Dateline   |  September 20, 2013

'The Officer's Wife' part 6

Tera's family believe Levi may be hiding something, butthe investigation stalls.  They take an ususual step toget potential witnesses to talk.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the family of tera chavez never believed she committed suicide and also didn't buy her husband levi 's story about how he found her.

>> there were a lot of just suspicious things, nothing added up.

>> tera's sister-in-law gina, the suicide note on the bedside table just didn't make sense, mostly for what it didn't say.

>> i think my first thought was like i want to read it because i want to see it.

>> and the note says i'm sorry, levi , doesn't mention her kids. can you conceive of her writing a note like that, not mentioning her children?

>> no, she would not have left her kids. she would not have left her kids.

>> detective jones had come to agree, the one sentence didn't seem like a suicide note , at least not one tera would write.

>> she was a very expressive person.

>> you would expect a more detailed, expressive note.

>> absolutely.

>> tera's best friend also told the detective the behavior of the levi she knew was much worse than the fill andering.

>> he would break her down verbally, tell her all the time she was worthless, that she was nothing without him.

>> tera tried to keep it to herself, but especially from her dad.

>> we didn't like seeing our daughter go through what she was going through with levi . being the father and wanting to fix everything, i think it created this curtain of don't let dad know.

>> but in the months before she died, tera did tell both of them she was getting fed up with levi and was ready to end her marriage.

>> she told me she was going to be okay and the kids are going to be fine, they were going to be getting divorced and she was going to be moving forward.

>> after tera's death, the cordovas say he never seemed to be a grieving husband but seemed cold and distant. by the time of tera's funeral, levi had already wiped away all traces of his dead wife.

>> everything my daughter did in that house was either in a box or somewhere, somewhere else , wasn't in the house any longer. we were there to pick up clothing for a viewing that would happen wednesday afternoon.

>> and there was nothing left.

>> there was nothing. who does that? who boxes up the person that made that house what it is.

>> within 48 hours .

>> within 48 hours . she was gone.

>> it made the family wonder if evidence of levi 's guilt was also being boxed up and hidden, especially when they learned potential evidence from the house had been destroyed the night tera was found. remember that red substance detective jones saw on the toilet that night? turns out that never made it to the crime lab .

>> were you able to collect that evidence?

>> no.

>> because?

>> because it had been flushed by an albuquerque police officer in the house .

>> one of levi 's friends that had come over to offer support?

>> friends, co-worker.

>> was it tera's blood? was it even blood? we're never going to know.

>> no, we're sure not.

>> and that bedding with the mysterious blood swipe was also removed by the cops. tera's family couldn't shake the feeling that levi 's fellow officers from albuquerque might have been helping out their friend and that the local investigators in charge should have stopped them.

>> i was extremely angry with the sheriff's department. i was beside myself with them. how could you allow another agency to come into your jurisdiction and enter that house ?

>> the jurisdiction of the man who found the body.

>> yes.

>> detective jones says there's no evidence of a conspiracy or coverup and he blames himself for not immediately treating the house as a crime scene . he was forced to work backwards to find both evidence and a possible motive. and soon he found something interesting. a life insurance policy that covered tera. how much money would levi get in the event of the death of his wife?

>> $100,000.

>> what about if it was suicide?

>> $100,000.

>> and tera's family told the detectives that the couple headed for divorce had been having financial problems. but the main reason tera's family and friends believed levi had something to do with her death is this.

>> she made a couple of statements to me that if anything ever happened to her that levi did it.

>> did you take that seriously?

>> obviously not serious enough. it took me awhile to think oh, my god, maybe she was right.

>> and her mom says that a few months before she died tera told her the same thing.

>> she did tell me if anything ever happens to me, levi did it. and i immediately asked her if she was okay and if the kids were okay. and she told me everything was fine.

>> but why say something like that?

>> i couldn't tell you why she said that, but she did tell me that.

>> tera told her mom not to worry and not to say a word to her dad.

>> and you didn't tell him.

>> and i didn't tell him.

>> i don't blame my wife for anything. tera knew me well. she knew that i would intervene.

>> is there any part of either of you that thinks that levi might not be responsible for this?

>> no.

>> no.

>> now the family and the detective were on the exact same page.

>> you didn't believe tera killed herself?

>> no.

>> you felt levi killed her, made it look like a suicide?

>> yes, sir.

>> with the feeling levi was responsible for tera's death wasn't widely shared in law enforcement , largely because levi had that alibi, debra romero, fellow police officer that said they were together that night. jones wanted to interview levi 's police co-workers that had been on the scene that evening and his many other mistresses for more information, but some weren't talking. after a year, the investigation had reached a standstill.

>> i was allowed to officially work the case for some time, after that i worked it when i could, and however i could.

>> levi 's uncle and family of cops felt jones ' investigation was pure witch-hunt.

>> when the police start to focus on levi , what do you think?

>> when you mention police, it is all jones .

>> he was driving the bus.

>> he was driving and the only one on the bus on the highway.

>> while jones ' bus was stalling, the albuquerque press tour rolled on with the story. even though no arrest was made, levi was put on administrative leave at his job and remained the one and only person of interest in the case.

>> to be honest with you, they didn't have a case and i think they were trying to make levi look like a bad guy.

>> so maybe he is not a good husband but he is not a murderer.

>> he is definitely not a murderer. she took her life and levi found her.

>> but jones refused to give up and was determined to dig up new information any way he could. he began to think outside the box and suggested something highly unusual.

>> i told the coroner you have to sue me, sue somebody, to get the matches on this case file a civil suit .

>> so they filed a wrongful death suit against levi , the city of albuquerque and members of the albuquerque police department , claiming they all played a role in tera's death. it was a huge fishing expedition , but would they catch anything?