How Police 'Focused' on Guandique
A flawed polygraph test initially helped "diffuse" suspicion away from a Salvadoran day laborer in the Chandra Levy case, which rocked the Washington area in the summer of 2001.
But when her remains were found May 22, 2002, along a hillside in Rock Creek Park, investigators immediately associated the crime scene with two attacks committed by 27-year-old Ingmar A. Guandique. As criminal profiler Kim Rossmo said after examining Chandra's case, "When you consider the relatively low violent crime rate in Rock Creek Park, Guandique stands out like a neon sign."
Guandique, then 21, was already in prison for the assaults of two female joggers in Rock Creek Park around the time Levy's remains were found and investigators began questioning him in connection with her disappearance. Investigators sent the clothes he had been wearing upon his July 1, 2001, arrest -- dark, knee-length baggy shorts with a white stripe on each side -- to an FBI laboratory in Washington for DNA tests. Police also interviewed Guandique's brother, Huber, several times, pressing him to give them clothing samples.
For a year, media attention had focused on a congressman with whom the 24-year-old Levy had been having an affair: Rep. Gary A. Condit. But the media frenzy surrounding Condit hurt the investigation, according to Jack Barrett, former D.C. chief of detectives.
Last year, former D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey acknowledged the lack of evidence that Condit "knew anything or had anything to do with Chandra's disappearance." When asked why his department hadn't focused on Guandique sooner, Ramsey said it was "unfortunate we missed her body" during the original search, "because we could have found forensic evidence."
A 13-part series published in The Washington Post last summer refocused attention on the Guandique connection. As Post reporters Sari Horwitz, Scott Higham and Sylvia Moreno said in their reporters' notebook series, the team "began this investigation of Chandra Levy's murder with an open mind about the case and who the prime suspect might be. We conducted a year of interviews - with many people who never have spoken publicly before - and an analysis of thousands of pages of documents. The evidence strongly suggests Chandra was attacked in Rock Creek Park by a stranger."
The series detailed a host of evidence and mistakes made in the Levy case that seemed to point to Guandique as a suspect:
- Guandique told Detective Joe Green that he saw Levy in Rock Creek Park.
- On the day Levy disappeared, Guandique did not show up for work, investigators discovered.
- The D.C. police and the prosecutors working on the Chandra Levy case never interviewed the two women who were attacked in the park by Guandique -- Halle Shilling and Christy Wiegand.
- The contents of Guandique's confidential pre-sentencing report that included the statement: "When I'm about to commit an offense, I tell myself to go ahead and do it, but afterwards I feel bad about it... Sometimes, I cannot control myself when I see someone alone in a secluded area with something of value."
- A jailhouse informant said Guandique allegedly told him that Condit paid him $25,000 to kill Levy. The informant later failed a polygraph exam.
- The first U.S. Park Police official on the Chandra Levy crime scene said it reminded him of the scene where Guandique attacked Wiegand on July 1, 2001.
- Police investigating the Chandra case did not visit one of the Guandique attack scenes until more than a year after Guandique's arrest.
- From the time of Guandique's arrest, it took police 13 months to interview Guandique's ex-girlfriend and her mother. The two said Guandique had violent tendencies and he was asked to leave their home in the spring of 2001.
- From the time of Guandique's arrest, it took police 14 months to interview Guandique's landlady, who said he looked as if he had been in a bad fight around the time of Chandra's disappearance on May 1, 2001. She also said she had thrown out two bags of Guandique's belongings that summer.
Still, Guandique has maintained his innocence, telling The Post in an interview from prison that had "never seen her, and I don't understand the reason why the police started to suspect me. . . . I have nothing to do with the death of that girl. I am innocent, and I am not afraid of the police investigation."
But today, nearly eight years after Levy originally disappeared, D.C. police announced that they are charging Guandique with first-degree murder in Levy's death.
By Derek Kravitz |
March 3, 2009; 3:07 PM ET
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