Levy's remains shown to jurors
Update, 3:30 p.m.:
A small bone in the neck of the skeletal remains recovered in the Chandra Levy investigation had been broken, but a Smithsonian expert who examined the bone, known as the hyoid, testified Tuesday afternoon that it was impossible to say how the fracture occurred.
Appearing in the trial of the man charged with killing Levy, David Hunt, a forensic anthropologist, said the hyoid bone could have been broken in the course of strangulation, as prosecutors have alleged.
But Hunt said the bone, which is about as thick as a toothpick, could have fractured when the skull rolled down a hill away from much of the rest of the remains or could have been broken by an animal, though he said the involvement of an animal was less likely.
Hunt said that when the hyoid does break during strangulation, the victim is typically older than Levy, who was 24 when she disappeared in May 2001. Remains believed to be Levy's were discovered just over a year later in Rock Creek Park.
Ingmar Guandique, who was charged last year with killing Levy, is on trial in D.C. Superior Court.
Prosecutors have been unable in recent weeks to locate the hyoid bone among the evidence collected in the case, and that has led defense attorneys to try to limit the scope of questioning about the bone.
While Hunt's testimony offered the defense an opportunity to suggest alternatives to the government's theory of how Levy died, Hunt did bolster the prosecution's efforts to establish that the remains were indeed Levy's.
Hunt said he had compared dental X-rays taken before Levy's death to dental X-rays taken of the remains and had found nine points of reference that identify the remains as those of Levy. "They are very consistent with one another," Hunt said.
Photographs of the skull and other skeletal remains that are believed to be Chandra Levy's were presented to jurors today in D.C. Superior Court, as a forensic anthropologist from the Smithsonian testified in the trial of the man charged with killing Levy.
Though the scientist, David Hunt, spoke in clinical terms and dispassionate tones, the images cast a pall over the courtroom on the sixth day of testimony in the trial of Ingmar Guandique.
Susan Levy, who had watched this morning as the jury was shown poster-sized images of the clothes prosecutors believe her daughter was wearing when she was killed, was not in the courtroom this afternoon when images of the remains were shown.
In a case without physical evidence linking Guandique to Levy, prosecutors have had to expend considerable effort establishing that it was Levy's remains found in Rock Creek Park on May 22, 2002, a little more than a year after the 24-year-old former federal intern vanished.
Today's testimony by Hunt, who was summoned to the park by police that day,was one piece of that effort. Hunt said he had examined the remains and says they belong to a white female between the ages of 19 and 27. Hunt also said the woman's face showed evidence of a nose fracture consistent with surgery that Levy is known to have had.
Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines if he could determine how much time had elapsed since the person died, Hunt said that that would be difficult to do with much precision, but that it had been more than six months and less than two-and-a-half or three years. He estimated it was a year to 18 months.
Earlier today, an FBI forensic expert, Cary Oien, testified about hair and fibers retrieved from tights, panties and other garments found in Rock Creek Park and believed to have been Levy's.
Maria Hawilo, one of Guandiquie's defense attorneys, and Haines each sought to use the testimony of Oien to bolster their case, with Hawilo highlighting the fact that none of the evidence recovered had been linked to Guandique, and Haines noting that an assailant would not have necessarily shed any hair in the course of a struggle.
Hunt will be back on the stand this afternoon after the lunch recess.
-- Henri Cauvin
Washington Post editors
| November 2, 2010; 3:31 PM ET
Categories: Chandra Levy, From the Courthouse, Homicide
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