- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2009

MODESTO, Calif. | In the first weeks after her only daughter disappeared, grief hit Susan Levy so hard she could not move from “a fetal position” on the living room couch.

By the time daughter Chandra Levy’s skull and bones were found in Rock Creek Park a year later, her mother had found enough strength to dial Metropolitan Police Department detectives to ask why it was taking so long to find the killer.

Now, eight years after her daughter’s death, Mrs. Levy said the sudden news late Friday that police planned to make an arrest may resolve the crime, but it won’t do much to stem her family’s heartache.

“This helps a little,” said Mrs. Levy, staring listlessly in the den of her central California home. “But we still don’t have our daughter and we have a life sentence without her.”

Miss Levy was 24 and had just completed an internship with the Bureau of Prisons when she disappeared in May 2001 after leaving her Northwest apartment.

After authorities questioned her congressman, Rep. Gary A. Condit, a Democrat, in the disappearance, and he revealed his affair with the young woman, news media from around the world descended on the family’s split-level home amid the orchards of Modesto, 90 miles east of San Francisco.

Mrs. Levy, husband Bob and son Adam retreated and drew the blinds, hoping to cope in peace with their anguish.

Another mother, Donna Raley, rang their doorbell to offer support, and said she found Mrs. Levy wasn’t eating.

“She was somber, almost in a fetal position on that couch,” Mrs. Raley said. “I told her I, too, had lost a child, and we sat and cried. I said she could either let whoever took her daughter take her and her marriage, too, or she could stand tall and fight back.”

Mrs. Levy gradually emerged with the help of Mrs. Raley and other friends, and started leaving the house to practice yoga or ride her horses, anything to escape the television trucks parked in two single-file lines along their cul-de-sac.

Only a year after her daughter’s disappearance, Mrs. Levy and Mrs. Raley founded the nonprofit advocacy group Wings of Protection to help family members of violent-crime victims who are missing.

Then, in May 2002, a dog walker discovered Miss Levy’s remains inside the park, ending the family’s hopes that she might still be alive.

“We used to pray for her to have a happy life, and a fulfilling career,” Mr. Levy said. “We started praying for her to be reincarnated.”

The couple explored Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. And Mr. Levy began keeping a log of signs that he thought proved his daughter’s spirit was present - including a rainbow after a storm.

They also looked for solace in Modesto’s close-knit Jewish community.

Each year, the congregation at Beth Shalom would light a candle in Miss Levy’s name and bring out a special, small Torah donated by the Levys, a collection of sacred scrolls of Hebrew Scriptures smuggled out of Germany during the Holocaust.

“We all call it the Levy Torah, and everyone feels it’s an honor to hold it because it’s a reminder of the recent death of Chandra,” said Joyce Gandelman, a leader at the synagogue. “She hasn’t left Modesto. Chandra’s spirit is still here.”

Her parents still take sleeping pills to get through the night, though Mrs. Levy said therapy has helped.

Mrs. Levy was told police are preparing to arrest Ingmar Guandique, a 27-year-old inmate serving a federal sentence in Adelanto, Calif., for attacks on two women in Rock Creek Park in 2001.

“This is bittersweet,” she said Saturday after hours of interviews. “I still don’t know if justice will be done.”

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