- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 14, 2010

Smart, friendly, articulate and charming. “If there was a person who was Miss All-Around, that was her,” recalls Dwayne Stanton, a tinge of sad remembrance in his voice.

“Everyone who met her loved her,” the veteran detective-turned-private investigator said of Chandra Levy, a petite and vivacious graduate student from Modesto, Calif., who arrived in the nation’s capital in 2001, ambitious and driven.

“She was a class act, and it’s a shame, a real tragedy, that she didn’t get a chance to show the world what she could do,” Mr. Stanton said.

More than nine years after Mr. Stanton went on a cross-country hunt for clues in the sensational case of the then-missing 24-year-old intern, he looks back, honoring Miss Levy’s cruelly cut-short promise but moving ahead with a sense of resolution. Finally, it would be over.

Salvadoran illegal immigrant Ingmar Guandique, 29, who is serving a 10-year federal prison sentence in California on other assault charges, is set to stand trial for attempted sexual assault and first-degree murder in Miss Levy’s case on Monday in a D.C. Superior Court. He has pleaded not guilty.

Police search for clues in Rock Creek Park in 2001. (The Washington Times)
Police search for clues in Rock Creek Park in 2001. (The Washington ... more >

Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher ruled Thursday that jury selection for the trial will begin as scheduled on Monday, but only after denying efforts by Guandique’s defense team to dismiss the case because of what they said were “unethical” actions by investigators.

The defense made the motion after learning that detectives had created a fake correspondent who offered to become the defendant’s “pen pal” while he was in jail, hoping to get the suspect to implicate himself. Judge Fisher did agree to drop three charges relating to efforts by Guandique to intimidate witnesses.

“This case is going forward to trial,” the judge said at one point.

The murder trial, nearly a decade after Miss Levy disappeared, reopens the door for many on a story that continues to provoke Beltway chatter, a tale of sex, violence and politics that consumed the city in the weeks and months before the September 11 attacks.

“As soon as you mention her name, immediately everyone remembers,” said Mr. Stanton of the investigation and scandal that rocked a political town in the sultry summer of 2001.

“The case had everything that stimulates people’s interest … mystery, intrigue and romance,” Mr. Stanton recalled. The nation was so rapt by the story of the curly haired, brunette intern who had an affair with a married, veteran congressman that a CNN poll taken in July 2001 found that 63 percent of Americans were following the case. The scandal and police investigation led national newscasts for months and spurred intense media interest, with psychics prognosticating and amateur detectives complaining that not enough was being done to find her.

“Here’s this young lady with all the promise in the world, who comes from the West Coast to Washington,” Mr. Stanton said. “She meets this guy. Her world is turned upside down. And she ends up missing.”

Cold case

Despite the intense interest, the case grew cold as the years went on, only to flare up again in part because of a major investigative project by Washington Post reporters Sari Horwitz and Scott Higham in 2008.

After Miss Levy went missing in the spring of 2001, the suspense went on for more than a year before a jogger with a dog slipped down a forest ravine in Rock Creek Park and made the grisly discovery of her skeletal remains, leaving police, by then under fire for a botched investigation, with few forensic clues to track her killer.

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