- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2001

Chandra Ann Levy is something of an enigma to those who knew her even before the ambitious graduate student and former federal intern disappeared three months ago from the reach of family and friends.
Some say the petite, 24-year-old vegetarian with a rose tattoo above her right ankle coveted her own place in the halls of power.
Chandra also admired older men who wield that power, by some accounts, and was reluctant to let go when some of them sought to break off romantic relationships.
The dynamo with the size-2 body and size-12 ego sometimes spoke of becoming a model, posing at 17 for glamour shots. The photos now are being widely circulated in the hunt for her, along with rewards topping $200,000. But Chandra also expressed a passion for privacy.
"I just hope we get her home alive," mother Susan Levy said in an interview with The Washington Times. "I keep my faith, but I live in terror a lot."
Mrs. Levy said she prays her nightmare will end when someone recognizes Chandra — perhaps by that rose tattoo, or because she is munching one of the peanut-butter cups she favored as a snack.
Chandra also grew into a young woman who overcame a distaste for conflict and confrontation. It once drove her to abandon a college job in a television station's sports department because she found the work hard-nosed and cynical.
As a little girl, Chandra quit the Brownies because she hated being teased. Yet she survived Little League with the boys and later bested bigger boys in a wilderness program in which she was the only girl. She proudly wore her Explorer Scout uniform to high school even though one of her assignments was busting merchants who sold alcohol to teens.
Investigators don't know whether Chandra's disappearance in Washington — and possible death — 89 days ago stems somehow from her involvement with a grown man of power whom she fancied, or from some chance encounter or attack.
But as millions do know, Chandra's third-floor apartment in the Newport at 1260 21st St. NW, near Dupont Circle, bore no signs of struggle. She apparently went out willingly the afternoon of May 1, taking only her keys and a prized gold ring with a chipped-diamond inset. She left packed luggage, credit cards, cash and a laptop computer.
Mrs. Levy said in the interview she still doesn't understand why Chandra would pack without making any apparent arrangement to buy a plane or train ticket to return home to Modesto, Calif., for a May 11 graduation ceremony at the University of Southern California.
"She would have taken a train by herself if she could," Mrs. Levy said. "She had the time, but she never got to do that. Everybody knows that this is a mystery. Where is she?"
For that matter, who is she?
Mrs. Levy, 54, agreed to the one-hour phone interview with The Times from Modesto because she wants the public to see her missing daughter as a human being — a young woman, for instance, who delighted more in pet birds named after J.D. Salinger characters than in her family's stable of horses.
The Levy family — including brother Adam, 19, who avoids reporters — is frustrated that investigators and the media distract attention from finding Chandra by focusing on her now-public affair with Rep. Gary A. Condit, 53. The married California Democrat's district includes the city of Modesto, where the Levys have made their home since 1980.
Since the official search began May 6, Dr. Robert Levy, an internist who specializes in treating cancer, has seemed sanguine about news stories that portray his daughter as a temptress or some sort of relentless stalker.
"If it helps get her home, I don't care what questions are asked," Dr. Levy, 55, told the Modesto Bee, conceding a feeling of helplessness over his inability to treat a family crisis as he can treat patients. "We can't give it chemotherapy."


Building a resume
One fact is that even Chandra's political preferences and the origins of her name — Sanskrit for "moon" — are unknown to contemporaries who claim to have been closest during her pursuit of a career as an FBI agent or in a government policy and planning job.
"I don't even know what political party she was. She wasn't very partisan," said Matt Szabo, a classmate in the University of Southern California master's degree program and colleague during her whirlwind of internships.
"Intern everywhere. That was the object, so you can experience all different levels of government," Mr. Szabo said in an interview.
And Chandra assembled a series of impressive internships so seamless it is hard to see when she found time to go to class:
From August 1998 to August 1999, she was an editorial assistant in the sports department of the Modesto Bee, collecting statistics and box scores.
Overlapping that time, from February to August 1999, she worked as a clerk in the Modesto Police Department.
From September to December 1999, she interned in the lobbying office of Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a Republican. From February to June 2000, she interned on the legal staff of California Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat. And in October, she snagged the $27,000-a-year internship with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in Washington that ended a week before she vanished.
Bureau of Prisons spokesman Daniel Dunne, her boss there, said she applied directly to him by telephone after seeing a bureau posting in Los Angeles.
"She called me last summer and indicated that she wanted to come to D.C. to work for a federal agency and she had a particular interest in law enforcement and public affairs," Mr. Dunne said last week.
No congressional office intervened on her behalf, he said, nor to his knowledge did she make advances on men in his office.
Along the way, however, Chandra Ann Levy built a reputation for ambition and laserlike intensity for whatever was next.

