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Friday, February 25, 2011

[NM] Albuquerque is paying but not admitting officers destroyed evidence at death scene of Tera Cordova Chavez

The city is going to pay the estate of deceased officer's wife, Tera Andrea Cordova Chavez, $230,000 to in a lawsuit that alleges Tera's husband, Albuquerque police Officer Levi M. Chavez II, killed her and made it look like a suicide. The lawsuit alleges APD officers destroyed evidence at the scene, even though it was even out of their jurisdiction... Levi Chavez is still facing a wrongful death suit based on an insurance policy he changed right before his wife's death that covered his wife's death by suicide.

...Chavez is still being paid as an officer,
but is working for city Animal Control...

Download the lawsuit filed by the estate of Tera Chavez (PDF) HERE

Lawsuit text printed in earlier blog post HERE

February 24, 2011
[Excerpt] The city of Albuquerque settled with the estate of Tera Chavez for $230,000 on Thursday years after she was found dead in her home. The settlement takes care of allegations that Albuquerque police were negligent at Chavez’s crime scene. The attorney for her estate said the case is about justice, not money. Chavez’s family said they never believed she killed herself in October 2007. She was married to Albuquerque police officer Levi Chavez. The young mother of two was found dead in her Los Lunas home with her husband’s service revolver by her side. The wrongful death lawsuit alleged that Albuquerque police destroyed evidence when they showed up at the scene that was being investigated by Valencia County sheriff’s deputies. His fellow officers said they went to the home to comfort Levi Chavez and his family. Investigators for Valencia County originally ruled her death a suicide and then later named him as a person of interest... [Full article here]

DA: CHARGES STILL POSSIBLE IN WRONGFUL DEATH CASE: Former APD Officer Levi Chavez Accused In Wife's Death
February 24, 2011
[Excerpts] ... District Attorney Lemuel Martinez said charging [former Albuquerque Police Department Officer Levi] Chavez for his wife, Tera's, death is a real possibility at the moment. “I could just say at the beginning it didn't look promising, but it's looking a little different now,” Martinez said. “We feel we're getting close to making a decision on the case”... After Tera was found dead in Los Lunas, prosecutors said the Albuquerque police arrived to allegedly help Levi with grief counseling and clean up the scene to protect their children. The district attorney said criminal implications are also not out of the question for APD. “It may be, down the road, a possibility,” Martinez said... [Full article here]

CITY SETTLES SUIT IN DEATH OF COP WIFE: Suit stands against Officer Levi Chavez
Kim Vallez
Feb 2011
[Excerpts] ...Tera Chavez's family has always suspected her husband killed her and staged the scene to look like a suicide. The city agreed to pay Tera Chavez's estate $230,000, but in the settlement the city does not admit any guilt. "We don't like cutting a check like this, but there are times when you make an economic decision, and that is what we did in this case," Deputy City Attorney Katherine Levy said. The wrongful death lawsuit against Levi Chavez, the city of Albuquerque, APD, Police Chief Ray Schultz and several officers claimed Chavez killed his wife and made it look like a suicide. The suit also alleged several APD officers destroyed evidence at the scene, which was out of their jurisdiction in the first place. The suit also claimed APD failed to properly train and supervise Chavez, which contributed to his wife's death. Chavez claims he came home on Oct. 21, 2007, to find Tera had killed herself. While her death was initially declared a suicide by the Office of the Medical Investigator, it was later changed to "undetermined" because of the suspicious circumstances. Those circumstances included Levi Chavez changing his wife's life insurance policy to include a payout for suicide a few weeks before she died... Levi Chavez is not yet in the clear. The settlement only covers his actions as a police officer. A wrongful death lawsuit against him still stands and is scheduled for trial in May. Attorney Brad Hall, who represents Tera Chavez's family, said the family is anxious for the trial. He says there is a lot to this case that will be revealed during this trial, information the family wants the public to hear... "There is no friend or relative of Tera's that believes this is a suicide"... Levi Chavez is still on APD's payroll but has been assigned to work in the city's Animal Welfare Department. [Full article here]

