Plea deal reached in horrific murder case

A trial in a case about the brutal murder of Tammie Cessna of Edgewood started this week with a request for a plea bargain from the defendant.

Mark Chavez was charged with second degree murder, along with tampering with evidence. Under the plea bargain, the second count will be dropped as Chavez agreed to plead no contest in the case, and give up his right to appeal, among other conditions. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

“I feel good that I got a chance to say what I said to him,” said Wendy Cessna, Tammie’s sister. “It’s not what I practiced for three years—everything happened in three hours.” The trial had been expected to take two weeks.

Tammie Cessna had lived in Edgewood, and worked in the bakery at Smith’s. She was reported missing in January, 2014, after she didn’t show up to pick her children up after dropping them off at karate class. Friends and coworkers described that as out of character.

Her body was found in her van—which had been parked at the Super 8 Motel in Moriarty, where Chavez worked and lived—four days after she was reported missing. The van had been impounded by Moriarty Police and sealed with her body inside.

A search warrant for Chavez’ room said that “heavy blunt force trauma was observed from head to toe” on Tammie Cessna. Broken teeth were found in her mouth and “some of her fingernails were broken, suggesting self-defense.”

Items found in Chavez’ room included gloves, a blanket, shoes and a jacket, all with suspected blood stains, a butane torch with suspected tissue on it, and suspected drugs and drug paraphernalia, according to the court documents.

Cold Case

In a cold case from 2004, Annette Herrera of Albuquerque said she was attacked and beaten by a man she knew only as “Elvis,” who lived nearby.

She attempted to leave, but he “grabbed her and slammed her face into a piece of glass or a window.” When Herrera spoke later to police, she was described as “hysterical.” She said she had scratched her attacker’s face in order to obtain his DNA in the event that she was killed, according to the arrest warrant for Chavez.

A search of the N.M. Courts website turned up charges starting when Chavez was 18, including felony charges of aggravated battery, criminal damage to property, forgery, fraud, trafficking a controlled substance, two DUI convictions, possession of cocaine and others.

Herrera told police that she was not sexually assaulted, but said that Chavez had beaten her with various items, including a chain, a two-by-four, and a window frame, while saying, “Die bitch, die bitch,” according to the arrest warrant.

But police could not identify the house based on her description, and after losing contact with Herrera, closed the case in 2006.

In March 2014, Albuquerque Police detectives again interviewed Herrera, who led them to the location of the 2004 attack—an address known to police as belonging to Chavez. The case was reopened, and earlier this year, Chavez was convicted of first degree kidnapping, with a mandatory sentence of 19 years.

Wendy Cessna hopes that the judge in the sentencing hearing March 21 will not allow the two sentences to run concurrently, but one after another, which would keep Chavez behind bars for 31 years.

“Nothing will bring Tammie back. I had to find a way to be satisfied,” Wendy Cessna said. “He’s a convicted murderer now, not sitting in jail accused of something, and that helps me. I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m finding comfort with.”

Three of Tammie Cessna’s children still live in Edgewood, her sister said.

“I had 45 years with my sister,” Wendy Cessna said. “I know what my relationship was. He can take my sister but not what I already have. I held on to that.”