- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2010

The case of the missing Washington intern devastated a family, destroyed a congressman’s career and sparked a media frenzy, but the question of who killed Chandra Levy went unanswered for nearly a decade until a jury on Monday convicted a Salvadoran illegal immigrant of first-degree murder.

The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for 3½ days before convicting 29-year-old Ingmar Guandique of attempting to rob and kidnap the 24-year-old Levy before killing her on May 1, 2001, in Rock Creek Park, where she had gone for a run. Guandique, who already is imprisoned for attacking two other female joggers in the park, faces life in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 11.

“The verdict may have been guilty, but I have a life sentence of a lost limb missing from our family tree,” Levy’s mother, Susan Levy, told reporters outside D.C. Superior Court. “It’s a lifetime of heartbreak.”

Guandique’s conviction is, in some ways, an improbable end to the case as he had largely escaped the notice of investigators who were fixated on Rep. Gary A. Condit, a congressman at the time who was married but was romantically linked to Levy. For months, police and the media hounded the California Democrat.

Mr. Condit testified during the 11-day trial, but refused to answer questions about whether he had engaged in a romantic relationship with Levy.

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While law enforcement officials long ago acknowledged they no longer thought Mr. Condit had anything to do with the crime, it wasn’t until last year that investigators charged Guandique.

Still, authorities had no physical evidence implicating Guandique because investigators did not find Levy’s remains until nearly a year after she went missing. Instead, prosecutors built a circumstantial case relying on testimony from a jailhouse informant who said Guandique confessed to killing Levy and from the two women Guandique attacked about the time Levy went missing.

In the end, the jury decided that was enough.

“There was a lot of evidence,” juror Linda Norton told reporters, but said the jury agreed not to discuss any specifics about their deliberations. “We went through it in a very deliberate manner.”

The U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, which prosecuted the case, and the Metropolitan Police Department said the verdict brought to the Levy family long-awaited justice.

“We recognize that today’s verdict can never restore the promise lost in Rock Creek Park nearly a decade ago, but it proves that it is never too late to hold a murderer accountable for his crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. “It is never too late for justice to be done.”

Jurors wore grim expressions Monday afternoon as they filed into Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher’s cramped courtroom. They avoided looking at Guandique, who wore a turtleneck that covered tattoos identifying him as a member of the violent street gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.

Guandique showed no reaction as the verdict was read. One juror hung her head, while another wept.

“I think the word extraordinary would be an understatement,” Judge Fisher said of the jury’s work in the case. “I don’t think there’s anything more we can ask from jurors.”

Outside the courthouse after the verdict, the weeping juror, Emily Grimstead, said the trial was “a very wearing and tiring experience.”

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