ABQ Journal
By Scott Sandlin
Friday, February 25, 2011
[Excerpts] The city has agreed to pay the estate of Tera Andrea Cordova Chavez $230,000 to settle its part of a lawsuit that alleges Tera Chavez's husband, Albuquerque police Officer Levi M. Chavez II, shot her in the head in October 2007 and made it look like a suicide. The partial settlement of the lawsuit means the May trial setting before 2nd Judicial District Chief Judge Ted Baca in May will have only Levi Chavez as a defendant... "We're completely out of the case," said acting City Attorney Kathryn Levy. "Any claims against him now are in his personal capacity, not course and scope of his employment." She said the settlement was an economic decision, and the city denies any liability. "We need to just bring closure to the administrative investigation of Levi Chavez," Levy said. Chavez is still being paid as an officer, but is working for city Animal Control. He has not been criminally charged... "I remain really hopeful and extremely confident that if he's charged, he will be acquitted because he's an innocent man," Levi Chavez's attorney, David Serna, told KOAT-TV. Brad Hall, the attorney representing Tera Chavez's estate, said the family is very happy the city settled the negligence claims against the supervisors. The main beneficiaries of the estate are the couple's two children. "The perpetrator is officer Levi Chavez," Hall said. "The estate alleges that he killed Tera Chavez, and then tried to stage a suicide in a pretty unconvincing manner. It will be up to a jury to decide the value of the life of Tera Chavez. This partial settlement is just for APD's role." [Full article here]

KOB Eyewitness News 4
By: Kayla Anderson
The city has announced it has agreed on a settlement and will cut a check within the next few weeks, regarding the death of an Albuquerque Police Officer's wife. The family of Tera Chavez will soon be getting a check for $230,000 as part of this settlement with the city. The city says it is paying out for economic reasons, not as an admission of guilt... Her husband, APD Officer Levi Chavez was named a person of interest. His police issued gun was found right next to Tera Chavez's body. Her family sued for wrongful death, claiming that other APD Officers went into the home and destroyed crucial evidence, even though the investigation was not in APD's jurisdiction. That claim by the family against those officers has now been settled. The city says it does not admit guilt in this settlement and strongly denies the claims... Levi Chavez is still facing a wrongful death suit. He's accused of changing his wife's insurance policy to include a suicide payout clause before his wife's death. It became effective just 17 days before she was found dead. [Full article here]

