Solved: The Chandra Levy Case (2001)

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We have the mysterious death of Chandra Levy up next on Crime Blog. This one has taken me awhile to research as there are so many others that have research her disappearance.

Chandra Levy, worked as an intern with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, she was finishing up her final semester at the University of Southern California where she was finishing up her master’s degree in Public Administration. But that all changes in April 2001 when she was abruptly fired due to her academic eligibility was found to have expired in December of 2000 which means, she had already completed her master’s degree requirements and was scheduled to return to California to graduate in May 2001.

May 1st everything changed though, Levy was gone, nobody had seen her since then, but the police department was not alerted until May 6th, when her parents from Modesto California reported that they had not heard from their daughter in 5 days which was unusual. Police officers called around to hospitals and went to Chandra’s apartment that day, but there was nothing at the local hospitals and there was no sign of foul play at her apartment.

On May 7th a huge turn of events happen, Chandra’s father told the police that Chandra had been having an affair with a U.S. Congressman and he believed it was Gary Condit. Chandra’s aunt also called the police and told them that the rumor about the affair was true and that Chandra had confided in her about it. Police were able to get a warrant on May 10th to conduct a formal search of Chandra’s apartment. Investigators found all her credit cards, her identification and phone that were in her purse in the apartment, they also found partially packed suitcases like she was planning a trip. Her answering machine was full of messages but they were left by her family but 2, were from Gary Condit. A police sergeant had tried to examine her laptop but ended up making matters worse and corrupting all the internet search data.

It took computer experts a whole month to reconstruct the data from Chandra’s laptop and determined that it was last used on the morning of May 1st, the day she was last seen. The searches were for websites related to the Amtrak, Baskin-Robbins, Condit, Southwest Airlines and a weather report from The Washington Post. But her final search was at 12:59 PM and was for a region in France called Alsace-Lorraine. But what stood out was a particular search at 11:33 am  which was for information about Rock Creek Park in The Washington Post “Entertainment Guide, immediately following she clicked a link that opened a map of the park. Detective had a theory that she might have met someone at the Pierce-Klingle Mansion, which was the park headquarters.

ON July 25, 2001, 3 D.C. police sergeants and 28 police officers searched along Glover road in the park but was unfortunate enough to not find evidence that put Chandra in the park. A few days following a second attempt was made and that also turned up nothing.

Rumors surrounding Chandra’s disappearance started to grow attention of the media. Condit was a married man who surprisingly enough represented the same district in which the Levy family lived, he at first denied any involvement with Chandra, but Chandra’s family felt as if he was hiding information about the matter.

There was some unidentified police sources that allegedly heard Condit admit that he did have an affair with Chandra during an interview on July 7, 2001. He described Chandra as a vegetarian who avoided drinking and smoking.

Investigators searched Condit’s apartment on July 10th. They also questioned a flight attendant who claimed that Condit told her she did not need to speak to the FBI about his personal life. Federals officials began investigation Condit for possible obstruction of justice, as the flight attendant was also involved in an affair with him.

Condit became furious with the leaks to the media about his multiple affairs and refused to submit to a polygraph test by the police, his attorney told the police that he had passed a test that was administered by a privately hired examiner on July 13. He even went as avoiding answering questions during a televised interview on August 23 that had anything to do with Chandra.

In a poll of 900 registered voters that was conducted in July of 2001, 44% of American respondents thought that Condit was involved in Chandra’s disappearance and 27% felt that he should resign immediately. 51% of the respondents believed that he was acting as if he was guilty and only a staggering 13% felt he should run for office again.

On March 5, 2002, Condit lost the Democratic primaries for his seat to his former aide with the Chandra controversy being cited as a contributing factor. Condit was then subpoenaed to appear on April 1, 2002 before the DC grand jury investigating the disappearance. The date was kept carefully guarded to avoid further leaks. And on January 3, 2003 after failing to win his re-election bid, Condit left Congress.

