the body in it to cover up what happened.

"It was desperate and dire, and the scene displays that," Mansfield said.

Lingman gave evidence in his own defence during the trial.

He said Chance asked him if Chance could store a large quantity of MDMA and cocaine in his gun safe, located in his shed, while Chance went overseas.

He sold some of the drugs on tick - where a dealer gives product to a trusted customer before being paid later when the drugs had been sold by the middleman - while Chance was away.

Lingman said he intended to replace the drugs he took - but on February 24, 2019, Chance returned to his property unannounced to find his stash had been dipped into.

Lingman said he had been pressing MDMA pills that day and was not expecting Chance to visit.

He said he was in the kitchen getting a drink when he heard someone yell his name out.

Lingman said Chance was standing at the front door, angry and armed with a shotgun that he had taken from Lingman's shed after discovering his drugs were missing.

Lingman said he tried to placate Chance and lie to him that he had his money, but it did not work.

He told the court he went to his bedroom and armed himself with the Ruger rifle for self-defence before walking around the side of the house.

He saw Chance at the front door, where Chance swore at him and raised his shotgun.

Lingman said he then raised his gun, shut his eyes and shot a volley of about six shots.

"I didn't have a clue where [the bullets] were going," he said.

He said he wanted to incapacitate him so he would not be shot, as he did not expect to survive if Chance fired the shotgun.

"It would've taken my head off."

When asked by his defence lawyer about how he felt about shooting Chance, Lingman said "not very good".

"[There] were so many different emotions in my head. Fear, adrenaline still coming through me. [What] snapped me out of it was [thinking], 'what am I going to do'."

Jay Lingman was remanded in custody ahead of sentencing on June 11.