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Posted at 1:15 PM ET, 10/25/2010

Testimony begins in Levy case

By Washington Post editors

Update, 1:10 p.m.:

Opening statements are complete and testimony has begun.

One of the women attacked by Ingmar Guandique in Rock Creek Park in 2001 took the witness stand Monday afternoon to recount her harrowing encounter with the man on trial and charged with murder in the death of Chandra Levy.

Halle Shilling, who now lives in Southern California, struggled at first to remain composed on the stand as Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines began questioning her.

With the courtroom silent, Shilling walked the jury through the beginning of her jog from near Pierce Mill, explaining how she noticed a man watching her as she set off on a secluded trail.

"He was creepy," she said. "He was watching me. His head tracked me as I ran by."

But then she forgot about him. When what she thought was another runner turned up behind her, she became self-conscious about her pace and finally decided to let him pass.

But when she slowed down, she was set upon.

"I felt an incredible thud as he jumped onto my back," she said. "I tried to turn around. I screamed 'No.' I screamed 'No,' over and over again."

Asked by Haines how loud she screamed, Shilling said, "I screamed as loud as I knew how to scream."

When she was finally able to turn around, she saw a face she immediately recognized.

"It was the man who had been sitting on the curb," she said. "I saw the face, I saw the hair."

It dawned on her how in danger she was, she said. She was in a remote part of the park, shrouded behind full trees, and the sounds of the creek and passing traffic drowned out her cries.

"At that point, I realized that I was in a very remote part of the park," she said. "I knew that no one could hear, no one could hear me."

So she fought.

She was 30 at the time. Se is 5-foot-10 and about 160 pounds. She was taller and heavier than her assailant. But he was stronger, she said.

"I was fighting him off of me," she said. As they struggled, Guandique tried to quiet her, she said. "He was saying 'shhh' over and over again."

And then, she said, she saw a knife -- silver with a black handle, four or five inches long. "When I saw the knife I fought harder, because I was, I was scared."

In an instant, they fell to the ground. After a moment of panic, lessons from a long-ago self defense class came rushing back, she said. Her feet, clad in soft running shoes, were not ideal weapons. So she opted for another tactic. "I shoved my hand into his mouth and I clenched my hand and scratched and squeezed as hard as I could."

Guandique bit her hard, she said. "It broke the skin, but it didn't matter. I didn't feel anything."

Then it stopped, she said. "He froze," she said. And then he ran.

It had all lasted a minute or two, she said.

She ran in the other direction and soon encountered two other joggers, who took her to the police.

After a brief cross-examination by the defense, which raised the issue the amount of time since the attack, prosecutor Haines asked if she had any difficulty recalling the events of almost a decade ago.

"No," she said, starting to cry, "I don't."

Guandique was convicted of the attack on Shilling.

Original Post:

Opening statements in the trial of the man accused of killing Chandra Levy nearly a decade ago in Rock Creek Park began Monday morning in D.C. Superior Court.

With the jury of 12 women and four men listening, in a courtroom packed to capacity, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines wasted no time in linking defendant Ingmar Guandique to other Rock Creek Park attacks and those attacks to to the May 1, 2001, disappearance of Levy who prosecutors say ventured into the park never to be heard from again.

"Who is the face in the shadows? Who is following her," Haines said. "This man, Ingmar Guandique."

Maria Hawilo, one of Guandique's defense attorneys, attacked the government's case in the defense's opening statement, saying it is built on assumptions about his past and the word of informants in search of deals.

Hawilo said Guandique is not guilty.

"Nothing that happens during this trial will prove that he is," Hawilo said in a statement that was pointed and brief.

Evidence of the other attacks is expected to be central to the government's case and Haines said the jury would hear from the other victims.

Halle Shilling, who was attacked in the park two weeks after Levy disappeared, is to testify today, Haines said, and will recall her harrowing attack.

"She screamed as loud as she could, 'help me, somebody please help me, " Haines told the jury.

Hawilo said Levy's death was tragic, but that Guandique had nothing to do with it.

"He did not rob her. He did not rape her. He did not kill her. "

"What you have just heard is the government's theory, but it's just that - a theory."

As expected, Hawilo gave a brief catalog of the police errors that plagued the investigation into Levy's death, among them the failure to enlist cadaver dogs in the search for Levy's body.

