Woman’s Gunshot Death is Ruled a Suicide — But Did Her Police-Officer Husband Actually Kill Her?
Saturday's episode of Oxygen’s Accident, Suicide, or Murder asks the question: did Tera Chavez die by suicide -- or was she killed?
On the morning of Oct. 22, 2007, Levi Chavez says he came home and found his wife, Tera Chavez, dead in bed from an apparent gunshot wound.
“Please tell them to hurry!” the sobbing, then-26-year-old Albuquerque, New Mexico, cop can be heard saying on his 911 call.
The medical examiner ruled the death of the 26-year-old mother of two a suicide.
Distraught over her crumbling marriage, Tera had apparently shot and killed herself with one bullet from her husband’s service revolver.
But her family has always believed otherwise.
“I knew this was foul play,” her father, Joseph Cordova, says in this week’s episode of Oxygen’s Accident, Suicide, or Murder, which airs on Saturday, July 4, at 6 pm/5 pm c.
“There’s no way Tera would have committed suicide,” he says.
This week’s episode goes in-depth on the sensational case to examine how the young woman really died.
As the investigation unfolded, sordid details of Levi Chavez’s life began emerging.
The night before the fatal shooting, Levi was at his girlfriend’s house, authorities said at the time.
He’d also been having affairs with other women – including neighbors and other officers on the force – for years, say authorities.
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Valencia County Sheriff’s Office Detective Aaron Jones set out to learn what really happened on the night of Tera's death.
“It was up to me to confirm or deny whether this was a suicide,” he says in the episode.
During his investigation, Jones found Tera Chavez's diary, filled at first with despair, and later, hope.
“It showed her moving on and becoming independent,” he says.
Her sister-in-law, Gina Cordova, agrees. “Tera was ready to be done with her marriage and she was making plans,” she says.
In 2013, Levi Chavez was tried for the murder of his wife – and was found not guilty, NBC News reported.
Prosecutors alleged that Tera was killed in part because she found out he'd allegedly committed insurance fraud involving a truck he claimed was stolen and could have served as a potential witness, outlets including local station KOAT and the Albuquerque Journal reported at the time.
Despite her husband's acquittal, Tera's family still believes she did not die by suicide.
“I couldn’t see Tera’s children growing up and thinking, ‘Mama left us. We weren’t good enough for Mama,’” explains Joseph Cordova during the episode.
Accident, Suicide, or Murder airs on Oxygen, Saturday at 6 pm/5 pm C.