The evidence in the case of U.S. v. Ingmar Guandique

The voices in evidence: Condit, Palmer, Guandique

Ingmar Guandique, 29, is on trial in D.C. Superior Court, charged with killing intern Chandra Levy, who disappeared in 2001 and whose remains were found in 2002 in Rock Creek Park (full coverage). At the time of her disappearance, Levy had been having an affair with California congressman Gary Condit, and for a time Condit was a suspect, which sparked a media frenzy in the nation's capital. Investigators eventually discounted Condit as a suspect, but it was not until last year that they charged Guandique, who had been convicted of attacking other women in Rock Creek Park in the summer of 2001.

Since late last month, a jury has been hearing evidence in the case against Guandique. But until now, the judge in the case, Gerald I. Fisher, has refused to provide access to the exhibits in the case, as attorneys for the news media contend Fisher must. After a First Amendment challenge by The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Gannett and the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, the judge has begun providing access to some of the exhibits, starting with several audio recordings that have been played in court.

The first recordings are messages left by Condit on Levy's answering machine in May 2001. The next recording is of the 911 call placed by the man who found Levy's remains in 2002. And the final recording is of a call Guandique placed from a prison to a woman who had agreed to be his pen pal but changed her mind after he told her about a dead girl.

“Sorry, I’ve been tied up for the last few days.”

Gary Condit

Chandra Levy is thought to have disappeared May 1, 2001, not long before she was to travel home to California. Before leaving Washington, Levy was supposed to meet up with the man she had been having an affair with, congressman Gary Condit, whose liaisons with the 24-year-old intern made him an early suspect in her disappearance. Levy had wanted to talk to Condit about her interest in a career in law enforcement or intelligence.

When he called, Condit was trying to catch Levy and set up a time to meet before she left for California, he testified this month at Guandique’s trial. But the meeting never took place. On May 2 or May 3, Condit left two messages for Levy on the answering machine at her 21st Street NW apartment, he has testified. In the first, he was trying to arrange a time to meet. In the second, he was assuming, having not heard back from Levy, that she'd already left Washington.

Below are audio recordings of the answering machine messages, first played in public in D.C. Superior Court.

First message
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Second message
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“Are you sure?”

Police dispatcher

For more than a year, Levy had been missing and presumed dead. Then on May 22, 2002, a man named Philip Palmer, who was a regular visitor to Rock Creek Park, came across something as he and his dog walked near the Western Ridge Trial in the middle of the 1,754-acre park.

It was a human skull, and it was, police would later say, Levy's. In an investigation that had been marred by one lapse after another, the discovery of the skull was a breakthrough, although it would be followed by still more lapses, and it would be years before anyone was charged with killing Levy.

Below is the recording of the 911 call that Palmer made to the U.S. Park Police, first played in public in D.C. Superior Court.

911 call
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“The thing is there’s a murder ...”

Maria Mendez

While in prison in 2003 for the assaults of two women in Rock Creek Park, Ingmar Guandique wrote a letter to Maria Mendez, a Florida woman who had been a pen pal to other inmates. Mendez began a correspondence with Guandique, but after he responded to her request for information about why he was incarcerated, she was troubled, she has said, by his reference to a dead girl.

Mendez wrote to Guandique to tell him she would no longer correspond with him, but before her letter reached him, he called her collect.

Excerpts of the telephone conversation, which was in Spanish, were played in court this month in the course of Mendez’s testimony as a witness. An English-language transcript of the excerpts was produced by prosecutors and accompanies the playback of this recording.

Guandique’s prison call

Excerpt 1 (Spanish)

Mendez is clearly surprised by Guandique’s call. She makes small talk at first but tries to break the news to him that she’s too scared to be pen pals with him.

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Excerpt 2 (Spanish)

Guandique admits he's “shy.”

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Excerpt 3 (Spanish)

She continues to ask Guandique about himself, but she also tries to put some distance between her and the much-younger man.

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Excerpt 4 (Spanish)

Mendez tells Guandique she is scared of him. He tries to take the conversation in another direction, asking Mendez how old she is.

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Excerpt 5 (Spanish)

Guandique opens up.

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