BERNALILLO, N.M. (KRQE) - A Sandoval County jury Tuesday found ex-cop Levi Chavez not guilty of killing his wife and staging her death as a suicide.
It took the jury about 10 hours over two days to reach the verdict after five weeks of testimony, evidence and tales of sordid love affairs.
In the end, prosecutors did not have enough to convince the jury.
The former Albuquerque police officer strode confidently into the courthouse at about 4:30 p.m.
He left just as quickly with just a few words for reporters.
"I knew I'd be acquitted," Chavez said. "I didn't do anything wrong. I'm not surprised at all."
He added later without breaking stride, "I'm going to church. I'm praying my rosary."
Minutes before, Chavez was holding rosary beads in court awaiting the verdict. Then he was in tears and very emotional celebrating with his attorney and his family, even giving the jury a thank you wave.
Chavez was accused of shooting Tera Chavez with his police-issued pistol at their Los Lunas home in 2007. It was a rocky marriage that started in high school and involved multiple affairs, one for Tera and several for Levi.
Levi and his attorney maintained Tera did in fact commit suicide by shooting herself in the mouth and pointed to an apparent suicide note and Tera's journal.
"There never was a case against Levi Chavez," Serna told reporters in the courthouse parking lot. "This was a made-up pile of lies from the beginning, and it took the jury approximately 10 hours to find that out."
Serna also said his client told him when he hired him that he planned to testify.
"He told me when he hired me that he wanted to testify on his own behalf to answer every question put to him by the prosecutor, every question put to him by the jury if the jury should have questions," Serna said. "We knew when we got our day in court, any jury would him not guilty."
Serna also had harsh words for district attorney Lemuel Martinez, accusing him of pushing a bad case for political purposes.
The jury was made up of nine women and three men from Sandoval County. The trial was moved to Bernalillo from Valencia County because of media exposure.
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