Ex-mistress in NM officer murder trial takes stand

June 14, 2013 • State News

BERNALILLO, N.M. (AP) — One of many mistresses of a former Albuquerque police officer accused of killing his wife testified Thursday that he told her he was in the shower when he heard a gunshot.

In two days of testimony that concluded Friday, Rose Slama said Levi Chavez told her a number of times that he was showering when “he heard a bang,” then came out and found the lifeless body of his wife, Tera Chavez, 26.

Those remarks in the Sandoval County District Court murder trial contradict what Chavez told investigators — that he found his wife’s bloody body after entering the couple’s Los Lunas home in 2007. He told a 911 dispatcher that it appeared that his wife had been dead at least a day.

Prosecutors said Chavez shot his wife with his department-issued gun and then tried to make her death look like a suicide. Prosecutors also have argued that Chavez killed his wife [auth] partly to cover up an insurance fraud case concerning his stolen truck.

He is charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence.

Meanwhile, Chavez’s defense team scored a victory Friday after his attorney got a witness for the state to withdraw testimony she had given that would have contradicted Chavez’s statement about the last time he had been home before discovering his wife’s body.

Jeannie Morrow, a former neighbor of the couple, testified that she was “not sure” when she had last seen Levi Chavez prior to the discovery of his wife’s body. Morrow had told Valencia County Sheriff’s investigators that she had last seen Levi Chavez on Oct. 17 “just before dark.”

Under cross-examination from defense attorney David Serna, Morrow withdrew her testimony since she couldn’t remember the exactly date.

Serna also repeatedly challenged Slama’s credibility and suggested that pending felony charges against her, unrelated to the Chavez case, were the main reason that she was repeating the Chavez shower story to help prosecutors.

Serna also accused her multiple times of lying to investigators and not keeping her story straight.

Slama responded that no one had promised her anything in return for her testimony and that she wanted nothing to do with the murder case.

She also testified that while she was carrying on an affair with Chavez, she’d get her hair styled at Style America in Los Lunas, where Tera Chavez worked as a stylist. Before her death, Slama said Tera Chavez mentioned the stolen truck. “I asked (Tera) about the truck, and she said Levi had it stolen for insurance purposes,” she said.

Slama, a former corrections officer, then said she asked Levi about what his wife had told her.

“He told me that she didn’t know what she was talking about,” Slama said.

Serna also asked Slama about being interviewed by former Valencia County Sheriff’s Detective Aaron Jones, an investigator Serna said was “dishonest” and biased witnesses for showing them death scene photos and talking about the many alleged mistresses of Levi Chavez.

“Jones told you, you were having sex with a cold blooded murderer, right?” Serna asked.

“True,” she said.

Slama said she had forensic background and that the pictures of Tera’s lifeless body shown by Jones did not look like a suicide to her.

She also told jurors that Levi Chavez admitted that he was carrying on affairs with several women.

“I don’t love him,” Slama said according to an investigator’s transcripts. “It was just sex.”

The trial’s first week ended Friday after Regina Cordova told jurors that her sister-in-law Tera Chavez showed no signs of depression days before she was found dead in 2007.

Cordova said Tera Chavez often talked about her marital problems with her but said she wanted to work out it with Levi Chavez.

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