LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) - A Valencia County grand jury Thursday indicted Albuquerque Police Department Officer Levi Chavez on first-degree murder charges in the death of his wife.
District Attorney Lemuel Martinez told News 13 prosecutors may seek the death penalty. That may be under a death-sentence circumstance involving the silencing a witness.
A civil suit filed by Tera Chavez's family claims that Levi Chavez and "cop friends" dumped his pickup truck to collect insurance money on the truck since he was upside-down on his payments.
Chavez is not being arrested but is expected to appear for arraigment before District Judge John Pope in about 15 days. Chavez's lawyer told News 13 his client is relieved and wants his day in court where they can prove his wife committed suicide.
Chavez's wife, Tera Córdova Chavez, was found dead from a gunshot wound in the couples Valencia County home in Oct. 2007. Levi Chavez claimed he came home to find she had shot herself with his service weapon.
Other APD officers appeared at the scene out of their jurisdiction, which became an issue in a wrongful-death lawsuit file by Tera Chavez's family against Levi Chavez and the city of Albuquerque. The suit against Chavez is still pending, but the city settled with the family for $230,000 in February.
The family's attorney released a statement saying that while the family welcomes the pursuit of justice in any forum, it opposes the death penalty.
New Mexico has abolished the capital punishment, but the alleged murder occurred before the repeal.
The two-count indictment charges Chavez with first-degree murder with an alternative charge of second-degree murder and manslaughter. The second count alleges tampering with evidence.
Late Thursday APD Chief Ray Schultz said Chavez has been place on paid leave pending an administrative hearing on his employment status in 10 days. He will be fired, since it violates code for an officer to be under indictment.
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