- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2001

Still missing along with Chandra Levy is any detailed explanation of what D.C. police have done to find her during the past three-and-a-half months.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey turned away basic queries from The Washington Times about how his department pursues such a missing-person investigation, which in the Levy case appears to have gone nowhere as leads dried up.
Despite earlier assurances through his spokesman that he would grant an interview for this article, Chief Ramsey and the spokesman refused for more than two weeks to answer any of more than 40 questions submitted by The Times about the sequence and scope of the Metropolitan Police Department's investigation.
Rep. Gary A. Condit, California Democrat, is scheduled to break his long public silence on his relationship with Miss Levy in a half-hour interview today with Connie Chung of ABC News to be broadcast at 10 p.m. on "PrimeTime Live." Detectives and FBI agents will watch the broadcast for inconsistencies with Mr. Condit's four interviews with investigators.
The sensational, nationally followed case includes enough missed investigative opportunities that the FBI sent agents assisting police "back to square one." Their concern: By focusing so intensively on Miss Levy's affair with Mr. Condit, 53, police may not have explored other avenues in an adequate or timely way.
FBI agents decided to revisit Miss Levy's family, friends and acquaintances, co-workers at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons where she interned until April 23, and other frequenters of the Washington Sports Clubs outlet where she last was seen April 30.
"We're not the sex police," Chief Ramsey snapped in one of his more pointed replies to inquiries about the adulterous affair with the 24-year-old Miss Levy that Mr. Condit belatedly acknowledged to investigators July 6 in the third of four police interviews.
The most visible and extensive search by police came at an odd time — 11 weeks after the former federal intern left her apartment near Dupont Circle and did not return. D.C. police made certain news media knew a full day in advance that 50 police recruits would scour places where a body might be hidden in the area of the Klingle Mansion in Rock Creek Park.
The much-televised exercise reportedly was fruitless. The value of that search is not clear amid questions about why police staged it so long after investigators learned from examining Miss Levy's personal computer that she showed an interest May 1 in going there.
If investigators staking out the park thought someone with knowledge of Miss Levy's disappearance might show up out of curiosity, Chief Ramsey isn't saying.
Such discordant notes — delays in routine police procedure, failure to publicize all available details of Miss Levy's physical appearance and Chief Ramsey's public aversion to the sexual elements — distinguish the handling of one of the most sensitive investigations that any police department could imagine.
"We're investigating a missing person while there are a whole bunch of people out here just trying to investigate a sex scandal," Chief Ramsey said in another attack on the news media culled from his many broadcast appearances. "I don't care about that."
Chief Ramsey and his deputy, Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer, muzzled the only two detectives assigned full time to the Levy case as part of a strategy — in Chief Gainer's words — to keep reporters "at bay."
Even as they silenced Detectives Ralph Durant and Lawrence Kennedy, the two top police officials made frequent appearances on television and radio. They sometimes disagreed but generally avoided responsive answers by saying police simply were searching for a missing person and had no suspects because there was no evidence of a crime.
"Maybe we jog someone's memory or change their heart and they give us information," Chief Gainer said at one point, declining to use as an excuse the fact that police actually can do little in such a case.
"The good news is that there still is information the press hasn't gotten a hold of, that hasn't leaked out yet," Chief Ramsey boasted Aug. 7 to a radio reporter, revealing how the department closely guards what he calls "bum information" that when publicized later can help investigators filter out useless tips.

