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.
Polygraphs can be a helpful law enforcement tool, but the results are not admissible in court because the science behind them is considered unreliable. And there was a problem with the polygraph exams in the Chandra case: Neither the informant nor Guandique spoke much English, and the FBI polygraph examiners were not bilingual. A translator was used for both exams, a variable that can compromise test results, according to polygraph experts. Polygraph equipment measures minute changes in breathing, sweating, blood pressure and other bodily functions. If the polygraph examiner and the translator are not in sync, the test results can be skewed.
"If I had my druthers, I would have wanted to get a Spanish-speaking polygraph examiner," Jack Barrett, D.C. chief of detectives, later recalled. "It's so much cleaner." But he would have had to wait for months because of different priorities within the FBI.
The police relied heavily on the polygraph results to eliminate Guandique as a suspect. Detectives didn't interview his victims. They didn't visit the crime scenes in Rock Creek Park. They didn't assign Spanish-speaking detectives to talk to Guandique's friends and relatives. And they didn't look for his possessions to test them for forensic evidence.
On Feb. 8, four days after his FBI polygraph, Guandique was escorted into Room 321 of the D.C. Superior Courthouse to be sentenced after pleading guilty to the attacks on Halle Shilling and Christy Wiegand. A court-ordered report noted that Guandique had a wide range of behavioral, alcohol and drug problems.
"When I'm about to commit an offense, I tell myself to go ahead and do it, but afterwards, I feel bad about it," Guandique said through a translator in the report. "I feel good when I see someone alone and carrying something of value on their person because it makes it easy for me to take it from them. Then it crosses my mind, that after doing it so many times, I will eventually get caught. Sometimes, I cannot control myself when I see someone alone in a secluded area with something of value."
The prosecutor, Kristina Ament, told the judge that Guandique was a cooperative defendant. She said that he spoke to prosecutors and police about the Chandra case as part of his plea agreement and that he passed a polygraph exam that asked if he knew anything about her disappearance.
Ament said Guandique cleared his name by taking the polygraph.
"In other words, there's no suggestion that he is involved in the Chandra Levy case?" asked D.C. Superior Court Judge Noel Anketell Kramer.
"There is no suggestion at this point now that he is involved," Ament said. "And his polygraph went a long way in diffusing the suggestion."
The judge said she never believed that Guandique had anything to do with Chandra's disappearance. "This is such a satellite issue," Kramer said. "I never for a moment thought that . . . he had anything to do with Chandra Levy."
Gladys Joseph, a lawyer with the D.C. Public Defender Service who was assigned to represent Guandique, tried to persuade the judge to give her client a light sentence. "Mr. Guandique was trying to get a Walkman and go. And really just did something incredibly stupid, and incredibly dangerous, even to himself," Joseph said.
Shilling had a different take.
"I reject the notion that he intended to simply rob me," she told the judge that day. "This attack was a physical one, pure and simple. He stalked me for a mile. He attacked me with a knife. We struggled on the ground. He left my valuables on the path when he fled. I do not doubt for a second that, given the chance, he would repeat this crime against another woman. I would request that this person be given the harshest possible sentence for his crime."
Wiegand spoke next.
"Being attacked by Mr. Guandique was a terrifying experience, and it changed me, and it changed how I will view the world," she said. "I completely agree . . . that given the opportunity, Mr. Guandique will attack another woman."
The judge asked Guandique if he had anything to say.
"Well, I would like to ask the judge for forgiveness," he replied. "And also of the two people I assaulted. I am sincerely repentant for the two offenses I committed. And please give me another chance in order so that I would be able to work and help my family."
At the end of the 38-minute hearing, the judge sentenced Guandique to 10 years in a federal penitentiary.