Correction to This Article
The article incorrectly said that a forensic analyst who lawyers say got some of her own DNA on the evidence worked for the FBI. The analyst worked for Bode Technology Group.

FBI Analyst Accidentally Contaminates Chandra Levy Case DNA

Ingmar Guandique is charged with killing intern Chandra Levy in 2001.
Ingmar Guandique is charged with killing intern Chandra Levy in 2001. (Kevin Clark - The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 17, 2009

An FBI forensic analyst mistakenly got some of her own DNA on evidence recovered from the site where Chandra Levy's body was found, attorneys said Friday during a hearing in D.C. Superior Court.

The mishap surfaced as the FBI analyst, since fired, was reviewing pieces of evidence that included the former federal intern's bra, tights, underwear and shoes found in Rock Creek Park near where her body was discovered.

Details of the mishap surfaced during the hearing for Ingmar Guandique, 28, who was arrested in April and charged with first-degree murder in Levy's killing.

The contamination was the most recent mishap in a case riddled with mistakes and missed opportunities by investigators since Levy disappeared in May 2001. Her body was found a year later.

Maria Hawilo of the Public Defender Service, one of Guandique's attorneys, asked Judge Geoffrey Alprin to postpone the Jan. 27 trial to allow additional testing. Alprin denied the request but ordered the government to make the evidence available for additional testing by another laboratory chosen by the defense. The judge scheduled a follow-up hearing Dec. 18.

Alprin also said that although he has been overseeing the hearings, another judge will preside over the trial. Alprin will retire in January.

In a filing Thursday, prosecutors revealed that during a May 2008 interview with detectives, Guandique allegedly acknowledged that he was in the park at the same time Levy was jogging and that he had had contact with her, but that it was "innocent." Guandique also allegedly told investigators, "So what if I touched her?" Prosecutors later said that during the police interrogation, Guandique did not admit or deny killing Levy.

At the time of his arrest, Guandique was serving a 10-year sentence in a federal prison for attacking two other women at knifepoint in Rock Creek Park about the time that Levy, 24, disappeared.

Prosecutors said Guandique had called the assaults on the two other women "innocent" as a way to "rationalize" the attacks. Guandique later pleaded guilty to the assaults.

Guandique's attorneys said the latest case lacks forensic evidence linking their client to Levy's slaying and that the charges were built largely on the accounts of unreliable witnesses, some of whom were incarcerated with Guandique while he was in prison.

In court Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor said his office has learned the reason Guandique's DNA was not present at the scene but would reveal that during the trial. Campoamor also said the government was seeking a term of life in prison without parole for Guandique.

Since his arrest, prosecutors said they were able to identify other individuals who claimed to have been attacked by someone fitting Guandique's description.

Levy's disappearance generated international attention because she had been having an affair with then-Rep. Gary A. Condit (D-Calif.), who represented the district that includes her home town of Modesto. Guandique, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, came under scrutiny months after Levy vanished, but it was not until a new set of detectives was assigned to the case that Guandique was seriously considered as a suspect.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company