Chandra Levy, a 24 year old government intern, went missing in 2001. Pictured next to her is her supposed killer, Ingmar Guandique.
In early May 2001, a 24-year-old federal government intern by the name of Chandra Levy went missing. She had last been seen on April 30, 2001, at a sports club when she went to cancel her membership before returning home to California. It wasn’t until May 2, 2002, that a man and his dog discovered her skeletal remains in Rock Creek Park. During the past couple of weeks, over nine years since Levy’s disappearance, the trial against Ingmar Guandique for Levy’s murder has been underway.
Guandique is an illegal alien from El Salvador who came to the United States in 2000. In the matter of Chandra Levy’s death, he has been charged with a total of six counts, including first-degree murder, kidnapping, attempted robbery, and sexual assault. Unfortunately for prosecutors, the case against Guandique may be difficult to prove as there were no eyewitnesses to what happened. A total of five different scientific experts testified last week that there was no forensic evidence—including DNA, fingerprints, blood, or semen—to link Guandique to anything found at the crime scene where Levy’s remains were found.
However, there were two other positive DNA findings. An analyst from BODE Technology Group—the agency used to process the evidence—confirmed that DNA found on a red bra had come from a colleague who accidentally contaminated the bra during handling. In addition, DNA from an unknown male was discovered on tights found at the scene.
Another interesting piece of evidence was a stolen van that was found in Rock Creek Park. Fingerprints were found in the van, but a DNA expert testified that the prints did not belong to Guandique. The fact that this van was found gives pause to the theory that Chandra Levy may not have been killed in the park, but rather that her remains may have been left there after she had been killed elsewhere. The defense tried to pursue this avenue of investigation, but the line of questioning was cut short after an objection from the prosecution which was sustained by the judge.
The case against Guandique is therefore primarily based on statements that Guandique made to other inmates as well as in letters he wrote. Guandique had confessed to the assault of two female joggers in the very park where Levy’s body was found, around the same time Levy went missing. It wasn’t until a cellmate named Armando Morales came forward with information that the prosecution could finally link Guandique to the Levy case. According to Morales, Guandique had said that he’d been high on drugs and in need of money. He had been crouching behind some bushes in the park when he saw Levy walk past with a waist pouch. He grabbed Levy from behind, pulled her into the bushes, and when he thought she was unconscious, made off with her pouch. He claimed that he didn’t think he had killed her. Apparently, given the recounted conversation as told by Morales, Guandique said that if he’d known Levy was dead, he never would have returned to the park to steal from other women. Coincidentally, Guandique was serving a 10 year sentence at the time of his arrest for having attacked other women in Rock Creek Park.
To make matters more interesting for the prosecution, it appears as though there were a number of investigative errors on the part of the police during the murder investigation. The police apparently forgot to collect the security tapes from Levy’s apartment in Washington, DC. When they did think to get them, it was too late as the footage from April 30th and May 1st had been taped over already. The footage had been on a loop to be taped over after five to seven days. In addition, the man who found Levy’s remains, Philip Palmer, testified that he believed the police were both “appalling” and “unprofessional” in the way they handled the remains initially. Also, upon arriving at Levy’s apartment, detective Sgt. Ronal Wyatt of the Metropolitan Police Department apparently found Levy’s laptop powered on. He surfed through the history on the laptop as well as some documents. Investigators later said that because Wyatt had handled the computer, experts were unable to tell if Levy may have used it to research Rock Creek Park before her disappearance.
To battle this negativity, the prosecution called to the stand John Allie, the lead evidence technician in the case. Allie led the investigative team that scoured the Western Ridge Trail of Rock Creek Park for 27 days after Levy’s remains were found. During his testimony, Allie held up recovered pieces of Levy’s clothing found at the crime scene: a gray University of Southern California t-shirt, black tights, black underwear, and a red bra.
Allie was but one of many witnesses to testify. By the second week of trial, twenty-six witnesses had already testified. Among these were the two female joggers Guandique had attacked in Rock Creek Park—Halle Shilling and Christy Weigand. Another witness, Amber Fitzgerald, also testified to having seen Guandique in the park and having felt threatened by him. Guandique’s former landlord also testified, saying that she had let him stay in her own apartment on two different occasions after what he claimed were fights with his girlfriend. She continued on to say that Guandique had shown up with cuts and a swollen lip around May 1, 2001, the same date Levy was thought to have been killed. Last week, Gary A. Condit, a former Congressman from California, testified as well. His testimony was much anticipated as he is said to have had an affair with Chandra Levy before she died.
From the onset of the investigation into Levy’s death, Condit has denied harming Levy. Police say that Condit was never a suspect in Levy’s death, though after extensive questioning regarding the case, Condit denied having had a relationship with Levy and appeared “a bit arrogant and not forthright and very superficial” to Wyatt. When he actually testified during the trial, Condit refused to answer the question of whether he and Levy had had a sexual relationship. According to CNN, when Condit was asked whether he would answer the question, he responded, “We’ve lost our feeling for common decency. I didn’t commit any crime. I didn’t’ do anything wrong.” He also added, “I didn’t think it had any value to the discussion…what my private life was, or Chandra’s private life.” Condit admits to having talked to Levy on the phone a couple times a week. He said that he was trying to help Levy while she was in Washington and looking for a job, just as he would do for any constituent. Condit even volunteered that he had given Levy a bracelet—one of several the office kept on hand to reciprocate gifts given to the Congressman. However, Condit maintained that he had nothing to do with Levy’s disappearance.
It is expected that the prosecution will finish their case this week.
For more information about the Chandra Levy trial, you can visit the Washington Post updates here, here, here, or here. You can also follow the Sacramento Bee, or CNN.
Read our coverage of the case, as well as other Washington Area cases here