Updated: Tuesday, 16 Aug 2011, 12:45 PM MDT
Published : Monday, 25 Apr 2011, 6:06 PM MDT
LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) - Levi Chavez, the former Albuquerque Police Officer accused of killing his wife in 2007, had his day in court where a judge gave him one week to post his $100,000 cash or surety bond.
"I'm innocent your honor, and I plead not guilty," said Chavez.
A grand jury indicted Chavez of first degree murder earlier this month, more than three years after Tera Chavez's death.
Levi Chavez said he found his wife dead in the couple's Los Lunas home with a gunshot wound to her mouth and his APD-issued hand gun next to her body. Her death was first ruled a suicide.
"The evidence from the state's point of view is pretty substantial that it's not a suicide," said Valencia County Assistant District Attorney Bryan McKay.
Prosecutors also revealed some new evidence in court Monday, alleging that Levi Chavez was looking at some very suspicious websites before and after Tera Chavez's death.
"Things being looked up on the computer as to how to kill somebody, how to cover up doing so prior to the death and back when there were problems," said McKay.
McKay also said Chavez used his APD-issued laptop to look up the contact information for the lead detective on the case, Valencia County Deputy Aaron Jones. Prosecutors said Chavez got in touch with Jones about the murder investigation.
Prosectuors would not comment further on the new evidence but said it is very concerning.
They may seek the death penalty in the case, even though Tera Chavez's family is opposed to it, because Tera's murder could be categorized as silencing a witness. The allegations stem from a civil lawsuit filed by Tera's family against the Albuquerque Police Department. The lawsuit claims Levi Chavez and other APD officers staged the theft of his pickup truck and then pressured Tera to file a false insurance claim so he could collect the money.
Tera died just a week after she or someone close to her contacted state investigators to report the alleged fraud. Investigators found Levi's truck in Mexico last month.
"(The death penalty is) a possibility," said Valencia County District Attorney Lemuel Martinez. "I'll be meeting with the family, of course everyone knows their thoughts on the matter. What they say is very important to me, but it's not a determining factor."
Martinez said he will make a decision on whether or not to seek the death penalty in 30 days.
Levi Chavez's attorney David Serna pleaded with the judge to set a lower bond at $50,000 cash or surety.
"Here is Levi today," said Serna. "He is not a flight risk, your honor. He is not only no flight risk but no danger to the community."
Serna said Chavez has since remarried another APD officer, who is expecting their child in June. Chavez has two other children with Tera Chavez. Those children are in the care of Tera's family.
Martinez said he's just happy the trial will move forward.
"It feels great," said Martinez. "The Valencia County Sheriff's Department should get credit for staying with the case. The family should be commended for giving us time to do the case. Now it's up to us to get a conviction in this case."