A Walk in the Woods
Who Killed Chandra Levy?
Who Killed Chandra Levy?
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For more than a week, Mobile Crime Unit technicians and police recruits conducted a search of the woods around Chandra's remains. They sifted through dirt and leaves and brought in cadaver dogs. They found small bones and some teeth. They also found a silver-colored lipstick case with the lipstick intact, a foam-rubber shoe lining and a dirty white sock.


Two weeks later, on June 6, 2002, the private investigators hired by the Levy family took a drive to Rock Creek Park. The police had finished their search, and the retired D.C. homicide detectives, Dwayne Stanton and J.T. "Joe" McCann, wanted to have a look. They brought a shovel, an ax and two rakes.

About an hour and a half into their search, McCann began to look in an area about 25 yards from where Palmer found Chandra's skull. He raked some leaves and spotted what appeared to be a 12- to 14-inch bone embedded in the dirt. It turned out to be Chandra's left tibia. McCann and Stanton called their former employer, the D.C. police department.

Ramsey was incredulous, then furious. He demanded to know how his crime-scene technicians missed the bone. He launched an internal review of the incident and lit into Alfred J. Broadbent, the assistant police chief who was ultimately in charge of the search and the Chandra investigation. Broadbent wanted Ramsey to go to the scene to see the difficult terrain for himself, but the chief was not interested.

Top police officials were already red-faced: During the initial searches of the park the year before, they had missed Chandra's remains. Now, Ramsey sent search teams back into the woods, along with a zoologist to explore animal burrows and other locations that might have been overlooked.

The police issued a news release that said there was a "strong possibility" that the bone was moved. "It appears that department technicians did not pass over the bone during the original search," the release said. "There appears to be a greater likelihood that the bone was reintroduced into the area by wildlife."

The area in Rock Creek Park where Chandra Levy's skeletal remains were found (Lois Raimondo - Post)

D.C. police couldn't believe that McCann and Stanton found something they had missed. The detectives asked McCann to take a polygraph exam. He refused, insulted by the insinuation that he might have tampered with a crime scene.

The detectives then turned their attention to Palmer, asking him whether he might have taken the bone and returned it when he realized it was part of a crime scene. Palmer provided a videotaped statement denying that he tampered with the bone.

The police department was ridiculed again when their own search teams went back and found more remains: small bones from Chandra's hands, feet and back, a heel bone, and a femur, the largest bone in the human body. It was discovered 170 feet west of the crime scene.

The discoveries highlighted long-standing problems within the understaffed and under-budgeted Mobile Crime Unit. Training was inconsistent, and equipment was lacking. Some technicians used their own money to buy markers, cotton swabs and evidence bags. Gainer, the department's second in command, acknowledged that his police force was not "forensically oriented."


The D.C. detectives and the FBI now had a murder on their hands and few clues to follow. Investigators turned to Kim Rossmo, director of research for the Police Foundation in Washington, who was known for his work as a geographical profiler. He had created a widely respected computerized method of analyzing patterns in murders, rapes, arsons and other crimes.

See 360 degree views of several important sites in the Chandra Levy investigation.

When Rossmo looked into Chandra's case, he became particularly interested in Guandique and the violent crimes he committed in Rock Creek Park. Rossmo noted that around the time of Chandra's disappearance, the Salvadoran immigrant lived on the outskirts of the park and attacked two women with a knife on isolated trails that traversed steep inclines. Such serial attacks were rare in the park, and they had stopped after Guandique was arrested.

To Rossmo, statistically, behaviorally and geographically, Guandique looked like he might be their man.

"This is not evidence, but both attacks were on women, and the geography and the time period match the attack on Chandra," Rossmo would later tell The Washington Post. "When you consider the relatively low violent crime rate in Rock Creek Park, Guandique stands out like a neon sign."

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Next chapter: D.C. police pursue the Guandique lead. In-depth preview
The Washington Post spent a year reconstructing the disappearance of Chandra Levy and the investigation of her death. Reporters interviewed scores of people, including police officials, investigators and suspects - many for the first time - and obtained details about dozens of previously unknown private conversations and events.

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