'Not a big deal'
She didn't always have thick skin, particularly when a vaunted scholastic ability failed her the first two years at Grace M. Davis High School in Modesto, her mother said.
"As a woman, you can be teased for certain things that would be hard for any young girl in junior high or high school to accept," Mrs. Levy said, offering no specifics.
Chandra missed two months of school with mononucleosis, which contributed to the academic problems.
"She would tell kids not to waste time getting an education," her mother said. "I have learning disabilities, and there's a possibility she does, too."
Most of that attitude turned around after Chandra joined the Explorer Scouts police program, which became an outlet for her boundless energy.
Sometimes she served as an undercover agent to catch retailers willing to sell alcohol to youngsters. Despite the negative feelings of fellow students, she wore her Explorer uniform to class.
Her grades improved to A's and B's, and by graduation she was writing for the Davis High newspaper, the Corinthian. At the same time, her mother said, she drove to and from classes at Modesto Junior College.
Mrs. Levy said Chandra somehow avoided the social pressures of high school and didn't worry much about proms and other clique-ish concerns.
"She wasn't that 'hadda be' socially. It was not a big deal for her."
Chandra participated in volunteer peer counseling but took her own problems to school counselor Julie Danielson.
"I just know she has confided in someone. If only that person would please come forward and let us know where she is," said Miss Danielson.

The glamour shots
Neither the police description nor most of the private "missing" posters mention Chandra's rose tattoo. The tattoo is included in the official record of the National Crime Information Center, which also reports that each of her ears is pierced two or three times.
Police describe her as 5-foot-4, 108 pounds, with hazel eyes and unruly dark brown hair. Her parents' flier calls her 5-foot-3 and 110 pounds.
Chandra's interest in modeling led to the 1994 photo shoot that produced some now-familiar glamour pictures. The best known depicts her at 17 in clinging blue jeans and white tank top, seated and leaning on the palm of her right hand.
It is one of 30 shots taken more than six years ago by commercial photographer Jon Michael Terry of Turlock, Calif. He included the negatives and proofs in his original $200 fee and is not compensated for their recent uncredited use.
"I see all these sharks circling out there, and I don't want to be one of them," Mr. Terry said in an interview with The Times. "I had every photographer in town call me and ask, 'Are you getting paid for this?' If they gave me 50 cents for every time this was shown, I could retire."
After graduating high school in 1995, Chandra spent four years at San Francisco State University, where she received a bachelor's degree in journalism and minored in criminal justice. She was no "shrinking violet," said John Burks, chairman of the journalism department.
In December, she earned the master's degree in public administration from the University of Southern California, which she never arrived back home to collect May 11.
USC's graduate program in the District, with offices at 512 10th Street NW, required so many internships that there was little time left for classroom study — and no time for the dissertation usually required.
"She didn't have to write one," Mrs. Levy said, "but she wrote long papers and said she went to class in unusual, intensive-format classes, 10 hours a day on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday."
Her job at the Bureau of Prisons information office required her to do Internet searches and scan newspapers to prepare daily news summaries, answer telephone calls and mail, and help with special projects. In one, she coordinated media attendance at planning sessions for the execution of Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Getting noticed
Just a few days after she joined the realm of capital interns in October, Chandra and Modesto buddy Jennifer Baker swooped unannounced into the office and orbit of Mr. Condit.
The conservative "Blue Dog" Democrat was coming into his own as a power in Congress. Mr. Condit escorted the two young women to the House gallery to watch a vote, then posed for a typical constituent photograph with an amiable arm wrapped around each one. Among items police later found in searching Chandra's apartment was a framed print of that photo.
Both of Mr. Condit's own grown children, Chad and Cadee, were employed in Mr. Davis' office when Chandra interned on the California governor's legal staff.
Chandra is not known to have mentioned meeting either young Condit in Sacramento. Mrs. Levy says she never heard of it.
"People barely remember her even being there," said Steven Maviglio, who became Mr. Davis' press secretary in late June of last year — about the time Chandra was finishing her four-month stint.
Her parents have said they don't know the Condits personally, nor were they political supporters of the congressman. Federal Election Commission records show the Levys didn't donate a single dollar to any of Mr. Condit's seven congressional campaigns.
Democrats touted Chad Condit, 31, as a candidate for the state Assembly until the scandal involving his father erupted. He was paid a starting salary of $95,234 as the governor's liaison to the Central Valley, which includes his father's district. Sister Cadee Condit, 23, made $30,000 a year as a Davis press aide.
Chandra's application for an internship in the governor's legal office shows she was accepted without a background check or the usually required recommendations because she had interned for Mayor Riordan and the Modesto police, Mr. Maviglio said.
Without being asked, Mr. Maviglio stressed the distance between her and other staffers. "She worked for the legal affairs office in a building three blocks from the [state] Capitol," he said.
Four months later, whether Chandra or Mr. Condit took the initiative, the "total strangers" befriended each other across the country on Capitol Hill.
Within a few days, Miss Baker became the newest unpaid intern in Mr. Condit's office, and, like other workers there, professes ignorance of a Levy-Condit affair. "I don't know of any other interactions between Chandra and Mr. Condit," she said.

