Extramarital Affairs Take Center Stage in Ex-Cop Murder Trial
(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) -- A former Albuquerque, N.M., police officer is on trial, accused of killing his 26-year-old wife with his department-issued handgun and trying to make her death look like a suicide because, prosecutors say, she was about to report him for insurance fraud.
Levi Chavez was working as a police officer in October 2007 when he allegedly shot and killed Tera Chavez in the bed of their Los Lunas home with his police revolver. Chavez has been charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence. He has pled not guilty.
Detectives say Chavez wanted his wife dead because she threatened to reveal he staged the theft of a truck so he can collect insurance money. Chavez has never been charged with any wrongdoing.
The defense claims Tera Chavez killed herself because she was depressed about her marriage. They say Chavez was having an affair with Albuquerque police officer Nick Wheeler in the months before her death. Wheeler is the husband of Chavez's maid of honor, Samantha Wheeler.
"She was upset. She basically said she wanted someone to love her," Nick Wheeler testified last Friday. "She asked me if I would leave Samantha for her, and I told her no…"
Wheeler added that Chavez never spoke of hurting herself during their time together.
But the trial, which began two weeks ago, has offered more stories of affairs within the Albuquerque Police Department. Debra Romero, also a police officer in the department, admitted to having an affair with Levi Chavez. Romero says Chavez was with her for part of the weekend when his wife was shot.
Romero said she was under the impression they were separated and going through a divorce.
"You know the whole thing was so disgusting and such a disgrace. That was the whole thing that made me upset. It makes me upset right now," Romero testified last week.
On Tuesday, the court heard from police officer Regina Sanchez, who admitted to having an affair with Chavez in 2006.
Also on Tuesday the state called DNA expert Alanna Williams, who testified that she couldn't tell who fired the gun that killed Tera Chavez because there were two sets of DNA on the gun's handle. The DNA belonged to both Tera and Levi Chavez, according to Williams.
Prosecutors say Chavez used his police training to cover up the crime, refusing to touch his wife's body so his fingerprints wouldn't be found. Chavez's 911 call to report his wife's death was played in court.
"Can you touch her? Tell me if she feels cold?" the 911 dispatcher asked.
"I can't look at her. Please God," Chavez responded.
"You can't?" replied the dispatcher.
"No. Please," Chavez said.
Prosecutors could wrap up the case by the end of the week and Levi Chavez's attorney tells ABC News his client might take the stand.
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