- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009

UPDATED:

D.C. officials filed an arrest warrant Tuesday in the homicide of federal intern Chandra Levy, possibly closing the city’s most notorious cold case but also revealing new evidence about two possible accomplices and that the suspect had a picture of Miss Levy in his jail cell.

Ingmar Guandique, 27, an illegal immigrant and laborer who is in a federal prison in California, was named in the warrant. He is serving a 10-year sentence for assaulting two women. Officials expect him to be transferred to the District within the next two months and be charged with first-degree murder in Miss Levy’s death, said Jeffrey A. Taylor, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

“We believe Miss Levy was a random victim of Guandique, who allegedly attacked and killed her as she walked or jogged through Rock Creek Park on May 1, 2001,” Mr. Taylor said. “Today marks a significant step forward in our efforts to bring some sense of closure and justice to the parents of Chandra Levy.”

Miss Levy - a Modesto, Calif., resident who was living in a Dupont Circle apartment - was last seen April 30, 2001. Her disappearance garnered national attention after reports surfaced that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons intern was having an affair with Rep. Gary A. Condit, a Democrat who was representing Miss Levy’s California district. Mr. Condit lost his re-election bid in 2002.

• Read the affidavit here.
• Download Levy chronology graphic here.

Miss Levy’s remains were not discovered until May 2002 in the park, where officials think Miss Levy, 24, had gone the day she disappeared and where Guandique had attacked the two other women.

In a seven-page affidavit in support of the warrant, Metropolitan Police Department Detective Todd Williams wrote that within a roughly 3-mile radius was Guandique’s Northwest apartment and the site where he attacked the women.

The documents also state that authorities found a photograph of Miss Levy - apparently taken from a magazine - during a September 2008 search of Guandique’s cell, and recount in graphic detail reported discussions between Guandique and others about attacking, binding and raping women and specifically assaulting Miss Levy.

In November 2008, investigators interviewed a witness who claimed to have known Guandique for many years. The witness - identified only as “W10” - recounted that Guandique had boasted of his membership in the gang MS-13 and that he was nicknamed “Chucky,” after the horror film character, because he had a reputation “for killing and chopping up people,” the affidavit states.

Guandique also said he had committed rapes and recounted how he and two other males raped and killed an Italian-looking woman with thick, dark hair who had been jogging along a path in a park, according to the affidavit.

In a conversation last month with investigators, another witness recounted how Guandique reportedly said he had been smoking marijuana laced with cocaine with two teenage males while in a “big park” and that the group abducted and raped Miss Levy.

“Guandique told [the witness] that when he saw Levy, she had curly hair, and he thought she ‘looked good,’ ” the affidavit states. “He told the other two males he was going to ‘get her.’ ”

Another witness recalled a recorded telephone conversation with Guandique in which the inmate acknowledged telling the witness about the “girl who’s dead.” The affidavit also states that Guandique said “It’s over,” upon hearing a radio report about his imminent arrest in the Levy case.

“They got me now,” he reportedly said.

Mr. Taylor said the warrant for Guandique’s arrest is based on the “cumulative weight” of the evidence gathered in the case. He declined to discuss any role of DNA evidence or whether a specific piece of evidence led to the warrant.

Mr. Taylor said the investigation is continuing and would not discuss whether investigators are looking for accomplices. Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Traci Hughes said she could not comment on whether police were investigating Guandique for additional homicides.

If convicted, Guandique faces a maximum of 60 years in prison for Miss Levy’s killing.

D.C. police initially questioned him about Miss Levy’s disappearance before her remains were discovered and administered a polygraph test after a fellow inmate said the Salvadoran had confessed to the killing while in prison.

Guandique passed the test, while the inmate who provided the information failed a similar polygraph test. Mr. Taylor said the polygraph issue will “certainly be something we have to confront” in prosecuting the case.

The Associated Press reported that Guandique’s attorneys called the latest investigation “flawed.”

“This flawed investigation, characterized by the many mistakes and missteps of the Metropolitan Police Department and every federal agency that has attempted to solve this case, will not end with the simple issuance of an arrest warrant against Mr. Guandique,” the attorneys, Santha Sonenberg and Maria Hawilo, said in a statement. “The public should not draw any conclusions based on speculation by the media and incomplete information. We look forward to trying this case before unbiased jurors who will not rush to judgment.”

D.C. criminal defense lawyer Ted Williams said authorities seem to have “strong circumstantial evidence” but lack physical evidence against Guandique, and that the inmate could seek a plea agreement in the case for providing information about his purported accomplices.

Mr. Williams also noted that while D.C. law does not allow capital punishment, prosecutors could pursue the death penalty against Guandique if convicted because the Levy homicide took place in a federal park.

“The big thing they will have to determine is were others involved as he has represented,” he said. “The one thing he was consistent about was the two other guys in the Levy case.”

Mr. Condit, who moved to Phoenix after losing his re-election race, initially suggested that his relationship with Miss Levy was only friendship and denied even to his colleagues that it was romantic.

He later acknowledged to police that he had an affair with Miss Levy, but denied involvement in her disappearance.

“It is good news in a way, but it’s still heartbreaking,” Jean Condit, Mr. Condit’s mother, told the AP. “The hurt that has been done to our family will be never be resolved in this world and of course this is nothing that’s going to make any difference for her parents, who have grieved so much.”

Neither Mr. Condit nor his attorney, Abbe Lowell, could be reached for comment.

Along with the focus on Mr. Condit, missteps during the investigation included failing to promptly interview key witnesses and miscommunicating about how far off the park trail to search for Miss Levy’s body.

In announcing the arrest warrant, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the development was the result of persistence by investigators and they hoped it would offer some closure for Miss Levy’s parents.

“It dawned on me that there’s very little that I can do or any of us can do now to offer anything to the Levys other than justice,” said Chief Lanier, who said she spoke with Robert and Sue Levy on Tuesday morning. “And I hope that this offering of justice gives them some sense of peace.”

In a statement to the AP on Tuesday, Mr. and Mrs. Levy said they “take solace in the fact that the search for the person responsible has ended.”

They said the warrant means that the person responsible for the crime “will finally be held accountable for his actions and hopefully unable to hurt anyone else ever again.”

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