Excerpts from comment section of earlier post:
...This complaint arises from the death of Tera Andrea Chavez on October 21, 2007, in Los Lunas, New Mexico... On July 21, 2007, Tera Chavez told her mother and her sister-in-law, (two of her closest confidants), that "if anything ever happens to me, Levi did it". Also in late July, 2007, Tera Chavez told several friends, relatives and co-workers that 'Levi is now telling people that I am depressed and going to hurt myself; he's nuts, my kids are my life'... At the end of August, 2007, as her birthday approached, Levi Chavez uncharacteristically bought his wife a diamond ring, an expensive cell phone... On July 12, 2007, Tera Andrea Chavez decided to start life anew without Levi Chavez. Tera Chavez has always kept diaries and journals. She stopped writing in the diary she had been keeping to "vent" about her marriage. This old diary ends with the words: "So good-by to the person I used to be. Welcome New Day. Happiness!!". Tera Chavez then began using a new diary. The most recent diary of Tera Chavez disappeared at the time of her death from its usual hiding place... The latest diary remains missing... When Joseph Cordova was awakened at about 3:00 a.m. and told by VCSO officers that his daughter had committed suicide with an APD handgun, Mr. Cordova immediately and forcefully told the Detective to lock the house down and preserve all evidence, because she did not kill herself, Levi did it.' Tera's cell phone kept making and receiving calls and texts after her death, even though her cell phone was secured in evidence at VCSO... Tera's cell phone kept making and receiving calls and texts after her death, even though her cell phone was secured in evidence at VCSO. After her birthday gift in late August, there were two phones using the same number, one being a "clone phone"... The gun was subsequently tested for fingerprints, and there are no fingerprints of Tera Chavez on the gun, nor on the magazine clip, nor on any bullet... When the Cordovas went to Tera's house to get clothes for the viewing and for the grandkids prior to the funeral, they were shocked to find that Levi Chavez and reportedly "cop friends or relatives" had already removed or packed every single thing in the house that was owned by or referred to the existence of Tera Chavez, including all photographs, clothing, furnishings, art work, wall hangings, jewelry, writings and her current diary. Neighbors' statements indicate that Levi Chavez and "cop friends or relatives" had backed a truck up to the house and unceremoniously threw stuff into it, loaded it up with some of her belongings, and drove away, before funeral services occurred... The investigation of this case has been hampered by a custom and policy known as 'the blue line', or the 'blue code'. No regular husband could call the police and claim his wife committed suicide with his gun, and have his fellow co-workers arrive on the scene to have unfettered access to the crime scene, leading to the destruction of crucial evidence, without consequence. The 'blue line' custom of closing ranks around any officer suspected of anything, is so strong, that APD has done little or no internal affairs investigation of this matter. The 'blue line' reaction to protecting themselves from any outside scrutiny is especially strong in a case where sexual fraternization among officers and between officers and other officers' spouses is part of the fact pattern. The 'normal joe' would be even more suspicious to police under these circumstances if the 'normal joe' and his friends simply declared to the cops that it was "suicide", and its nobody's business who has had affairs with whom. Here, however, because of the customs and policies associated with the so-called "blue line", the declaration of 'suicide' by Levi Chavez was accepted by all investigators, (at least at the outset). The City of Albuquerque has not done its own, official internal investigation of the causes of the death of Tera Chavez, and still pays Levi Chavez a police officer's salary... APD personnel drove out to Los Lunas, and injected themselves into the crime scene after receiving a courtesy call from a Valencia County Sheriff's sergeant... OVER THE OBJECTION OF THE VCSO INVESTIGATORS, the "APD Spoliation Defendants" entered the crime scene... By the time they left, key pieces of evidence were destroyed and lost forever, while other evidence has been contaminated and disturbed. Some of the "APD Spoliation Defendants" demanded the "professional courtesy" of being able to remove bloody bedding to protect the family of Levi Chavez from seeing it, and some of the APD "Spoliation Defendants" cut up and removed sheets and mattress material. A blood sample in a toilet was flushed away by an APD officer... Because some of the "APD Spoliation Defendants" actually cut up and removed the sheets and bedding from the crime scene, it is now impossible to run any subsequent scientific testing of the bedding... In addition, because of the spoliation of evidence, the fact-finder in this case cannot now meaningfully pursue fingerprints from several crucial items that were in the bedroom, the kitchen table area, the living room table, the fireplace mantel, and all around the house... Even more critically, a Valencia County Sergeant Detective (who was the crime scene supervisor) observed blood in the toilet of the bathroom and duly documented his visual observations in his police report. His report describes a 'blood pool' about the size of a quarter or so at the bottom of the otherwise clean water in the deepest portion of the toilet bowl. After noting the sample, he left to obtain the equipment to remove the blood from the toilet for sending to the State crime lab. However, one of the "APD Spoliation Defendants" urinated in that toilet and flushed the evidence away. When the VCSO Detective returned to collect the blood pool, it was gone forever... The gross negligence or deliberate indifference to crime scene preservation by "APD Spoliation Defendants" or union representatives shocks the conscience...
[police officer involved domestic violence oidv intimate partner violence ipv abuse law enforcement public safety fatality fatalities lethal murder new mexico state politics brotherhood blue wall accountability]

1 comment:

  1. Internal Investigation Into APD Officer To Resume
    Albuquerque Journal
    By Jeff Proctor
    Monday, February 28, 2011
    [Excerpts] A settlement last week in the lawsuit alleging that Albuquerque Police officer Levi M. Chavez II shot his wife in the head and made it look like a suicide has cleared the way for a long-stalled internal investigation to begin again... "We didn't want to taint the other investigations," the chief said. "But now that the portion of the lawsuit concerning the department is done, we have restarted our internal investigation... http://www.abqjournal.com/news/metro/2822280metro02-28-11.htm


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