A judge has been holding secret hearings in the case of the man convicted in the 2001 killing of Chandra Levy, the latest twist in a high-profile murder investigation that went unsolved for years and captured public attention because of the intern's relationship with a California congressman.
The meetings, held sporadically behind closed doors at the courthouse over the last several weeks, could signal potential problems for the prosecution in a decade-long case that seemed resolved with the 2010 conviction of Ingmar Guandique. The illegal immigrant from El Salvador is now serving a 60-year prison sentence in her death.
Authorities acknowledged at the outset of the case that they had no DNA evidence or witnesses linking Guandique to the crime, building their case instead around a jailhouse informant who testified that Guandique had confided in him that he had killed Levy. They also said the attack on Levy fit a pattern of attacks by Guandique on other female joggers in the same location where Levy went missing.
Guandique, who was already imprisoned for those attacks when he was accused in Levy's death, professed innocence at his sentencing hearing.
Neither prosecutors nor defense lawyers have revealed the purpose of the meetings, which court records show have been placed under seal by a judge. Several media organizations including The Associated Press petitioned this week to open the post-conviction proceedings. The next hearing is set for Feb. 7 in D.C. Superior Court.
William Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, which is handling the case, declined to comment Friday while the case is pending. A public defender for Guandique did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
Levy went missing in the summer of 2001 while exercising in Washington's Rock Creek Park, where her remains were located in a heavily wooded area a year later.
The case captivated the public after it was revealed that the intern was having a romantic relationship with then-Rep. Gary Condit, whose political career was ultimately crippled by reports of the affair. Mr. Condit was grilled by investigators as a potential suspect but eventually ruled out. He testified at Guandique's trial that he had no role in Levy's disappearance or death, but evaded questions about their relationships by saying he was entitled to privacy.
No arrests were made until 2009, when the authorities seized on Guandique,
Levy's father, Robert Levy, told KGO-TV in San Francisco that he has not been told by prosecutors what's going on.
He called Guandique a "convicted rapist and an illegal alien," but added, "if he's innocent of murder, he shouldn't be in jail for it."