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Levi’s lovers steam up summer

Attorney David Serna addressed the court in the Levi Chavez murder trial last week and opined that jurors had heard enough of certain themes in the prosecution’s case, including testimony that the victim wasn’t suicidal before she was found dead with a gunshot wound through her mouth.

“Ditto for the paramours or mistresses,” he added. “The jury already gets the point that Levi (was) sleeping around to a large degree.”

The judge, striking a blow for prurient gossipers, sided with the DA and said he would let two more of the defendant’s mistresses take the witness stand.

Two more mistresses! Thank goodness I wasn’t in the courtroom that day. I probably would have stood up and tried to get a wave going.

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If anything has rescued this hot, dry, fiery summer from total dreadfulness, it has been the soap opera airing in Judge George Eichwald’s courtroom in the Sandoval County courthouse.

The case itself is deadly serious: Chavez, a former Albuquerque Police Department officer, is accused of murder in the 2007 death of his wife, Tera Chavez.

The defense argues she was despondent over his many affairs and the end of her marriage, and took her husband’s APD-issued pistol and killed herself. The prosecution alleges he killed her to stop her from talking about an insurance fraud scheme he was involved in and tried to make it look like a suicide.

But it’s the sideshow that’s spellbinding. At least for those of us interested in other people’s sex lives.

If you have been following the case, maybe you have made your own set of Levi’s Lovers cards.

Thus far, I have collected five.

⋄  Deborah Romero, Levi’s alibi witness. Romero, who was then an APD cop, began dating Levi when he told her he was separated and getting a divorce. She said he was sleeping over at her house on the weekend Tera died. Bonus fact: On the witness stand, she called the entire extramarital affair situation “so disgusting and such a disgrace.”

⋄  Rose Slama, currently under indictment for fraud and larceny. Slama contradicts Levi’s alibi, saying he told her he was at home in the shower when he heard a bang and found Tera dead. Slama isn’t a cop, but she’s had contact with a few: She faces charges of welfare fraud, forgery and identity theft, among other felonies. She was also getting her hair done by Tera at the Style America in Los Lunas while she was having an affair with Levi. Bonus fact: She believes that talking on the phone and texting are the same thing.

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⋄  Regina Sanchez, also an APD cop. Levi had actually moved in with her in 2006 while he was married to Tera and she broke off their relationship after Tera called her up and yelled at her. Bonus fact: Regina had known Tera since grade school.

⋄  Katrina Garley, a cellphone store employee. She started a sexual relationship with Levi in October and went to the house he and Tera had shared to have sex with him a few weeks after Tera died. Bonus fact: Their relationship started after he bought a cellphone from her and she texted him saying he had nice eyes.

⋄  Heather Chavez, APD officer who is Levi’s current wife. She testified she wasn’t sleeping with him while he was married to Tera. He met her parents and gave her a diamond ring within two months of Tera’s death, and they married within days of her divorce from another APD officer. Bonus fact: Heather testified she was not concerned about Levi’s affairs because “that’s the past.”

Those five paramours were called to testify by the prosecutor, who said he could have trotted out “four or five more.” Add Tera into the mix, and we are to believe Levi Chavez, a patrol officer, was having sex with 10 or 11 women, at least three of them fellow APD officers and nine or 10 of them not his wife.

This trial is either the best recruiting tool for APD or an argument for mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be coppers.

Tera was having a dalliance of her own. Her extramarital sex was with Nicholas Wheeler, who testified under oath that when he told her he loved her, he was lying. Since you’ve been playing this game awhile, would you care to take a wild guess at what he does for a living? He’s an APD cop. Bonus fact: He and Tera got to third base in the back room at Style America.

Wheeler was also married. His wife, Samantha, actually introduced him to Tera when she took him to Style America to get his hair cut. Bonus fact: She was the maid of honor at Tera and Levi’s wedding.

Wheeler was also friends with the Valencia County sheriff’s detective who investigated the case. Bonus fact: The detective cited this charming maxim as evidence that Levi was crying fake tears when he was interviewed about his wife’s death – “If there is no snot, believe him not.”

Judge Eichwald has presided over all this with a demeanor that has ranged from dour to dyspeptic. But one of his pronouncements from the bench hints that he has a good sense of what a soap opera he’s got on his hands.

The judge instructed news reporters, who had shown video of Levi drawing a Virgin of Guadalupe figure on his legal pad, to stop showing footage of Levi’s doodles.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Leslie at 823-3914 or llinthicum@abqjournal.com. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

 


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