'Always have dreams'
Their trysts apparently were concealed even from Miss Baker, who became an unknowing cover for her friend's visits to the Hill office. Mr. Condit's staff has said Chandra dropped by half a dozen times, ostensibly to lunch with her fellow intern or get tickets for a White House tour.
Mrs. Levy telephoned Mr. Condit in early May before reporting her daughter's disappearance to D.C. police. At the time, he denied any improper relationship, the Levys' Washington lawyer, Billy Martin, has disclosed. The lawmaker reportedly repeated his denial to Mrs. Levy in their first brief meeting in Washington.
Chandra's own ability to carry off the deception seemed the latest fulfillment of her student "prophecy" published in her 1995 high school yearbook: "Always have dreams. Always make them a reality."
At the time, she still thought of becoming a baseball writer covering her beloved San Francisco Giants. In the back of her own copy of the yearbook, she spelled out a specific dream: "Look out sports world, here I come. I cannot wait to write about you."
Now a larger world is learning more about Chandra's relationships, including a secret affair with Officer Mark Steele, 10 years her senior, during her 1999 internship with the Modesto police.
Mr. Steele, who no longer is with the department, told the Los Angeles Times that Chandra took it hard when he broke off the relationship after a year and kept pursuing him.
"The Chandra I knew was street smart as well as book smart, and she had her feet firmly planted and was very independent," said Mr. Steele, who discounted speculation that she might hurt herself out of despondency. "This idea of suicide because of a breakup or because she was depressed over a job not coming through doesn't make sense."
Chandra's federal internship ended abruptly April 23 over a technicality in her graduation date; she never applied for a permanent job.
Mr. Condit reportedly told police he broke off his "close friendship" with her April 28. One of his lawyers told reporters she then harassed the congressman by phone, calling five times the next day and trying his pager some 20 times over two days. He portrayed her as "extremely disappointed and distraught, refusing to take no for an answer."
A similar tale of Chandra not taking "no" for an answer — but with fewer specifics — recently was recounted by Mr. Riordan to House Majority Whip Thomas DeLay, according to a source present when the former Los Angeles mayor told the story.
Neither Mr. Riordan nor Mr. DeLay responded to The Times' requests through press aides to discuss that conversation for this article, but neither denied it.
Riordan spokeswoman Carolyn Guevera said she would pass on the inquiry, but that Chandra "didn't have direct contact with the mayor" when she interned on his staff. (Mr. Riordan, whose term ended in early June, is considering challenging Mr. Davis' bid to be re-elected as governor.)

