By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 11, 2010; B01
Prosecutors in the Chandra Levy murder trial abruptly rested their case Wednesday against Ingmar Guandique, the man charged with killing the former federal intern nine years ago in Rock Creek Park, and dropped two of the charges against him.
The government's decision to rest came as a surprise in the courtroom because prosecutors had told the judge overseeing the case that they intended to call a second Guandique cellmate to the stand.
The cellmate was to testify that Guandique had confessed in prison to killing Levy. Last week, prosecutors called one inmate to the stand, who testified that Guandique had confessed, and the second inmate was expected to corroborate that story Wednesday.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines told Judge Gerald I. Fisher that authorities were having issues with prison officials concerning bringing the inmate to D.C. Superior Court.
In nine days of testimony, only one prosecution witness - the first inmate - has linked Guandique, 29, directly to Levy's death.
It's been a difficult case for the prosecution from the start. There is no DNA or other forensic evidence linking Guandique to the crime scene; no murder weapon; no eyewitness; and no definitive ruling from the medical examiner on what killed Levy.
On Wednesday, prosecutors dropped two of the six charges against Guandique, including attempted sexual assault and felony murder associated with that sexual assault. Guandique still faces first-degree murder and attempted kidnapping charges, among others.
During the trial, the jury of 12 women and four men heard extensively about the two previous attacks in Rock Creek Park that landed Guandique in prison. Guandique pleaded guilty to those assaults in 2002 and was sentenced to 10 years.
Those attacks, on two female joggers, occurred about the same time Levy disappeared: May 1, 2001. Levy's remains were found in the park a year later, after valuable evidence and traces of DNA had eroded. Prosecutors tried to prove that Guandique preyed on female joggers in the park and that Levy, unlike the other joggers, was killed as a result of her attack.
Still, it wasn't until last week that jurors heard testimony connecting Guandique to Levy's slaying. Guandique's former cellmate Armando Morales said that Guandique admitted that he killed Levy, 24, but that he did not rape her.
Two themes have stayed prevalent throughout the trial: police and federal investigators' numerous mistakes in the case, and the importance of former congressman Gary A. Condit (D-Calif.) in Levy's life.
On Wednesday, an FBI forensic scientist testified that Condit's DNA was found on a pair of Levy's panties authorities found in a laundry bin in her Dupont Circle apartment shortly after she disappeared.
When he testified last week, Condit refused to answer questions about the extent of his relationship with Levy.
Noticeably absent from the witness stand have been the three lead detectives who took over the case in 2008 and who ultimately charged Guandique. Prosecutors called none of them to testify.
Guandique's defense attorneys could complete their case as early as Monday afternoon. Prosecutors could then call rebuttal witnesses
On Monday, Guandique's attorneys plan to call another former cellmate of Guandique's and Morales's.
The attorneys believe that the inmate will testify that he did not hear Guandique make any confessions to Morales.
Guandique's attorneys are also talking to their client about whether he should take the stand in his own defense.
There will be no proceedings in the case Thursday or Friday. The jury could begin deliberating as early as next Wednesday.