Closing arguments to begin in Chavez trial

AP News
Posted: Jul 12, 2013 4:13 AM
Closing arguments to begin in Chavez trial

BERNALILLO, N.M. (AP) — Closing arguments are scheduled Friday in the trial of a former Albuquerque police officer accused of killing his wife.

Attorneys finished questioning witnesses Thursday in the monthlong trial of Levi Chavez, who is accused of shooting his 26-year-old wife in the mouth with his department-issued gun in 2007 and then trying to make her death look like a suicide.

Prosecutors have said the couple had a volatile marriage and Tera Chavez had uncovered her husband's role in insurance fraud.

Defense attorney David Serna has argued that the wife was depressed and committed suicide. Serna called the former officer to the witness stand to testify in his own defense Wednesday.

Chavez, 32, acknowledged having a string of mistresses, searching a website on how to kill someone with martial arts moves and ignoring his wife's calls for help. But the disgraced former officer denied that he killed his wife.

The trial has drawn national attention because of salacious details of love triangles and workplace romances during the trial, along with allegations of a botched investigation.

Chavez admitted seeing someone else when he was just 16 and Tera was 15 and pregnant with their first child.

Chavez also testified that his wife called him 176 times on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2007, but he ignored the calls and turned off his cellphone before going to spend the night with fellow officer Deborah Romero. The next day, he said he became worried when the calls stopped and his mother told him his wife had called in sick.

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The one message Chavez saved implied that his wife was afraid she was going to hurt herself.

Chavez and his lawyer suffered an apparent setback last week when a crime scene expert testifying in his defense failed to pull off a demonstration of how the officer's wife might have been able to kill herself with his gun.

There was a bullet in the gun's chamber when it was found next to Tera Chavez's body, and there were questions raised about whether the gun's magazine was still seated inside the weapon. Prosecutors contend it would have been impossible for the woman to press the button to release the magazine after shooting herself.