A Jailhouse Informant
- Aug. 26, 2001: A jailhouse informant says Ingmar Guandique confessed to killing Chandra Levy.
- Sept. 11: Terrorists strike the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
- Oct. 19: Police and prosecutors interview the informant.
- Nov. 28: The informant fails an FBI polygraph.
- Feb. 8, 2002: Guandique receives a 10-year sentence for attacking two women in Rock Creek Park.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the four-month-old Chandra Levy story quickly dropped off the front pages of newspapers around the world.
In Modesto, the satellite television trucks that had been parked outside Robert and Susan Levy's home pulled away. In Washington, law enforcement resources were shifted from Chandra's case to terrorism-related tasks.
It had been four months since Chandra had disappeared. During one of her last computer searches on the day she vanished, she had pulled up a map of Rock Creek Park. Police recruits had looked for her in the park. But neither the D.C. detectives nor the prosecutors on the Chandra case had focused on a man who confessed July 2 to his involvement in attacks on two women in the park.
The man, a 20-year-old Salvadoran named Ingmar Guandique, did not catch the attention of prosecutors until mid-September, when they heard that Guandique allegedly told a jailhouse informant that he had killed Chandra.
On Sept. 21, Guandique was removed from his jail cell and brought to the U.S. attorney's office in Washington for questioning by prosecutors and D.C. detectives. He was accompanied by a public defender.
Guandique was shown a picture of Chandra. He said the only place he had ever seen her was on television.
That contradicted what a former Park Police detective later told The Washington Post. Joe Green, who interrogated Guandique on July 2, said that at that time he showed Chandra's picture to Guandique and the Salvadoran said he had seen her in the park.
Green was present at the meeting in the U.S. attorney's office. To this day, Green does not remember that meeting or whether he passed on to D.C. police or prosecutors the information he said he got from Guandique. "I should have said something," Green would later comment.
On Oct. 19, D.C. police and federal prosecutors went to the D.C. jail to interview the informant, whose name is being withheld by The Post to protect him against reprisals from other prisoners.
The informant said that he had befriended Guandique during strolls around the jail's exercise yard. Guandique was awaiting trial on charges in the attacks in the park on May 14 and July 1. The informant said that one day in August Guandique looked depressed and said something was weighing on him.
Guandique, the informant said, confessed to murdering a woman in the park named Chandra Levy, the intern whose picture had been splashed all over television. There was more: Guandique said Rep. Gary Condit paid him to do it. He didn't realize who Condit was until he later saw his picture on TV. Guandique had been walking in the Adams Morgan neighborhood when a car pulled to the curb. Condit offered him money - $25,000 to kill a woman. The congressman provided him with her picture and a location where he could find her.
The informant said Guandique told him he took drugs and drank alcohol to steel himself for the attack. He went to the location Condit gave him and saw Chandra running on a path. Guandique hid in the bushes. When Chandra circled back, he jumped out and attacked her, stabbing her in the neck and the stomach. She fell to the ground, and Guandique carried her body far into the woods. He dug a hole with his hands and covered Chandra with dirt, leaves and sticks. He left the knife in her body and later considered retrieving it but never did. He sent the $25,000 to his family in El Salvador.
The informant called his lawyer and said that he wanted to come forward because he felt badly for Chandra's parents after seeing them on TV. The informant recently repeated his story to The Post.
D.C. police and prosecutors weren't sure what to make of the informant's story. They thought the part about Condit was ridiculous, but they wondered if Guandique still might have been involved in Chandra's disappearance. Could he have embellished his account with a Condit angle to make himself a big man in prison?
On Nov. 28, the informant, who spoke little English, took a polygraph exam at the U.S. attorney's office. He failed it. The results of the FBI-administered test showed that the informant was "deceptive" when he answered yes to two questions: Did Guandique tell you he stabbed Chandra Levy? And did Guandique tell you he received $25,000 from a congressman for stabbing Chandra Levy?
Nearly nine weeks later, on Feb. 4, 2002, Guandique was given a polygraph test by the FBI. When asked whether he was involved in Chandra's disappearance and whether he caused her disappearance, he answered no. The readings were inconclusive, falling into a gray area between truth and deception. But the official result, a judgment call of the polygraph examiner, was "not deceptive."