Albuquerque police officer indicted for wife’s murder www.privateofficer.com
Valencia County NM April 11 2011 Tera Chavez’s October 2007 shooting death was initially ruled a suicide, but after 3 1/2 years of investigation by the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office, a grand jury indicted Chavez’s husband, Levi, an Albuquerque Police Department officer, on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence.
At a press conference held Thursday at the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Valencia County Sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Noah said that “things came out” during the past six months that provided sufficient evidence to present the case to the grand jury.
He declined to elaborate on what the nature of the evidence was.
“We received many boxes of material this summer from the sheriff,” said District Attorney Lemuel Martinez. “We looked at it and found some holes in it. We gave it back to them and there was some further investigation done.
“We took a good look at it again and made a decision there was enough to take this to the grand jury.”
On Sunday, Oct. 21, 2007, Levi Chavez placed a call from a separate location and said “there was a problem” at his Las Maravillas home and his wife, Tera, had killed herself.
When deputies arrived, they were met by Levi and found Tera dead from a gunshot wound. Levi’s service weapon had been fired inside Tera’s mouth.
The Office of the Medical Investigator originally ruled the death a suicide, but after a request from the sheriff’s office, the ruling was changed to undetermined.
Levi Chavez was then named as a “person of interest” in the case.
A civil lawsuit filed by Tera Chavez’s family alleges that Albuquerque Police Department officers who responded to the scene on the night of the shooting to offer grief counseling to Levi trampled evidence.
The lawsuit also claims that a climate in APD allowed for unchecked fraternization and rampant extramarital affairs, and this climate contributed to Tera’s death.
Martinez said that his office will consult with the family before making the determination about whether his office will seek the death penalty.
In a statement issued Thursday, an attorney for Tera Chavez’s estate said the family opposes the death penalty.
Levi Chavez’s attorney, David Serna, said that his client’s defense will be that Tera Chavez committed suicide.
“I can tell you we have a host of the nation’s and perhaps the world’s leading experts who all conclude that she committed suicide,” Serna said.
“He (Levi Chavez) has abiding faith and abiding trust in the court system and he is relieved because now a decision will be made, and we’re confident that the decision will be not guilty.”
Levi Chavez has been working at Albuquerque’s Animal Welfare Department as an officer of APD. He has now been placed on paid administrative leave and will be served with a notice of contemplated action that is the first step that could result in his termination, said APD Chief Ray Schultz.
“I know it took a long time and I want to thank the family for being patient,” Martinez said. “I want to thank the Valencia County sheriff for not giving up.”