Warrant Is Issued for Suspect in Levy Killing
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
D.C. police and prosecutors said yesterday that they will charge a 27-year-old Salvadoran man with first-degree murder in the killing of Chandra Levy nearly eight years ago during a sexual assault along a desolate hiking trail deep in Rock Creek Park.
Saying they had solved a case that transfixed the nation, authorities issued an arrest warrant for Ingmar Guandique, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for attacking two other women at knifepoint in the park around the time the 24-year-old federal government intern disappeared.
Guandique, who entered the United States illegally in 2000 and had trouble scraping together a new life in Washington, will be brought to the city within weeks to face the new charge, police and prosecutors said.
Levy's disappearance in May 2001 triggered an international sensation because she had been having an affair with her congressman, Gary A. Condit, who fell under suspicion and later was voted out of office.
The case that police and prosecutors unveiled yesterday is based on a compilation of statements from victims of Guandique and from unidentified witnesses who said he confessed in letters and conversations, often in grisly detail, how he attacked, sexually assaulted and killed Levy in the park. He said he acted with the help of two accomplices who are not named in the police affidavit.
The affidavit released yesterday did not disclose any physical evidence linking Guandique to the crime, such as a DNA match. Still, prosecutors and police said they are confident in the case. At a news conference, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said the "cumulative" circumstantial evidence would be enough to win a conviction.
Said Taylor: "Today marks a significant step forward in our effort to achieve justice for the Levy family."
Lanier said in an interview that she called Levy's parents before the news conference. "I feel so badly for the family, what they've been through and what they will continue to go through. The only thing I can offer them is the possibility of justice."
News of the warrant provided some solace for the Levys, but the details were difficult to take. "It's very, very hard," Robert Levy said from their home in Modesto, Calif.
The D.C. public defenders appointed to represent Guandique issued a statement criticizing the case and saying they look forward to trying it before a jury.
"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," said the defense attorneys, Santha Sonenberg and Maria Hawilo. "The public should not draw any conclusions based on speculation by the media and incomplete information."
A 13-part Washington Post series last summer detailed numerous police mistakes that led investigators to focus much of their attention and resources on Condit, a married Democratic congressman from California. While they investigated Condit and his romantic links to Levy and other women, they failed to fully investigate Guandique, who had attacked women in the park not far from where Levy's remains would eventually be found a year later, on May 22, 2002.