Who killed Chandra Levy? That question might now return to haunt the American public as it did in 2001.
In May of 2001 Chandra Levy, a 23-year-old intern with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, left her apartment dressed for a workout.
She never returned.
Her parents had been expecting her to confirm her travel arrangements with them as she prepared to return to her home town in California at the end of her internship. When they did not hear from her they contacted the D.C. police department.
That call set in motion an investigation that would obsess the nation and destroy a political career. For unlike the many young women that tragically go missing every year, Chandra Levy was the mistress of congressman Gary Condit, a rising star in the Democratic party.
Condit had seduced her using the same banal lies that married men have fed gullible young girls since the dawn of matrimony: I'm going to divorce my wife. We'll run away and start a new life together.
When the investigation of her disappearance revealed their relationship, the country buzzed with gossip. Did Condit kill her?
By July of 2001 polls showed that 63% of the American public was closely following the case. It was the last big story of the long, hot summer prior to 9/11, with news agencies as far away as China and Great Britain reporting on new developments.
(You can read an excellent summary of the case in this Washington Post series.)
Then four hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, and the story disappeared from the headlines.
Ms. Levy's remains were found by a dog-walker in Rock Creek Park in May, 2002, 386 days after she was first reported missing. By then, only a few scattered bones and scraps of clothing were left, half-buried under a year's worth of fallen leaves.
Ingmar Guandique, an illegal immigrant who had sneaked into the United States from El Salvador, was eventually charged with her murder. Guandique, already serving time for attacking two other women in Rock Creek Park, had told a park ranger that he had seen Ms. Levy in the Park and found her attractive.
The state of Ms. Levy's remains meant that DNA and other forensic proof did not exist.
Guandique was convicted of the crime, but maintains he is innocent. He has been trying to appeal the conviction.
Now it appears Guandique will get his day in court on February 7, 2013- though not in the way he imagined:
Federal prosecutors and lawyers for the man convicted of murdering 24-year-old former congressional intern Chandra Levy have met twice since December for secret court hearings about new information that could undercut the testimony of a prosecution witness. The court has closed off the hearings to public view — on one occasion locking the courtroom doors — and has ordered that legal filings be sealed.
Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher has summoned Guandique to appear at a Feb. 7 court hearing.
Initial reports revealing the proceedings included this cryptic quote from the presiding judge:
"The hearing addresses issues about
information that has come to the government's attention that may provide
impeachment about one of its witnesses at trial, and the possible disclosure of
that information may create safety issues that I have concluded are somewhat
substantial here," D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher said during a brief
public portion of a Dec. 18 hearing, according to McClatchy reporter Michael
Doyle, who was in the hearing room.
So far, no news outlet has speculated about what the "safety issues" might be. Who would be at risk?
A witness? The two other women that Guandique attacked testified at trial.
Ms Levy's surviving family? Authorities eventually exonerated Condit, but conspiracy theorists are frothing over recent events.
Instead, reports are highlighting Armano Morales, the cellmate who told authorities that Guandique had confessed to the crime. Morales' original tale featured Condit offering Guandique $25,000 to kill Ms. Levy. Police rejected the Condit connection, but after comparing the location and manner of Guandique's previous attacks, investigators made Guandique their prime suspect.
The unspoken assumption in the press is that Morales is at the center of recent court activity:
Because there was little to no physical evidence in Levy's death, the case
against Ingmar Guandique was largely built on the testimony of witnesses,
including that of an inmate, Armando Morales, who claimed Guandique told him he
killed Levy. If Morales' testimony is untrue, the whole case could fall apart.
But at this time it is unclear if Morales is the witness in question.
Judge Fisher has sealed all court records and issued a gag order. Even Ms. Levy's parents have not been told the nature of the proceedings.
Their response to the situation has been heartbreakingly reasonable:No matter what goes on, our daughter is dead," said Susan Levy, the victim's
mother. "It doesn't really matter except that they get the right
"He's a convicted rapist and an illegal alien. He's not legal at all or
working or anything. He's just a criminal, so he shouldn't go free," Robert Levy
said. "But if he's innocent of murder then he shouldn't be in jail for it."
Major press organizations are joining together to demand that Judge Fisher open proceedings to the public.