"Ladies and gentlemen, after all the missteps, after all the mistakes, they want to say they have the right man," Hawilo said.

"They can't fix the failures, they can't undo their mistakes

More than once in her opening statement, she referred to the lack of physical evidence linking Guandique and more than once she assailed the credibility of the jailhouse informants who are expected to testify for the government.

Hawilo acknowledged Guandique's other crimes, but said the jury not assume that that makes him guilty in Levy's death.

-- Henri Cauvin

(This post has been updated.)

More on this story: Full coverage | Major events | Key players

By Washington Post editors  | October 25, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  Chandra Levy, From the Courthouse, Homicide, The District  
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Why on earth has it taken so long for this trial to begin?

Posted by: sierrabloom | October 25, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I agree with SierraBloom. They knew this guy attacked people in the park. Why, 10 years later, is this trial finally happening? Swift justice? I'm going to guess that the defense has continued it in hopes that people forget, people die, things get lost, DNA gets corrupted. It's the mode d'emploi of most defense lawyers these days.

Posted by: HookedOnThePost | October 25, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Had DC not become essentially a sanctuary city 2+ decades ago, the metro area would not now be so overrun with illegals, which gave rise to the unstoppable MS-13 gangs. One thing's for sure, all area women would've been safer from Little Ingmar Guandique and his gang's favorite social activity: rape and murder of women out for a Rock Creek run on a nice day. It's difficult enough for females to safely go about their business in the metro area without scum like this and all his brethren holding the area hostage. How's that policy now working for 'ya Maryland?

Posted by: streetnoise | October 25, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Shouldn't we be compassionate liberals and grant amnesty to Ingmar Guandique?? After all, he is a hard working illegal alien rapist who kills women when most Americans are unwilling to do so.

Posted by: 77316 | October 25, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Oh, please. Have you people ever heard of "cold cases"? There are thousands of unsolved homicides in DC alone - not to mention nationwide. This has nothing to do with defense lawyers. Instead, real detective work is a lot more difficult than television and is often unsuccessful. You people are too influenced by CSI and Law and Order.

PS: The right to a speedy trial is for defendants -- not prosecutors.

Posted by: darrren12000 | October 25, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Given the number of absolutely racist and insensitive comments in the crime section of the WaPo, I am surprised that the blog editor deleted my original post. I assume it was an "accident," and I am reconstructing it.

Basically, I am appalled that the WaPo continues to give exhorbitant coverage to this trial. Articles in the WaPo itself state that over 4000 unsolved homicides were on the books in DC in 2007. Most of those remain unsolved today.

If you visit the DC Police Department website, you can see short stories on these cases, along with pictures of the victims. Nearly all of them are black (poor) men.

Over 90% of DC homicides involve black males. Despite this fact, a white woman is the most famous DC homicide. Nothing except a lack of concern for the lives of poor persons of color can explain such a stark disparity.

This does not violate your posting standard, so please do not accidentally delete it again.

Posted by: darrren12000 | October 25, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

to the first two posters here, the better question would be how on earth is this going to trial period? The government does not have one shred of credible evidence to get into the same universe wherein the burden of proof resides, let alone meet that burden. Plain and simple they cannot prove this case, they are spending tax dollars betting that they can rely on the sympathies of a jury made up of people who are too dumb to think or too lazy to care. Absent that, they will lose. This man should not be locked up for this crime. I'm not convinced he did it, and the government certainly has nowhere near enough evidence to persuade any objective reasonal person that he did. Hope this gets dismissed promptly. People should not be charged for serious crimes or for illegal parking in America when there is such a paucity of evidence. These kinds of prosecutions are disgusting.

Posted by: red2million | October 25, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

and hookedonthepost did you actually read the article? there's no one to die or forget there are ZERO witnesses, and there is no DNA evidence that can be lost or compromised. The government has NO FORENSIC EVDINCE OF ANY KIND. NO WITNESSES. They have "He's attacked people before" and they have jail house snitches who get rewarded for saying he told them he did it. Would you like to be facing life in prison based on that evidence? Would you be saying hurry up and prosecute me then? I think not.

