Woman describes Rock Creek Park attack

By Keith L. Alexander
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It was a day Halle Shilling said she could never forget.

Testifying on the first day of the Chandra Levy murder trial, Shilling recalled that she dressed in her black running tights and white shirt and was listening to a mix of Mexican tunes on her Walkman about 6 p.m. on May 14, 2001, as she began her regular run in Rock Creek Park.

She had been slow-jogging for a little while when she noticed a "light-skinned Latino" man sitting on a curb wearing dark athletic shorts and no shirt.

"He was creepy. He was just watching me," Shilling said on the witness stand, at times breaking down in tears.

Clouds started to block the evening sun, and Shilling realized she was alone on the trail. She picked up a stick but quickly discarded it, thinking she was being paranoid. Then, within minutes, she noticed the same man jogging behind her. He got closer and closer. Then Shilling felt a thud. The man jumped on her from behind and knocked her to the ground. She saw a five-inch knife in his left hand.

"I screamed as loud as I knew how to scream," she said.

The attacker, Shilling later learned, was Ingmar Guandique.

Guandique, 29, is charged with first-degree murder and other counts in Levy's death. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to the attack on Shilling and a separate attack on another woman in Rock Creek Park and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The other woman also is expected to testify in the Levy case.

Nine years in the making, the first day of evidence at Guandique's trial was highlighted by Shilling's testimony. Shilling, now 39, was attacked the same month Levy disappeared and near the area of Rock Creek Park where Levy's body was found about a year later.

Levy, 24, a former federal intern whose disappearance generated international headlines, disappeared May 1, 2001.

Prosecutors say Guandique attacked Levy in the same manner he attacked Shilling and called Shilling to the stand to help establish that pattern.

Shilling's testimony followed opening statements Monday. Maria Hawilo, one of Guandique's defense attorneys, attacked the government's case in her opening, saying it is built on assumptions about his past and the word of informants in search of deals.

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