In the six years since Chandra Levy was found in Rock Creek Park, her story continues to haunt many lives.
Rep. Gary Condit was abandoned by the Democratic Party and was trounced in the primary for his House seat in 2002. He now splits his time among California, Colorado and Arizona, where he operated two Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlors.
Ingmar Guandique, the Salvadoran immigrant convicted of attacking women in Rock Creek Park around the time Chandra disappeared, has never been charged in connection with the case. He has been moved several times within the federal corrections system because of behavioral problems. From prison in North Carolina, he sent pornographic sketches containing written suggestions of explicit sexual acts to a female insurance agent, a stranger whose picture he saw in a Spanish-language newspaper in the Washington area. He now sits in a federal prison at the edge of the Mojave Desert.
Most of the investigators have also dispersed. All of those who agreed to be interviewed now say Condit had nothing to do with Chandra's disappearance. Nearly all of them consider Guandique to be the prime suspect, even as he consistently denies any involvement in the crime. The investigators continue to second-guess the case, especially the many lost opportunities to gather evidence about the killer.
Among other things, they cite the failure to immediately obtain the security camera tape from Chandra's apartment building; the failure to promptly and correctly analyze the contents of her computer, which would have shown that she was searching for something to do in Rock Creek Park; the failure to conduct a more rigorous search of Rock Creek Park; and the failure to quickly recognize and capitalize on the possible link between Chandra's disappearance and Guandique's Rock Creek Park attacks.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said the two-month delay in focusing on Guandique from July 2001 to September 2001 occurred in part because investigators and prosecutors did not make the link between Chandra's disappearance and Rock Creek Park.
"The Levy matter was still a missing person investigation," spokesman Channing Phillips said. "Without a body and without more of a nexus, it would not have been a logical, natural link immediately to start focusing our efforts - at that time - on someone who may have been arrested in connection with the assault on a woman in Rock Creek Park."
Lead D.C. Detective Ralph Durant is no longer working on the case. His partner, Lawrence Kennedy, has retired. Both declined to be interviewed by The Washington Post.
Jack Barrett, former D.C. chief of detectives, said the focus on Condit hurt the investigation. He also faulted his superiors - then-Chief Charles H. Ramsey and his second-in-command, Terrance W. Gainer - for their constant news conferences that helped fuel the media frenzy.
"They were creating enormous amounts of pressure," said Barrett, who retired from the department and is now a senior analyst for Centra Technology, an intelligence support firm in Arlington County. "You can't run an investigation and answer questions that the media is asking. I wanted to preserve the integrity of the investigation."
Gainer responded that he and Ramsey were simply trying to dispel rumors and keep reporters away from the detectives. "You have to balance the interests of the family and assuage the public's fears while giving the detectives and technicians room to work the case," Gainer said.
Ramsey, who is now chief of the Philadelphia Police Department, said there is no evidence linking Condit to the crime. "I have not seen anything that would lead me to believe he had anything to do with her murder," he said. "There is no evidence that he had any knowledge of her murder. There's no physical evidence; there's no statement; there's nothing."
The former chief is circumspect when asked why his department didn't focus sooner on Guandique, who Ramsey said would now be on "my short list of people I would have a very long conversation with." Ramsey said that it was "unfortunate we missed her body" during the original search, "because we could have found forensic evidence." But he said he couldn't have sent the entire police department to search for one missing woman.
Joe Green, the U.S. Park Police detective who interrogated Guandique after the Rock Creek Park attacks, remains troubled by the handling of the Chandra investigation. "I can't let it go," he said. "It was a solvable case." Retired now and working as a victim and witness coordinator for the Park Police, Green thinks that Guandique is the key suspect. He agrees that investigators were too focused on Condit. By the time they started to seriously look at Guandique, he said, it was too late.
Brad Garrett, the star FBI agent who was brought in to help D.C. police, thinks about the case often and has returned to the crime scene numerous times. Over time, he has become more interested in Guandique. To Garrett, the evidence points to a random attack by a stranger - someone like Guandique.
"You can't take him out of the case; you can't eliminate him," Garrett said.