Dateline   |  September 20, 2013

'The Officer's Wife' part 10

Levi takes the stand in his own defense, and in emotional testimony describes how he found his wife at their home that night.  Will the jury believe him?

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

>>> theresa cordova says the woman the defense attorney described as trial was not her daughter.

>> tera was a needy person. she was a desperate wife.

>> i walked out of there numb. it was horrible.

>> attorney david serna said tera chavez was a sad, needy woman, desperate for male attention. and the breakup with nick wheeler sent her over the edge .

>> that was really the double whammy. now she thought she found someone else to, you know, latch her star to and he said nope to her also.

>> latch her star to, how about, you know, make her feel happy and --

>> that's fine.

>> -- not cheated on.

>> okay. there's little to suggest tera was interested in latching her star to anybody.

>> i think you're right. she wanted somebody that was going to treat her right.

>> defense calls levi chavez .

>> now the man everyone agreed had treated her so wrong was going to take the stand himself.

>> spell your last name. levi chavez .

>> he said he and tera had been living on the verge of divorce for years and she had become lonely and depressed.

>> did she express ever thoughts to you like she just wanted to disappear off the face of the earth?

>> all the time.

>> and he said on the weekend tera died he did ignore the 315 phone calls his wife placed to him.

>> she would call and i would just hit the end button. didn't want to be bothered by her.

>> levi says he worked until midnight saturday, then went directly to his girlfriend's house.

>> debra was nice. she was like a nice person. i liked her. i didn't want to take my phone in there ringing off the hook and have to explain, you know, it is my ex, so i turned it off so i didn't have to deal with it.

>> his attorney took levi through the account of the next day, the kids were out of town at his dad's. levi said he had gone from debra's house to his mom's house where she was watching desperate housewives . his mom said she couldn't reach tera and she was concerned.

>> when i was talking to mom, it was kind of coming together in my head, like her threats and 200 phone calls .

>> what do you mean by threats?

>> i'm going to hurt myself if you don't come home.

>> threats to herself.

>> yeah. so i had that information and she just stopped corresponding totally, then my mom said she called in sick and didn't go to work on sunday. i was afraid.

>> he says fear made him race to the house to check on tera.

>> i walked in and the house was dark.

>> do you need a little time , do you need a break to collect yourself?

>> no. i walked in and our bedroom is to the left. and there was a little light on for the tv.

>> he says he instantly knew what happened and that he was to blame. it felt like i was telling myself this is your fault, like right here. it's your fault. i got to the phone.

>> what emotions were you feeling.

>> guilt, but guilt doesn't even begin to describe it. like she was gone and i saw for myself the first time, maybe i thought god was talking to me like this is all your fault, this is all your fault.

>> after his emotions emotional account of finding tera, his attorney gave him a way of explaining other prosecution points. the computer search for how to kill? levi told the jury that came from his passion for martial arts .

>> i remember looking up how to rip somebody's throat out because i wanted to find martial art .

>> and rose slama, yes, they had an affair, but levi testified the rest of her story was a lie.

>> rose slama told you that tera seems to think that your truck wasn't really stolen. did rose slama ever say such a thing to me?

>> never, she never told me nothing like that. i don't even -- i don't even know for sure if tera really cut her hair.

>> remember how interrogation's things were so quickly packed up? levi says his family did that all on their own.

>> did you know anything about family members of yours boxing stuff up?

>> no, i didn't have anything -- all i remember is the bed was gone.

>> to close, the defense lawyer had two final questions for his final witness.

>> did you kill your wife, the mother of your children, tera chavez ?

>> absolutely not.

>> did you tamper with any evidence to make her death look like a suicide when it was really a murder?

>> no, i did not.

>> on cross examination , prosecutor mckay tried to rattle levi , grilling him about the text the state believed levi had faked from tera's phone and showed investigators.

>> you thought that was an important text, didn't you?

>> of course i did.

>> the prosecutors thought it suspicious that levi had deleted all of tera's other texts that weekend.

>> you deleted every text except that one?

>> i don't know. how am i supposed to know what texts i deleted?

>> mckay went on to needle levi as a lying philanderer. his answer, he was a changed man.

>> it is impossible for anyone to change in a day. it was a process.

>> he wasn't afraid to interrupt to make his points.

>> i was concerned with the process. let me speak to my jury, please.

>> referring to the jury as my jury.

>> early october.

>> can i speak to my jury, please?

>> your honor, no, you need to answer the question.

>> in nearly six hours of testimony, levi chavez tried to show he had nothing to hide and that he did not kill his wife.

>> turns out levi didn't do it, nobody else did it, tera wrote those suicide notes and they are suicide notes.

>> but would his jury agree?