Dateline   |  September 20, 2013

'The Officer's Wife' part 8

Levi is on trial for the murder of his wife.  The prosecution calls several of his mistresses to testify, and present evidence they say shows Tera couldn't have shot herself.

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

>> killing his wife is finally under way.

>> tera's family and friends thought justice was near.

>> was there a time when you thought levi is never going to be prosecuted?

>> no. we knew we would get here. we just had a lot of hurdles to get over.

>> levi 's family saw the trial very differently, as a chance to clear his name and theirs.

>> did you ever have any doubt as to whether or not levi was capable of this?

>> i have no doubt from day one, i was one that was, you know, advocating that there's no way that he could have done this.

>> david serna is levi 's defense attorney .

>> i think the evidence strongly suggested that the investigators ignored all evidence other than evidence pointing to levi 's guilt.

>> all rise.

>> two families, once joined by marriage, could now hardly look at each other as they sat on opposite sides of the courtroom. the state set out to prove that levi , the cheating husband, killed tera and staged her suicide to keep her from exposing a big secret.

>> this was not a suicide.

>> it was a purely circumstantial case, but lead prosecutor brian mckay thought he had more than enough to brand levi a cold-blooded killer.

>> so the perfect homicide equals suicide.

>> you begin by talking about the perfect murder . is that what you think this was?

>> yeah, a cop knows a suicide, if they're convinced early on that this is a suicide, it's closed, it's over, it's done. there is no investigation.

>> mckay thinks levi didn't count on the determination of tera's loved ones who took the stand to make their own passionate case that tera would never have killed herself.

>> there's no way that tera would have done this. no way.

>> she had said she's done, she's done putting up with him and his cheating and she was ready to move on with her life.

>> prosecutors thought a big part of their case would be levi 's alleged involvement in a stolen truck scam. rose slama came to court to testify about what she had heard.

>> i asked her about the truck situation and she had told me that levi had had it stolen for insurance.

>> prosecutors told the jury they would prove this was levi 's motive for murder.

>> he knows tera's telling people that he is involved in some kind of a fraud. that's bad news.

>> but the state couldn't really deliver on that supposed motive. levi always maintained the truck really was stolen and fraud charges were never filed against him so the judge wouldn't allow any testimony in the trial that would back up rose's story. the jury also never heard family or friends testify that tera thought levi might hurt her, perhaps over the truck. all of that was hearsay. still mckay and his co-counsel believed they had more evidence against levi and made his infidelity the centerpiece of their case. they said levi had simply grown tired of tera.

>> how would you describe him?

>> levi chavez was, is a very me centered person. everything about levi is about levi .

>> among the mistresses who arrived in court was katrina garland, a verizon store clerk levi met shortly before tera's death. they began an affair the day they met and a few weeks later they were in bed together again in the same home where tera had died.

>> when you went to the residence, did you have a sexual encounter ?

>> yes, i did.

>> do you know if the children were there?

>> he said they were, but i did not see them.

>> next stop, a fellow apd officer, regina sanchez. tera had called her when she learned regina had been sleeping with levi .

>> the nature of the phone call was to pretty much just get mad at me, ask what was going on.

>> was she upset?

>> yes, very.

>> and investigators showed that not long after that phone call someone had typed in a web search on levi 's computer, how to kill somebody.

>> after the how to kill somebody search, there was a web page visited and that's on how to kill someone.

>> the state's implication, that levi thought murder might be easier than divorce. the prosecution said levi had grown tired of tera.

>> the computer shows you that something is going on. he tells tera she's holding him back, calls her a worthless piece of skin.

>> and the prosecution says he had a plan to get rid of tera for a new girlfriend, heather hindy, the other albuquerque cop that got to know levi in the week before tera's death.

>> you indicated you didn't start a sexual relationship until the end of november of 2007 .

>> correct.

>> 63 days after tera died, the man that once tearfully told jones he would never get over his wife's suicide gave heather a diamond ring .

>> when did you get married?

>> july 5th , 2008 .

>> the official story is that heather and levi met just a couple of weeks before tera's death, but things didn't evolve until long after tera's death. knowing what we know about levi , do you believe that?

>> no, i think she was the ultimate goal.

>> and the state had something else. debra romero, the mistress that had been levi 's alibi now took the stand to testify for the prosecution.

>> i actually think he called me that evening.

>> romero originally told investigators levi was with her right after his shift ended during the period when it is believed tera was killed. now years later she testified that she couldn't be sure when he arrived at her house.

>> is there any way for you to actually know what time he got there?

>> i do not know.

>> according to the prosecution, levi got off work at midnight and did something his cell phone records show was highly unusual. he shut off his phone for 15 hours.

>> on october 21st , after midnight, 2007 , the defendant turned his phone off.

>> his phone is off for a longer period than has been off in a very long time.

>> yes. that was a huge piece of evidence because of the timing. i mean, really? that's the only time this big break and it happens to be when your wife is killed.

>> prosecutors then laid out for the jury exactly what they believed happened that night. they said levi got to the house and walked inside to the bedroom where he found his wife asleep.

>> slams that gun in and pulls the trigger. instantly killing tera chavez . then he pulls the gun out and turns it over and lays it down.

>> and then?

>> then at that point in time is when he hops in the shower, in case the gunshot is heard, comes out, nobody is responding, that's when he sends that text.

>> prosecutors said it was levi that sent that text from tera's phone. i'm afraid i am going to hurt myself, i'm so upset, sad and hurt. it was the text levi would later show investigators. but detective jones took the stand to describe what he believed was levi 's one mistake.

>> did you push the magazine release in this case?

>> no.

>> detective aaron jones testified how he found the gun at the scene with the magazine already released. the state called experts to the stand to say that if tera had shot herself, she wouldn't have been able to release it.

>> took better than five pounds of direct pressure to release this magazine.

>> prosecutors say the person that released the magazine was levi , the cop. they said levi 's perfect crime wasn't perfect after all.

>> the defendant killed tera chavez .

>> but the defense was ready to tell a very different