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Judge allows statements from Chandra Levy suspect

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 11, 2010; B01

Lawyers for the man accused of killing federal intern Chandra Levy in 2001 asked a judge Friday to throw out their client's statements to police and not allow them into evidence at his upcoming trial.

Friday's hearing, in advance of an Oct. 4 trial, revealed new details of the statements made by Ingmar Guandique and how detectives obtained them.

Guandique, 29, was arrested last year and charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of the former federal intern, who disappeared in May 2001. Her body was found a year later. At the time of his arrest, Guandique was serving a 10-year sentence in a federal prison in Victorville, Calif., for assaulting two other women at knifepoint in Rock Creek Park about the same time that Levy, 24, disappeared. Detectives visited Guandique in prison on Sept. 9. 2008, and did not read him his rights before questioning him, defense attorneys said. Santha Sonenberg and Maria Hawilo of D.C.'s public defender service also argued that detectives deceived Guandique when they told him they had found DNA on Levy.

On the stand, D.C. cold case Detective Todd Williams said under cross-examination by Sonenberg that police found no DNA on Levy's remains.

Williams testified that Guandique willingly spoke to the three detectives, that at he times seemed "nervous" and that his legs often shook during the two-hour meeting. Williams said he did not take notes during the interview with Guandique, but he wrote a four-page memo about the meeting the next day, which has been submitted as evidence.

Guandique told the detectives that if he had "contact" with Levy, "it wouldn't matter" because he would not get any additional jail time, according to the memo. Guandique told the officers that if his DNA came back as a positive match, then "so what if I touched her," the memo said.

Also during the interview, Guandique showed off his tattoos. One was of a devil etched into his scalp. That tattoo is now covered because Guandique has grown out his hair.

He has a tattoo of a nude woman across his chest. Detectives say the image on the tattoo resembles Levy. Another tattoo, according to the memo, was a symbol for the Mara Salvatrucha gang, or MS-13.

Williams also noted in his memo that "not once did [Guandique] ever say, 'I did not kill her.' "

D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher interjected during the testimony and asked Williams why they did not read Guandique his rights. "We just wanted to see if he would talk to us," Williams said. "He wasn't arrested for the crime so, at that point, we didn't think we had to give the warnings."

While Guandique was meeting with detectives at the prison, other officers were removing letters and other items from his cell. Guandique's attorneys argued that detectives did not have a proper warrant for the seizures.

Fisher ruled that Guandique's statements could be used at his trial and put off ruling on whether the items obtained during the search could be introduced.

Prosecutors later said that they have no plans to use the statements during their case but might introduce them if needed to rebut defense arguments.

During the hearing, Guandique sat, often with his head bowed, listening to headphones of a Spanish translation of the proceedings.

At times he looked up as the detective spoke.

His attorneys also sought to throw out comments Guandique made for a pre-sentencing report done for a burglary conviction.

During the interview with a probation department employee, Guandique allegedly made numerous statements about how he had a compulsion to attack individuals who were smaller than him and who were alone in the woods. "He likes a vulnerable situation. He likes to catch prey," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines, reading from the pre-sentence report. Fisher said he would review the statements and rule in the coming weeks.

During the hearing, prosecutors urged Guandique's attorneys to reveal whether they planned to argue that someone else killed Levy. Fisher said the attorneys could reveal that at the next hearing, Sept. 22.

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. Condit said he did not harm Levy.

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 the charges were brought.

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