Gun demonstration fails during Chavez murder trial

July 5, 2013 • State News

BERNALILLO, N.M. (AP) — A crime scene expert testifying in defense of former Albuquerque police officer Levi Chavez failed to pull off a demonstration of how the officer’s wife might have been able to kill herself with his department-issued gun.

Chavez is on trial for first-degree murder and tampering with evidence. He is accused of shooting his 26-year-old wife, Tera Chavez, in 2007 at their Los Lunas home and then trying to make her death look like a suicide.

Jurors [auth] are expected to begin deliberating late next week once the defense wraps up its case. Due to the holiday, the trial is not expected to resume until next Tuesday.

Larry McCann, the expert who testified Wednesday, suggested that Tera Chavez held the gun upside down and used her thumb to pull the trigger.

McCann tried a few times to show jurors that he could pull the trigger and press the gun’s magazine release in one continuous motion, but it didn’t work.

“I can’t get it to work today,” he said.

The failed demonstration drew gasps, smiles and whispers from members of Tera Chavez’s family.

McCann testified that he did make a video that showed him accomplishing the feat. Jurors did not see that video.

The position of the gun’s magazine has been an issue in the case since an investigator first reported that it was not locked in place. There was also a bullet in the gun’s chamber when it was found next to Tera Chavez’s body, leading prosecutors to argue that she could not have shot herself and then released the magazine.

McCann had also testified that based on photographs and other evidence he reviewed, the crime scene did not look staged and that there were no signs of a struggle.

The defense contends Tera Chavez killed herself because she was despondent about the couple’s troubled marriage. Her family has dismissed those claims.

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