- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2001

D.C. police have not interviewed convicted rapists and other known sex offenders who work or live near areas frequented by Chandra Levy, despite conducting the most extensive missing-persons investigation in the police department's history.
Several registered sex offenders contacted by The Washington Times said police have not interviewed them in the Levy case. Two of the offenders were convicted of assault with intent to commit rape; one was convicted of rape.
Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer yesterday told The Times he did not know whether detectives have interviewed any of the more than 20 registered sex offenders who live or work near Miss Levy's former residence but added that "it's something that needs to be done."
Police officials have said they are pursuing all possibilities in the Levy case, including that she was a victim of street crime. Officials have cast doubt on other theories for her disappearance, such as suicide or amnesia. The 24-year-old former intern has been missing nearly 12 weeks.
"We were mapping out those people in the greater area where [Miss Levy] lives," said Chief Gainer, the Metropolitan Police Department's No. 2 official.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey yesterday said the Levy case is the most extensive missing-persons investigation ever conducted by D.C. police. "We've had some high-profile missing-persons cases, but this one has gone on so long," he said.
Investigators and news agencies have focused on Rep. Gary A. Condit, the California Democrat who law enforcement sources said has told police he had an affair with Miss Levy after having denied they were lovers for weeks. For example, Mr. Condit threw away a watch box given to him by another lover hours before police searched his Adams Morgan apartment last week, WUSA-TV (Channel 9) reported Thursday night.
But law enforcement sources said investigators this week have begun to shift their focus from Mr. Condit, who has not been charged with a crime and is not a suspect in Miss Levy's disappearance.
Sex offenders have some of the highest rates of recidivism and are more likely to repeat their offenses than other criminals, according to crime scholars and Justice Department statistics.
More than 20 "Class A" registered sex offenders live within walking distance of Miss Levy's former residence and Mr. Condit's apartment, police records show. At least five convicted sex offenders in the less dangerous categories of "B" and "C" also live nearby.
"Class A" offenders, considered the most dangerous, committed rape and sex offenses that include violence. Information about offenders in the "B" and "C" categories is only available at police facilities throughout the city. There are 320 total registered sex offenders in the city.
It is doubtful that investigators have interviewed registered sex offenders in secret. Police officials, who have given numerous statements on the details of the case, have not mentioned interviews with sex offenders. Information about the offenders is accessible to the public on the department's Web site, www.mpdc.org.
Former D.C. police investigators said checking the alibis, whereabouts and behavior of sex offenders should be a routine part of any investigation like the Levy search.
"When I didn't have a suspect, well, I'd go to the bad guys," said Trevor Hewick, a 22-year D.C. police veteran who investigated violent crimes. "They're the best sources of information out there. They'll give up each other. People talk, and word gets around."
"If you don't go knocking on doors and back to the people who commit crimes like this, you're never going to find out what's going on," said Mr. Hewick, now a private investigator working for defense lawyers.
Ted Williams, a former D.C. homicide detective, said investigators on the Levy case should look at known sex offenders.
"You would want to look at them as part of a profile in this case," said Mr. Williams, a lawyer who handles a variety of legal work. "In this technology and computer age, you should know people who have certain methodologies for sex offenses and violence in certain areas, and you should keep an eye on those individuals."
Sex offenders' high recidivism rates make them an obvious place to look during an investigation, agreed Lawrence Kobilinsky, associate provost and professor of forensic science at the John Jay College of Criminology in New York City.
"It's reasonable to be questioning registered sex offenders in the neighborhood," he said. "They should question anyone that might know something. Besides, these people do their thing over and over again. It is another area that warrants investigation."
Meanwhile, police officials have expressed frustration in trying to interview tenants in Miss Levy's former apartment building. "We've had people slam doors in our face," Chief Gainer told The Times yesterday. "We were in there at 11 or 12 o'clock [Thursday] night, and you can hear people inside. When you identify yourself to them, they slam the door."
Several residents told The Times that police have increased their visits in recent days. The residents, who did not want their names used, said investigators seem to be thorough.
Investigators are retracing their steps in the case, re-interviewing people who knew Miss Levy and conducting criminal-background checks of residents in her former apartment building in the 1200 block of 21st Street NW.
The police department has announced that it is limiting the number of media interviews top officials will give because of an onslaught of requests. Officials are considering holding daily briefings on the case.
The change comes after Mayor Anthony A. Williams personally questioned Chief Ramsey this week about the number of media interviews he and Chief Gainer have given, two city government sources told The Times. Mr. Williams suggested the chief stop the numerous interviews when there is little new information to report, the sources said.
Federal officials have complained about the "unusual" amount of information being released by the police department, a law enforcement source told The Times.
Police searches of parks and abandoned buildings throughout the city for the past week and a half have been fruitless.
Citing an unidentified police source, WUSA-TV reported that Mr. Condit drove to Alexandria and placed a bag in a trash can. A man recognized him and notified police, who recovered the bag. Inside was a watch box that was traced to a woman, not Miss Levy, who purchased it, the station reported.
Mr. Condit, 53, dumped the box hours before a team of forensic investigators searched his apartment in the 2600 block of Adams Mill Road NW on July 10, the report said.
Jim Keary, Ellen Sorokin, Jabeen Bhatti, Brian DeBose and Guy Taylor contributed to this report.

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