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Warrant Is Issued for Suspect in Levy Killing

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Mayor Adrian Fenty, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier and U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor announce that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Ingmar Guandique for the murder of Chandra Levy. Video by Anna Uhls/washingtonpost.com

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In a phone interview last year with The Post from the U.S. Penitentiary-Victorville in Adelanto, Calif., Guandique denied any involvement in Levy's slaying. "I have nothing to do with the death of that girl. I am innocent, and I am not afraid of the police investigation," he said.

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Authorities said the new evidence was gathered by veteran homicide investigators and prosecutors who reinvigorated the cold case. They said they will charge Guandique with first-degree murder because the crime was committed during an act of first-degree sexual abuse. If convicted, he faces 30 to 60 years in prison.

According to the affidavit, on May 1, 2001, the day Levy disappeared, another young woman walking in the park was accosted by a Hispanic man. The woman said she ran away and later left the country on a preplanned trip. A year later, still living abroad, she saw a photograph of Guandique in a newspaper when his name first surfaced as a possible suspect in the Levy case. The affidavit says the woman recognized him as the man she saw in the park the day Levy disappeared.

Police and prosecutors also interviewed two women who were attacked by Guandique in the park within weeks of Levy's disappearance: Halle Shilling, who was assaulted May 14, 2001, and Christy Wiegand, who was attacked July 1, 2001. Both women said during Guandique's sentencing hearing that they believed Guandique intended to kill them. Neither woman was interviewed by investigators assigned to the Levy probe until after The Post published its investigation.

Late last year, detectives interviewed key witnesses, including one who said Guandique had written letters claiming responsibility for the killing. The witness became nervous and later during a phone conversation questioned Guandique about the alleged admission. "During this recorded conversation Guandique acknowledged that he had told [the witness] about the 'girl who's dead,' " the police affidavit said.

Another witness told police in November that he had known Guandique for many years and that Guandique boasted that he was a member of the Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. He allegedly said that he was known in the gang as "Chuckie" -- after a demonic doll from a series of horror movies -- because he had a reputation for "killing and chopping up people." Guandique allegedly told the witness that he had raped many women after lying in wait near a dirt path in the park, that he would tie them up and then sexually assault them.

During one conversation with that witness, Guandique allegedly said that he and two other men were in the park when they saw a female jogger who "looked Italian with thick, dark hair." One of the men jumped in front of her, and Guandique allegedly grabbed her around the neck and dragged her off. Once in the woods, the men knocked her unconscious, bound her feet and sexually assaulted her. Guandique allegedly told this witness that the woman began to regain consciousness during the rape, "so he cut her throat and stabbed her."

Another witness, identified as "W11," told police that Guandique confessed to killing Levy, but some of the details were different. This witness said Guandique told him he saw a curly-haired woman in the park who "looked good" and that he and two other men chased her. Guandique allegedly grabbed Levy by the neck and took her into some bushes. She began to fight back, scratching him on the face. The witness said Guandique told him that he choked her to death to stop her from screaming and concocted a cover story about the scratches, that they were sustained during a fight with his girlfriend.

Shelia Cruz, Guandique's landlady, told police that around the time of Levy's disappearance, Guandique came home one night with scratches on his face. When she asked him what had happened, he told her his girlfriend attacked him during a fight.

In the past week, after WRC-TV (Channel 4) reported that police were seeking an arrest warrant in the case, the news reached Guandique in federal prison in California. According to the affidavit, W11 told police that Guandique said: "They got me now. What am I gonna do." This witness said Guandique then said he was "not going out alone" and devised a plan to escape when detectives came to arrest him. He would free himself from his handcuffs with a key fashioned from toenail clippers, start a fire with batteries and tissue, and attack the detectives with weapons made out of razor blades and toothbrush handles.

On Feb. 26, Guandique was removed from his cell without incident. Inside, authorities found AA batteries, tissue paper, a broken piece of a toenail clipper and several loose razor blades. During an earlier search of his cell in September, police found a photograph of Levy, apparently from a magazine. They also noted that Guandique had a tattoo on his back of "Chuckie" holding a knife.

Guandique, a day laborer, came under the scrutiny of investigators months after Levy disappeared, but a series of delays and missteps allowed the case to languish. Nine months before Levy's remains were found in Rock Creek Park, a D.C. inmate came forward to say that Guandique had confessed to the crime while they were in jail, but the inmate's account was dismissed after he failed an FBI-administered polygraph exam. A polygraph test taken by Guandique before he was sentenced in the other two attacks was deemed "inconclusive." Neither exam was administered by a bilingual polygrapher, even though Guandique and the other inmate speak little or no English. Polygraph results can be skewed if there are translation problems, experts say.

The case went cold for years until Lanier, who became police chief in 2006, eventually replaced the lead detective, who had little homicide experience, with three veterans to put "a fresh set of eyes" on the case: Kenneth "Todd" Williams, Anthony Brigidini and Emilio Martinez. Late last year, detectives and prosecutors brought people connected to the case before a grand jury in the District. In December, one of the women attacked by Guandique at knifepoint in 2001 was asked to return to the spot in Rock Creek Park and reenact the incident for the detectives and prosecutor.

In an interview this week, former D.C. police chief Charles H. Ramsey, who had been in charge of the original Levy investigation, said he was surprised last summer by some of the findings of The Post's series. "There were a couple of things, when I read the series, I said, 'Oh man,' " Ramsey said.

For example, Ramsey said, he had not known that his two original detectives on the Levy case never interviewed the two women whom Guandique had attacked at knifepoint.

"That's ridiculous. That's fundamental and basic," said Ramsey, who now is the police commissioner in Philadelphia. "There are a few things that I assumed had been done. People criticized us for micromanaging. In retrospect, we should have micromanaged more."


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