Dateline | September 20, 2013
>> tera chavez ' parents were determined to get their son-in-law arrested for their daughter's murder. so for the civil suit , the family's lawyer subpoenaed more than 50 people for depositions with the hope of learning something new.
>> state your name for the record.
>> levi chavez .
>> levi was called in to give a videotaped deposition.
>> were you aware that officer wheeler was seeing your wife.
>> we're going to object to that.
>> he had always been cooperative with police in the past. this time levi was under oath and now as his lawyers invoked his first amendment rights against self-incrimination, levi was far less chatty.
>> when do you remember receiving an alleged text message from tera saying she might hurt herself?
>> we're going to assert the same privilege as to that.
>> little was learned from levi that day. but attorneys also put his talkative mistress rose under oath and in her deposition she revealed something she had never told police and later told us.
>> the night that i had talked to him and i text him, he is like my wife just died, i am like why, what happened. he is like i don't know, i was in the shower and i heard the pop.
>> levi told you he was there in the house in the shower and heard a pop.
>> uh-huh, then when he got out, he had found her dead.
>> levi 's story to investigators had always been that he had been with one of his other girlfriends, debra romero that night and only found tera dead when he returned home to check on her. but this story rose says he told her is quite different.
>> you know you're the only person that tells that story.
>> you're sure that's what he said to you.
>> i'm absolutely positively sure.
>> this new story was puzzling to jones but it did match one thing the detective recalled seeing at the scene, a wet towel. and rose had even more to reveal in her deposition. remember, she had been sleeping with levi but had also been a client of tera's at her salon.
>> so you chatted with her the way women do with their hairstylist?
>> it was this double edged road as paramour to levi that put rose at the center of the investigation. the last time she saw tera, rose says tera told her something odd about the truck that had disappeared from the family driveway.
>> you had a conversation with tera about levi 's truck being missing?
>> we were talking, i was like what's going on with the truck, have you heard anything about it, she's like it didn't come up stolen. i am like what do you mean it didn't come up stolen in.
>> rose says tera told her the story of the truck being stolen had been a lie and that she believed her husband levi , the cop, was mixed up in something very illegal.
>> she said levi had some friends take it to claim the insurance, so he had the truck taken.
>> so tera was very up front with you that she thought that the truck disappearance was part of an insurance scam by levi .
>> yeah, and she told me she was going to call the police and tell them.
>> and when she later saw levi , rose says she told him his wife thought that he was involved in some kind of scam.
>> what was levi 's response when you told him about that?
>> that she didn't know what she was talking about.
>> he said the truck was legitimately stolen?
>> still, if tera was telling rose she thought her husband was a criminal, what happened next?
>> i believe he was scared she was going to turn him in.
>> to detective jones , it sounded like a reason to want his wife to disappear, and found more evidence that tera was planning to report her husband. six days before she died, new mexico insurance fraud bureau received a tip about a fake stolen vehicle. the investigators' notes say the caller's name was sarah, later said it could be tera, and the contact number was the salon where tera chavez worked.
>> what did you learn from people at the salon.
>> three days prior to her death, she told her boss she had done something bad and if she ended up dead, levi killed her.
>> for jones it was adding up possibly as part of a bigger criminal operation.
>> there's been talk for years about a rio grande cartel of police officers and bad guys that are running dope, guns, money, stolen vehicles up and down the rio grande corridor, it starts giving credibility to it.
>> and if you believe that, then tera chavez turning in her husband was a threat to bring not just him down but a lot of other people, too.
>> absolutely. pretty scary, isn't it?
>> i still have a sense of responsibility because i never said anything.
>> about the truck.
>> to levi .
>> yeah. maybe she would be alive.
>> as part of the civil suit made it through court, detective jones retired from law enforcement , but the revelations that came from the suit jump started the investigation into tera's death. and eventually caught the attention of prosecutors. assistant d.a. brian mckay.
>> you thought the truck was the motive?
>> we think the truck was the motive in a simple sense. he is moved to apd, wanting to move up the ranks, the brass is doing if everyone is saying your wife is reporting fraud.
>> all of them settled the civil suit , denying liability. but the cordova family got what they wanted. in april, 2011 , more than three years after tera's death, levi chavez was charged with her murder.