BERNALILLO, N.M. (KRQE) - An emotional Levi Chavez testified Wednesday that even though he blames himself for the death of his wife Tera, he did not kill her.
"It's like this is what you created I was telling myself," Chavez testified Wednesday afternoon. "Like this is your fault. This right here is."
A day before Chavez's lawyer said the ex-Albuquerque Police Department officer might testify. Apparently Chavez decided overnight he wanted to personally tell the jury his side of the often-sordid story.
His testimony turned emotional quite a few times as his defense attorney brought up his extramarital affairs and had him recount the night he found Tera's body in October 2007.
Chavez admitted he did play a role in Tera's death by being an absent husband up until Tera's very last moments, something that brought him to tears on the stand.
"She would call, and I would just hit the end button," he said. "And she would call again, and I would just hit the end button and--as throughout the shift--I would just leave my phone in the car 'cause I didn't want to be bothered by her."
Chavez is charged with first-degree murder accused of killing Tera with his department-issued gun and staging her death as a suicide. The defense claims Tera, despondent over her failing marriage, did in fact kill herself.
Yet while Chavez claims he may have been the reason for her death, she was the one who pulled the trigger.
In front of a packed courtroom Chavez's attorney David Serna took him through the couple's history, their breakups, makeups and his many affairs.
Serna then had him recount the night he found Tera's body, something that again made Chavez emotional on the stand.
He said he went to the house to check on her after he hadn't heard from her that Sunday. When he got there the lights were off.
He told the jury after he went inside at first he thought she was watching TV. Then he flipped on the light and realized she was dead.
The focus then shifted to the main reason the state claims Chavez killed Tera, that she was telling people he staged the theft of his pick-up truck to collect on the insurance money.
After more than four hours on the stand his attorney asked Chavez straight up if he's a murderer.
"I want you to look at the jury and tell them, did you kill your wife, the mother of your children, Tera Chavez?" Serna said.
"Absolutely not," Chavez replied.
During Levi's testimony he was distracted -- saying the prosecutors were laughing.
The judge sent the jury out and then scolded prosecutors - warning he will take it up in his chambers if it happens again.
On cross examination things got heated quickly between Chavez and lead prosecutor Bryan McKay.
Chavez told the jury that after Tera died he realized he didn't like the choices he had made, referring to the affairs, and wanted to change.
Mckay pointed out he slept with one woman at his house just a couple weeks after Tera died and moved on pretty quickly to his current wife heather.
But Chavez stood his ground and had an answer for everything. At one point he even turned the tables on McKay when the prosecutor asked why Chavez didn't check for a pulse or do CPR when he found Tera.
"Everybody's seen those pictures while you're grinning holding the pictures of Tera dead…and you're grinning thinking its funny...everybody saw those pictures. It's obvious she was dead, it's obvious," Chavez said.
After a quick redirect Chavez stepped down and the defense rested its case.
Prosecutors told the judge they had not decided on any rebuttal witnesses as of Wednesday afternoon.
If they don't call any, closing arguments will take place Thursday.
The defense rested its case shortly after the prosecution cross-examined Chavez.
- Testimony earlier Wednesday afternoon
Ex-cop Levi Chavez, on trial for first-degree murder, testified Wednesday his wife Tera was desperate, depressed and obsessed with getting him back.
And, he says, she killed herself.
Chavez spent most of the morning going over his and Tera's marital troubles, something he says started in 2004--three years before her death--and something he says led to her committing suicide.
Chavez says the two separated many times after they moved back to Los Lunas in 2004.
He says during those times he would go stay with his mom, which was where he was staying in October 2007 when Tera was found dead.
Chavez is accused of shooting Tera once in the mouth with his APD-issued Glock while she slept in their Los Lunas-area home.
He says he left Los Lunas Friday before work and did not return until Sunday evening when he reported finding Tera's body.
Tera is believed to have died sometime Saturday night into Sunday morning. Prosecutors allege Chavez shot her and then stage the scene to make it appear to be a suicide.
He says Tera had texted him and called him nearly 300 times on Friday and Saturday, so he eventually turned
his phone off Saturday night while staying at his mistress Debra Romero's house.
Chavez says during their break ups Tera would text him all kinds of things to include threats about hurting herself.
"It started mild. Then it progressed to threats," Chavez testified under questioning by his attorney David Serna. "There was countless of them, and countless threats.
"I just never believed her. I just never believed her."
Chavez got quite emotional during his testimony especially when he recounted the night he found Tera.
Chavez faces life in prison if convicted of murdering his wife.
- Testimony Wednesday morning:
The former APD cop accused of killing his wife has taken the witness stand in his own defense.
It was known that Levi Chavez was considering testifying , after his attorney asked the judge Tuesday for more time to think about his options. But it was not until Wednesday morning that the jury found out the former officer would speak out in court.
Chavez took the stand after 9 o'clock Wednesday morning.
A move that gives prosecutors a chance to question him on where he was the night his wife, Tera Chavez, died.
Chavez was a rookie cop in 2007 when prosecutors say he shot Tera in the mouth with his department issued semi-automatic glock.
The state claims Chavez then staged it to look like a suicide.
So far Wednesday morning, only the defense has been able to question Chavez.
Their argument has been Tera killed herself because of the couples crumbling marriage.
One big factor was Chavez's numerous affairs. He testified Wednesday morning about the affairs, saying he cheated on Tera several times, even sleeping at the homes of his mistresses.
At times his testimony got pretty emotional.
Chavez testified that Tera threatened to hurt herself years before her death in 2007.
Prosecutors will soon get their chance to question Chavez.
They claim he killed his wife because she had found out he had staged the theft of his pick-up truck to collect on the insurance.
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