Posted by: red2million | October 25, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

And darrren12000 - I agree that the Post does little justice to the mostly minority anonymous/invisible D.C. victims. But for those of us who are sick and tired of our community schools, hospitals, jails, welfare systems being overwhelmed by illegal alien families...this free advertisement against amnesty for illegals is most welcome. Just like the Post's continued coverage of the DUI illegal alien (Carlos Montano) who recently whacked the Virginia is an on-going reminder of how harmful illegal immigration is for American communities. U.S. citizens deserve to know that illegal aliens are killing fellow Americans. Thank you Washington Post.

Posted by: 77316 | October 25, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

This wonderful gangbanger needs to be convicted, regardless of the evidence.

Posted by: password11 | October 25, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

What a brave, brave woman. Thank God and Jesus she had the wherewithal to remember her self-defense lessons and fight back. Good for her, I hope she has found peace. And God bless her for taking the time to come back to DC to testify.

What a piece of absolute filth--I hope he goes to jail for the rest of his life. Complete animal. What the heck is out about some men, they just HAVE to attack women, they HAVE to hurt them? Jumping on her from BEHIND? God, I get so furious just thinking about it--what in God's name is WRONG with a man who would do something like that? Why? That poor woman was just enjoying herself, running through the park. Pond scum.

Posted by: NYC123 | October 25, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Seems like a case of "rounding up the usual suspects." I still want to know: WHY did she look at a map of the park, and then GO to the park? Had somebody phoned her? Made a date for an assignation in the park--somebody who wanted to keep the relationship secret? Did that somebody object to the fact of her pregnancy? Can this Grandique answer THOSE questions? Plus, this guy did not kill the other victims. Something does not fit here.

Posted by: IIntgrty | October 25, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

"Why on earth has it taken so long for this trial to begin?"

Because the frijolero didn't confess to his cellmates until fairly recently, in relation to the murder.

Posted by: d_cisle | October 25, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Has there not been enough movies about women running in secluded areas alone and getting raped and killed. Are there women still that stupid to be running alone in secluded areas. This is not a perfect world, you should never run alone on these trails.

Posted by: | October 25, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

SOS .victim NO JUSTICE,criminal thing 3 hots and a cot,free med,tv etc etc. suspect,alleged for ten year. try this disgusting human and fry him

Posted by: pofinpa | October 25, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

streetnoise: the fact that this accused person is an illegal is not at all relevant. There are many rapists that are born here as well, and there are also many illegals who do not commit crimes (other than being illegally here).

BTW, I assume you are 100% Native American? What tribe to you belong too?

Posted by: RedBear57 | October 25, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of whether this POS killed Levy or not, he was an illegal, and should have been convicted of his other crimes and deported long ago. Ten years is ridiculous.

I am also intrigued by the fact that Levy apparently checked a map before going to a park that she knew well. I'm betting it's because she was meeting someone at a particular spot. I'm also betting that Gary Condit's wife knows a lot more about her husband's affair than has ever been divulged previously. Assuming either one of the Condits are indeed involved in Levy's murder, the real guilty party is her aunt, who knew she was having an affair with a married man (possibly even knew it was Condit) and didn't expose it.

Posted by: flintston | October 25, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Miss Shilling experienced a horrible attack and was spared her life by her quick thinking. Had she been trained in the use of a firearm and been allowed to carry it, she could have disposed of her attacker and there would be no need for a trial. She knew something wasn't right with the attacker tracking her. Big red flag. To many women are attacked in this country. Only the victim can take action at the time of the attack. It's a fight for life. It shouldn't be their life that is lost. Women, be smart, arm yourselves.

Posted by: rsdevero | October 25, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

I don't feel that much sympathy for this guy, but which crime is he on trial for?

Seems like the government's case is to say that he committed other crimes, so we should convict him of this one as well.

In terms of physical evidence, they have about as much as they had against Gary Condit.

Posted by: postfan1 | October 25, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

al Qaeda killed Chandra when she lunged for the gun that was pointed at Condit.

The warden and prosecutors have spent the last few years building Guandique's status in the prison as the murderer of Chandra Levy. So he'll accept his life as big, bad criminal and the government will have the Levy problem solved.

Posted by: blasmaic | October 25, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Wow. I've been on a jury where Ms. Haines was the prosecutor - she's tough. For those of you who've never served, trust me when I tell you that circumstantial evidence can convict a person, and can be damning and highly credible. I don't know all of the specifics, but I wouldn't assume Haines doesn't have a case.

Posted by: rhalter3633 | October 25, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

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