Avoiding the question
Investigators first questioned Mr. Condit on May 9, four days after Miss Levy's mother, Susan, called from the family home in Modesto, Calif., to report her daughter missing. In the months since, Chief Ramsey has blamed Mr. Condit for the slow start of the investigation because he held out on the nature of his relationship with the young woman from his congressional district.
One person familiar with that first interview said Mr. Condit answered most questions about Miss Levy, "but he found a way to avoid answering one question" — whether the two had been intimate.
Police had that basic information from Miss Levy's parents before investigators questioned the congressman, a source close to the family told The Times. But Chief Ramsey has insisted that details from Mr. Condit were pertinent. He declines to explain how the police search was impeded as he now charges it was — by Mr. Condit's reticence about the five-month affair.
"It would have been very helpful had we known that earlier on," Chief Ramsey said in an Aug. 7 interview on WTOP radio.
The principal newspapers in Mr. Condit's district, the Modesto Bee and the Fresno Bee, cited this assertion Aug. 12 in editorials calling for his resignation and, failing that, his defeat at the polls in 2002.
In an interview Friday with The Times, his Washington lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said Mr. Condit initially answered all relevant questions from police. He implied that any reply about an intimate relationship would have given investigators no more information than was supplied earlier by Miss Levy's mother.
"Congressman Condit tried to balance the need to cooperate with police while holding onto the privacy of his family and private life," Mr. Lowell said.
"He didn't lie and answered questions about every issue of significance about the last time he saw her, the last time they spoke, her mood, whether they had disagreements, whether she was depressed, whether they went to specific restaurants, whether they traveled out of town, and where the police might look for Chandra Levy," Mr. Lowell said of Mr. Condit's first interview with police at his apartment in Adams Morgan.

She had no key
The Times has learned from official sources and others with opposing interests in the case that police now believe Miss Levy regularly visited that apartment two or three times a week, solely for sex, and dined out with Mr. Condit just once — meeting him at the Tryst coffeehouse and restaurant on 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan.
Family members told investigators Miss Levy was in love with the married congressman and expected a long-term relationship.
Police also are said to no longer credit a report by Miss Levy's aunt, Linda Zamsky, that Mr. Condit told Miss Levy not to carry identification when she was with him.
One source familiar with the probe said police believe Miss Levy made a practice of visiting Mr. Condit's apartment straight from her job or night school, bringing her gym bag, backpack and purse. The source said Mr. Condit told police she never was in his apartment alone and was admitted each time through a security system.
"Condit told them she did not have a key to his apartment," the source said.
The Levy family has moved from a positive view of D.C. police to one described as neutral by spokeswoman Lorraine Volz, who last week said Miss Levy's parents haven't been critical and don't intend to change that stance.
Initial delays in the time-sensitive investigation appear to have been based on a common practice among police agencies of not immediately pursuing competent adults who go missing, absent signs of foul play.
In her May 5 call reporting her daughter missing to D.C. police, Mrs. Levy disclosed the family knew of the affair with Mr. Condit, a family source said. Mrs. Levy and her husband, Dr. Robert Levy, confronted Mr. Condit by telephone that night and again the next day, when he denied an affair.
"The Levys were somewhat brushed off by the police. They didn't get very far at first," said a source with access to police and FBI investigators.
The source said the next step apparently was taken by Michael Dayton, Mr. Condit's top aide in Washington.
"It was the congressman's staff that finally got the police interested, when a member of his staff called police on Monday, May 7, and said a constituent was missing. He called both the D.C. police and the FBI," the source said.
That delay foreclosed the prospect of reviewing a videotape that might have shown visitors to Miss Levy's apartment about the time of her disappearance. The tape at the apartment house is re-recorded every week.
Officers who entered Miss Levy's apartment found a laptop computer, packed luggage and her wallet holding credit cards, cash and identification. They found no indication she bought travel tickets despite plans to attend a commencement ceremony in Los Angeles on May 11.

Chief 'overscheduled'
In preparing this article, The Times asked to speak with an officer or official who could discuss the procedures and timetable of the Levy investigation, not solely Chief Ramsey.
But his spokesman, Sgt. Joe Gentile, said only the chief could take such questions, which he hand-delivered in writing after The Times submitted them Aug. 9. On several occasions over more than two weeks, Sgt. Gentile confirmed that the chief had agreed to speak to a reporter.
When the chief did not respond, Sgt. Gentile said his boss was overscheduled.
Questions from The Times that neither Chief Ramsey nor his deputies would answer include the possible effect of the department's having abolished a missing persons squad when it decentralized detective bureaus during the past five years.
The chief also would not say whether Detectives Durant and Kennedy are among detectives who, as he testified in January before the D.C. Council, were promoted without passing merit exams. Nor would the department describe their qualifications to lead such an investigation.
Chief Ramsey said in January that all homicide investigations must "follow established protocols," but he would not reply when The Times asked whether similar written guidelines or general orders apply to missing-persons cases that could develop into homicide cases.
When Chief Ramsey appeared before the council's Judiciary Committee in defense of decentralizing detective functions, he said police chiefs in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago agreed that detectives should be moved closer to neighborhoods.
Unlike the District, however, each of those cities retains a centralized missing-persons unit. Here, detectives are divided among seven districts rather than being based in headquarters units.