But on May 22, 2002 tragic news struck the Levy family, at around 9:30 AM skeletal remains matched Chandra’s dental records. The remains were found by a man who was walking his dog and looking for turtles in Rock Creek Park, near Washington D.C.

Detectives found bones and Chandra’s personal items scattered but they were not buried in an area that had a lot of tress and was along a steep incline. The evidence that was found near the bones were, a sports bra, sweat shirt, leggings and tennis shoes. Seemed as if she was jogging and got pulled down. This area was not searched when police were there the first 2 times. Due to miscommunication between the commander and search goers, the officers only searched 100 yards of every road and not 100 yards of each road and trail. The bones were found only 4 miles from Chandra’s apartment.

A preliminary autopsy was performed and the DC police announced that there was enough evidence to open a homicide investigation. ON May 28th, the DC medical examiner officially declared Chandra’s death a homicide. During the examination of the bones, the examiner found damage to her hyoid bone, which is also known as the tongue bone, which suggested she could have been strangled but could not be conclusive evidence of the cause of death.

On June 6th, after the completion of the search, private investigators that were hired by the family found her shin bone with some twisted wire that was about 25 yards from the other remains.

The Chandra Levy case remained a “Cold case” until 2006 when the DC Police chief Cath Lainer came on. Lainer replaced the lead detective on the case with 3 veteran investigators who had more homicide experience.

During the same of 2008, the police did not fully investigate Ingmar Guandique, a 20 year old from El Salvador who was also being held in jail and told police that Condit paid him $25,000 to kill Chandra. Police dismissed the idea and blew it off without investigating it. In September of 2008, investigators searched Guandique’s federal prison cell in California and found a picture of Chandra that he had saved from a magazine.

On March 3, 2009, the Superior Court in DC issued an arrest warrant for Guandique and was he was returned to the custody of DC department of corrections on April 20th, by the Federal transfer center. 2 days later he was charged with Chandra’s murder. He was indicted by a grand jury on 6 different counts, kidnapping, first degree murder committed during the kidnapping, attempted first degree sexual assault, first degree murde committed during a sexual offense, attempted robbery and first degree murder committed during a robbery. My goodness they through the book at him!!

Guandique pleaded not guilty to all counts and a trial date was set for January 27, 2010. His lawyers stated his federal prison cell was outside the jurisdiction of a court order search. After some errors in processing contaminated evidence the start date of the trail was moved to October 4, 2010.

Trial began on October 25th, and by November 17th, the jury began deliberations . Prosecution did drop 2 charges of kidnapping and attempted robbery because the statue of limitations had passed, and they already dropped sexual assault and murder associated with that assault. After 2 full days all but one juror had voted to convict Guandique. One the 3rd day the jury asked the Judge to clarify the definition of assault. The Judge gave the definition of any physical injury could legally be considered an assault, regardless of how small.

On November 22, 2010, the jury found Guandique guilty on both remaining counts of first degree murder.

February 1, 2011, just went we think this is all over, Guandique’s attorney requested a new trial on the ground that the verdict had been improperly attained. A 17 page document claimed the prosecutors had appealed to the emotions of the jury using references not evidence. The prosecution opposed a retrial and argued that the issue regarding the notes was no more than a technicality that did not have significant effect on the verdict. The judge denied the motion for a retrial and handed a sentence of 60 years in prison.

After a back and forth battle for the next 5 years on retrials, the judge determined that Guandique had lost his right to stay in the US and was deported back to El Salvador on May 5, 2017.

This horrific case went on for almost 10 years before it was closed, this poor family had to sit and watch as each the prosecution and the defense took turns just talking about their daughter that had been brutally murdered. With everything behind them now, they now have the opportunity to finally grieve for their daughter, friend, family member, whatever she was too her family and friends in peace.

Sources:

Who Killed Chandra Levy? (washingtonpost.com)

A Scandalous Affair and the Mysterious Death of Chandra Levy | by Anita Durairaj | Chameleon | May, 2021 | Medium

Chandra Levy’s remains found – HISTORY

Chandra Levy – Wikipedia