WASHINGTON – Nearly eight years after Chandra Levy stepped out of her Dupont Circle apartment on a warm May day and disappeared without a word, District of Columbia police Tuesday charged an illegal immigrant from El Salvador with killing her near a remote hiking trail deep in Rock Creek Park.
Ingmar Guandique, 27, serving a 10-year prison sentence for attacking two other women at knifepoint in the park around the time of Chandra’s disappearance, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Levy, a 24-year-old federal government intern from California.
Her disappearance in May 2001 triggered an international sensation because she had been having an affair with her local congressman, Gary Condit, who immediately fell under suspicion despite a lack of credible evidence implicating him.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier and Mayor Adrian Fenty said during a news conference that the evidence against Guandique was gathered by a new set of detectives and prosecutors who reinvigorated what had become a cold case. They said the charge was first-degree murder because it was committed during an act of first-degree sexual abuse.
Key among the new evidence outlined in the police affidavit released Tuesday were statements from several unidentified witnesses who said that Guandique confessed to them that he brutally attacked, assaulted and killed Levy in the park.
One witness, interviewed late last year, said he had communicated with Guandique many times through letters and that Guandique wrote that he was “responsible for the murder of a young woman.” In a taped telephone conversation with that witness, Guandique confirmed that he had told the witness about the “girl who was dead,” the affidavit states.
Another witness told police last November that he had known Guandique for many years and that Guandique boasted that he was a member of the Salvadoran gang MS-13. He was allegedly known in the gang as “Chuckie” because he had a reputation for “killing and chopping up people,” the witness said.
Guandique allegedly told the witness that he had attacked and raped many women after lying in wait on a dirt path in the park. He would grab the women, tie them up and sexually assault them, according to the witness.
During one of the conversations with that witness, Guandique allegedly said that he and two other men were in the park when they saw a female jogger who “looked Italian with thick, dark hair.” One of the men jumped in front of her, and Guandique grabbed her around the neck and dragged her to a secluded area. Once in the woods, the men knocked the woman unconscious, tied her feet, assaulted her and killed her.
Police also said that during a recent search of Guandique’s cell they found a photograph of Levy, apparently torn from a magazine.