City questions prominent non-profit’s hire of ex-cop who was accused of murder


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – KRQE News 13 has learned former Albuquerque Police officer Levi Chavez, who was fired after he was charged with the murder of his wife, could soon be working closely with the city as part of a non-profit group.

The non-profit group is Albuquerque Heading Home. The mayor’s office said it’s not questioning the work the non-profit does to help the homeless population, but it is questioning Levi Chavez working within a city-sponsored program and in a city facility.

It was one of the most high-profile trials in Albuquerque history. Chavez was found not guilty of murdering his wife Tera. He was accused of using his APD issued gun in 2007 to kill her and then staging it to look like a suicide.

Tera’s family said he did it to keep her from telling investigators he staged the theft of his pickup to collect insurance. Back in 2011, Albuquerque agreed to pay Tera Chavez’s family $230,000.

After the trial, Chavez and his attorney told KRQE News 13 he planned to move on from law enforcement.

He’s now a University of New Mexico law student, but we’ve learned for the last two years he’s been working for Heading Home, the nonprofit that spearheads Mayor Richard Berry’s homeless campaign. According to the mayor’s Communication Director, Rhiannon Samuel, the program became its own entity back in 2014.

In the last few months, Chavez was promoted by the non-profit.

According to the Heading Home website, Chavez is one of three program directors. In an email, Heading Home tells KRQE News 13 that Chavez will be in charge of overseeing the “operation of the winter shelter.”

There’s one problem, the city wants nothing to do with Levi Chavez.

The winter shelter located out near Double Eagle is paid for by the city and housed in a vacant city building. This year, Heading Home won the bid to run the shelter.

According to Samuel, the bid goes out every year and different organizations can apply. When the mayor’s office found out Chavez would be heading up the project for Heading Home, the city sent a letter to the non-profit’s CEO questioning Chavez’s position.

The non-profit fired back with its own letter just three days later, saying Chavez had no criminal convictions and that in his two years at the non-profit his supervisors have always given him “high marks on performance evaluations.”

To read the city’s letter to Heading Home, click here. You can also read Heading Home’s response to the city, here.

Although Chavez would not be a city employee, the mayor’s office feels this would be like re-hiring someone who’s not eligible to be re-hired.

While Heading Home won the $810,000 bid to run the shelter, the city has not signed the contract yet. However, it may be too late to start over with another non-profit in time for the winter.

Read the City of Albuquerque’s response below:

Heading Home was the successful applicant of a competitive contract to oversee the daily operations of the Winter Shelter, although a contract has not yet been signed for the work.  When the City learned about the hiring of an individual who is ineligible for rehire with the City because he was fired for cause, we immediately brought our concerns to the nonprofit. We are in continued communication with Heading Home to understand their rationale behind their hiring decision. – Rhiannon Samuel, Albuquerque Mayor’s Office Communication Director

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