Missing personal details
The skimpiness of the official description of Miss Levy on the department's Web site puzzles those following the case.
The full description on the police notice: "Ms. Levy is described as a white female with hazel eyes and dark brown hair, 5'4" in height, weighing approximately 108 pounds."
Among other identifying characteristics that still go unmentioned: the small rose tattooed above her right ankle, two or three piercings in each ear, a description of the clothing she wore when last seen, descriptions of the diamond ring and key ring she is thought to have taken when she left her apartment, the kinds of places she frequented.
Such details weren't available when the notice initially was posted May 10, Sgt. Gentile said.
"Originally when we had the description, the information about the tattoo was not provided to us. When officers got it, they did not update or alter the informational sheet day by day," he said.
Early on, police told reporters they were hampered by Justice Department rules about approaching a member of Congress in any investigation. But a well-placed federal official said those rules never applied to D.C. police and simply require a U.S. attorney to inform higher-ups when an investigation focuses on a member of Congress.
Chief Ramsey appeared to be guessing July 5 when he said that suicide no longer seemed likely because a body would have been found.
"You can't kill yourself and bury yourself," the chief said two months to the day after Susan Levy reported her daughter missing. The remaining options, he said, were that Miss Levy left voluntarily or was murdered.
Chief Ramsey consistently pooh-poohs questions about a possible serial killer or links to the deaths or disappearances of at least three other women.
One case he has not mentioned is that of Alison Thresher, 45, a copy editor on the national desk of The Washington Post who vanished almost exactly one year before Miss Levy. Mrs. Thresher's rust-colored 1997 Volvo station wagon was abandoned near Lock 5 on the C&O; Canal at Broad Street and Ridge Road, a few blocks over the D.C. line in Maryland.
Within hours of Mrs. Thresher's disappearance, the Montgomery County Police Department referred the case to its major-crimes division, Capt. Barney Forsyth said.
"Sometimes you get that suspicion. There's just something hinky about the case," Capt. Forsyth said, acknowledging the quick start turned out to be of little help as investigators failed to find a trace of Mrs. Thresher.
In February, a month after relatives asked a court to declare her legally dead, Montgomery investigators reclassified the file as a homicide.

One among thousands
Other analysts do not agree that the only three options in the Levy case are murder, suicide or runaway. That omits amnesia or an unidentifiable "Jane Doe" in a hospital or morgue somewhere.
Amnesia was the underlying factor in other long disappearances, said Ivana Divona, a founder of the Missing Children Help Center in Tampa.
"It wouldn't be shocking to any one of us if she were in a hospital someplace, unable to remember anything," Mrs. Divona said in an interview. "If we can't resolve this case with all the publicity we're all paying attention — what hope do the rest of the people have for finding their missing children?"
Statistics from the FBI's National Crime Information Center illustrate how daunting the problem of missing persons can be and why the attention to Chandra Levy is so unusual. As of July 1, when interest in the case was at a peak, she was one of 54,765 girls and women listed as missing in the center's "hot files."
Chief Ramsey sharply denies that Mr. Condit received any kid-glove treatment, an issue that emerged when the congressman submitted the results of a private polygraph test after investigators sought to have him examined by their own specialist.
Asked to compare Mr. Condit's cooperation with that of other members of Congress, the chief smiled.
"Fortunately," he said, "I have not had a lot of experience in investigating members of Congress, and I hope I never have it again."


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