ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Capping off a trial packed with tales of illicit affairs, charges of lying and a botched investigation, prosecutors called one rebuttal witness Thursday in the trial of a former Albuquerque police officer accused of killing his wife.
Joseph Cordova, the father of Tera Chavez, 26, took the witness stand Thursday in an attempt to counter testimony from her then-husband Levi Chavez. Prosecutors said Chavez shot his wife with his department-issued gun in October 2007 at their Los Lunas home and then tried to make her death look like a suicide.
Cordova told jurors that his former son-in-law never offered to give him a piece of his daughter's furniture. "Levi Chavez never asked us if we wanted any of Tera's belongings," he testified. "I would've picked them up in a heartbeat. These are two pieces she and I did right before her death."
That testimony contradicted what Levi Chavez, 32, told jurors Wednesday when Chavez said he offered to give his wife's family a cabinet, but the family rejected it. Prosecutors said that evidence shows Levi Chavez's credibility is questionable and should be taken into account when considering his whole story in connection with his wife's death.
Wiping sweat from his forehead and tears from his eyes, Chavez took the witness stand in his own defense Wednesday, offering emotional testimony in trial marked by tales of steamy affairs. He 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 strongly denied that he killed his long-suffering wife.
"Absolutely not," Levi Chavez said when asked by his defense attorney, David Serna, if he committed the crime. During his testimony, Chavez frequently broke down and had to take breaks when he recounted his ill treatment of his late wife throughout their marriage. That treatment included sexual relationships with four different women and constant breakups that began with way back when the couple was high school students.
"'I'm very embarrassed about it," Chavez said, then later added, "I took her for granted." Chavez told jurors that he found his wife dead from a gunshot wound and thought it was God's way of punishing him. "To say I blamed myself is an understatement," he said. "Guilt doesn't even begin to describe it."
However, Chavez said his wife's death later helped him reform his philandering ways and he later married another police officer — whom he became engaged to two months after his wife's death. Closing arguments are expected to begin Friday.
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