New worlds
Chandra Ann Levy was born April 14, 1977, at Cleveland's Mount Sinai Hospital, where her father was training as a resident in internal medicine.
When Dr. Levy finished his specialty training in 1980, the Levys decided where to set up his practice and make their home — "in a city that has no tornadoes" — by literally drawing the name of Modesto from a hat.
"We've done that for vacations, too," Mrs. Levy said of the family ritual of choosing an exotic locale for a trip financed by the latest tax refund.
This time the hat contained six slips of paper, she said, and two of the other destinations were Zanesville, Ohio, and Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Levys knew no one in Modesto, but joined a flood of folks moving west.
Chandra entered preschool at the local YMCA and took dancing lessons. Unlike other girls, she didn't want to spend much time riding any of the four horses hitched to a rail in the back yard of the Levys' home in Golden Estate Acres.
Her mother is a horse lover who one day hopes to ride across the continent on horseback. But Chandra preferred the company of pet cockatiels called Franny and Zooey after J.D. Salinger's book of that title — as well as parakeets Christmas and Hanukah, names inspired by Mrs. Levy's eclectic religious beliefs.
Mrs. Levy describes her faith as combining Jewish, Christian and Buddhist teachings but says her husband and daughter did not embrace her religious views.
Amid her school troubles, her mother recalled, Chandra precipitated a minicrisis by refusing to attend a summer horsemanship camp. Instead the Levys registered her as the only girl in a program similar to Outward Bound, designed to build character and confidence.
"She came home suntanned, thirsty, tired and scraped," Mrs. Levy said. "Four of the boys quit or were kicked out. She finished it. I think it made her."
Daughter and father shared a scientific interest in magnifying a world the naked eye can't see. They would drive three hours to study distant stars through telescopes at Yosemite National Park's highest point. And they peered through microscopes in his office at the cancer cells he battled in patients.
On a drive to Yosemite at age 14, Chandra decided to become a vegan, forsaking red meat, poultry and fish. She was repulsed when she saw four dead cows beside a road, their legs and hooves pointing at the sky.

Frozen in time
Chandra prized the memory of accompanying her father to the final game of the 1989 World Series, delayed 10 days by the deadly Lomo Prieta earthquake. On Oct. 17, the Oakland Athletics beat the Giants, 9-6, to sweep the "earthquake series" in four games.
She liked to recall that the teams deployed a total of 11 pitchers that day. Her reading had focused on baseball from about the fifth grade on, Mrs. Levy said.
"She played Little League. I wouldn't say she was a strong player. I think she really enjoyed knowing about the baseball players, too. She could talk football, baseball, other sports with anybody, and she could quote statistics."
Among her duties at the Fox television station in San Francisco during college was updating computerized statistics during live broadcasts of Giants games. She also fed data to the scoreboard but told friends she didn't enjoy the work.
"There was a certain conformity," Mrs. Levy said, "and she didn't like that."
The need for privacy ran through Chandra's relationships. At times, she seemed to mistrust even her own family; she questioned changes she noticed in items left on her dresser.
Now her bedroom, seemingly frozen in time and filled with diplomas and souvenir photos, is a place where her parents and brother go to feel closer to her. Mrs. Levy has slept in her daughter's bed a few times. Brother Adam works there on a model of the Eiffel Tower made of toothpicks.
In her absence, Chandra Levy's privacy has evaporated.
John Walsh featured her case on Fox TV's "America's Most Wanted." Her picture even graced the side of the No. 92 Winston Cup Dodge driven by Stacy Compton in televised stock car races.
At the Levy home, festooned with yellow ribbons by sympathetic neighbors, numbers for the three telephone lines are guarded to avert crank calls.
But the phone still rings dozens of times each day. And Mrs. Levy stops what she is doing to answer in hopes of good news — especially in case Chandra herself is calling.

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