“We thought we had the truth with Guandique, now I feel like I’m back to not knowing.If he didn’t do it, then who did kill my daughter?”
It was the 1st of May 2001. A Tuesday. Twenty four year old Chandra Levy had just spent her last weekend in Washington and was due to head back to California, United States. That afternoon, she left her apartment and was never seen again.
Chandra had been in Washington since the fall of 2000 on an internship for the Federal Bureau of Prisons during her final semester of Graduate school. She was due to return home to attend her graduation ceremony from the University of Southern California which was due to take place on the 11th of May.
Fiercely independent Chandra had worked hard to get the internship. She was raised on a ranch in a small town called Modesto with her younger brother Adam. Chandra worked hard in school while others around her spent time partying. As an undergraduate at San Francisco State University, she interned for the mayor of Los Angeles and as a graduate student at USC, she interned for the governor of California.
Her parents, Susan and Bob, spoke to her on the 1st of May but by the 6th of May they were concerned that she hadn't been in touch or responded to their calls so they reported her missing to the police.
Chandra as a child with Susan
Police discovered that Chandra was last seen on the 1st of May and that was also the last time her parents had heard from her. Police went to her apartment. Chandra lived in Dupont Circle. There was no sign of a forced entry and nothing inside the apartment appeared disturbed. Chandra's personal items were still there along with her suitcases that she had packed for returning home to California.
The investigation quickly focused on Chandra's personal life based on information that her father provided. He told police that his daughter was having an affair with US Congressman, Gary A. Condit. Gary was a fifty two year old married father of two children. Chandra was a constituent from his district in California. Chandra and her friend Jennifer Baker met him when they moved to Washington. Jennifer was another graduate student at the University of Southern California and he gave her an internship in his office.
Chandra, Gary and Jennifer
Chandra told a few people that she was dating Gary but he wanted to keep it private. She believed that he would give up his seat and divorce his wife so that he could be with her. But Gary denied that. He said he and Chandra became friends and said that she visited him and stayed over at his apartment. He told police that he did not know where Chandra was and had not seen her since the last week of April. He said that at that time she did not appear to be upset but she was unsure what her future plans were as she had lost her internship at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Gary believed she planned to go back to California.
It took around a month for police to finally retrieve Chandra's internet search history from her laptop. They discovered that the night before she went missing she searched Rock Creek Park and downloaded a map. It was an area that was used by walkers and joggers. Police searched the area but did not find any trace of Chandra or any evidence indicating what had happened to her.
Rock Creek Park
Despite the huge media attention, due to Chandra's connection to a congressman, there were no leads in the case until over a year later.
On the 22nd of May 2002, remains were found off the Western Trail near Glover Road in Rock Creek Park by a man walking his dog. Sunglasses and a Reebok sneaker was found on the ground and a pair of black Pro Spirit stretch pants turned inside out, each leg tied in a knot were discovered on the edge of the ravine. Chandra's body was found just 79 yards below the trail and just four miles from Chandra's apartment. It was an area that should have been searched by police a year earlier but had been missed.
Chandra's body was so badly decomposed that her cause of death was qualified as undetermined. However it was ruled a homicide and Dr Jonathan Arden said:
"She died through the actions of another person."
Police had no leads in the case. Gary had an alibi and was never named as a suspect. Despite that, he lost his bid for re-election in 2002.
The case went cold until 2009 when Ingmar Guandique, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador,was charged with Chandra Levy's murder. Ingmar had pleaded guilty to assaulting two female joggers in Rock Creek Park ,one shortly before Chandra went missing and the other shortly after. He assaulted them at knifepoint. But he denied being involved in Chandra's murder.
The case against Ingmar was a circumstantial case and the main witness for the Prosecution's case was Armando Morales. The Prosecution believed that Ingmar attacked Chandra, like he attacked the two other female joggers, and then tied her up and left her to die. Ingmar was in town when Chandra disappeared, he missed work the day she went missing.
Without the testimony of Armando, there would have been no case for Ingmar to answer. There was no forensic evidence in the case, no eyewitnesses and no murder weapon. Chandra's father testified however that he believed he had killed his daughter.
Bob and Susan Levy
Armando was a convicted felon and he said that he met Ingmar when they were both incarcerated in prison in Kentucky. He testified that Ingmar confessed that he killed Chandra.According to Armando, Ingmar saw Chandra in the park and planned to rob her:
“He said he hid up in the bushes,. He ran up behind her, grabbed her from behind, by the neck. He dragged her into the bushes. He said by the time he got her to the bushes that she had stopped struggling.”
Armando told the Court that Ingmar did not plan to kill Chandra, it was a botched robbery.
It took the Jury almost four days to reach a verdict. They found Ingmar guilty of first degree murder and he was sentenced to 60 years in prison. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Fisher said he believed that Ingmar was dangerous to society:
“I think he is essentially a sexual predator. The question is whether I conclude that he’s the worst of all the worst. I come close to that conclusion, but I don’t quite reach it.”
It had taken eight years for Chandra's family to get some answers but unfortunately the case was far from over.
A photo from the crime scene
Three years later, in 2012, Ingmar's lawyers sought a new Trial based on information they had received that Armando had lied when he testified that he had never previously cooperated with law enforcement authorities. A Prosecutor in California notified them that he had.
A second Trial was granted and Ingmar was given a new Trial date. But before that case ever began, Chandra's mother received a Facebook message from a woman called Babs Proller who told her she secretly recorded a conversation she had with Armando and he admitted his Trial testimony had just been made up. According to Babs, she met him by chance at the Country Inn and Suites in Annapolis.
Prosecutors listened to the recording and dismissed the murder charges against Ingmar. They said that they were no longer able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Armando denied that he said his testimony was made up.
Chandra's parents were devastated. They questioned Bab’s motives and said:
“I’m shocked at how something could unravel so fast. I’m distraught that the prosecutors dropped this case. It’s unbelievable that one person can disrupt so much.”
Ingmar was deported in 2017 to his native El Salvador.
Chandra's case remains unsolved. Her parents did not believe that she would have gone to the Park that day alone to jog. She was in the middle of packing for her trip home and was considering her options for the future. Due to mistakes made early on in the investigation, from taking over a month to retrieve some details from her laptop and not searching an area they were supposed to search, vital clues and evidence were missed.