Is Gary Condit Worth Another Look? New Questions in Chandra Levy’s Unsolved Murder.

written by C.W.S

Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Chandra Levy’s 2001 murder went unsolved for almost ten years. Six days after her disappearance, Chandra’s father told police that his daughter was having an affair with a US congressman, and the next day he had a name: Gary Condit. An unprecedented media frenzy followed, making the case perhaps the most infamous in the Washington DC area. Condit, a democratic representative from California's 18th congressional district, was 30 years older than Chandra, and would never publically admit to the affair. The case was closed in 2010, with the conviction of Ingmar Guandique, an undocumented man from El Salvador. But now, six years later, the charges have been dropped, and the case is again unsolved.

Chandra’s Disappearance

Chandra was new to the Washington DC area. She had grown up in Southern California and was a master’s student at the University of Southern California, pursuing a degree in public administration. She took an internship with the Bureau of Prisons in DC, hoping to eventually get a job with the FBI.

The day that Chandra disappeared was May 1, 2001, and Chandra was 24-years-old. It wasn’t until May 6th that Chandra’s parents contacted the DC area police from California and said they hadn’t spoken to their daughter in five days.

While police looked for leads, Robert and Susan Levy were conducting an investigation of their own back in California. While going through cellphone records, they discovered that Chandra had called the office of Gary Condit many times. The same day that he contacted the police, Robert Levy also called Condit. They spoke later that day, and Condit said that Chandra was a friend of one of his former interns. He offered to contribute money to a reward fund and said wanted to help in any way he could. After the phone call, Susan Levy told her husband she believed that her daughter was having a relationship with Condit. Two days later, Chandra’s aunt confirmed their suspicions, telling police that Chandra had confided in her about the affair.

The family contacted the detective who was working the case, Ralph Durant. Durant contacted Condit, who said that Chandra would sometimes call him for career advice, but that he hadn’t spoken with her for ten days. Condit was married and denied any romantic connection with Chandra.

On May 10th, the police were granted a warrant and searched Chandra’s apartment. They found no evidence of a struggle, though they did find her purse, full of essential items—phone, credit cards, and ID. They also found multiple suitcases that had been partially packed. Two messages on her answering machine were from Condit.

Chandra’s aunt also told authorities that Chandra told her that Condit forbid her to bring an ID when she would go to his apartment.

Police interviewed Anne Marie Smith, and it was revealed that she was involved in an affair with Condit. Condit allegedly spoke further with police on July 7th, and admitted to the affair with Chandra. On July 10th, police searched Condit’s apartment. He was cleared as a suspect, but the Levy family expressed publically that they felt he was hiding things from the police.

A search of Chandra’s personal computer revealed that she had researched the Pierce-Klingle Mansion in Rock Creek Park, an area twice as big as New York’s Central Park. She also visited pages for Amtrak, Baskin-Robbins, Southwest Airlines, Gary Condit, and a Washington Post weather report.

Two searches of the park were conducted in July, but police were unable to find anything related to Chandra. The media continued to weigh in on the case, and Condit was their main topic of interest. That July, Fox News presented a poll that claimed that 44% of Americans believed that Condit was guilty. But when the September 11th attacks struck the nation, the case largely disappeared from the media.

Chandra’s remains are found

It wasn’t until the following year that Chandra’s remains were found near Broad Branch Creek in Rock Creek Park. A man discovered her skeletal remains in late May 2002, while searching for turtles with his dog. The body had to be taken in for dental records, and they were indeed the remains of Chandra Levy. Police also uncovered Chandra’s sports bra, sweatshirt, tights, and tennis shoes near the site of her body. Her death was declared a homicide, but there was little physical evidence left to work with. The police noted that Chandra’s tights were knotted, as if she had been restrained with them.

The Informant and the trial

Before Chandra’s remains were discovered, the lawyer of a man named Armando Morales contacted police. The man, who was serving time in a DC area jail, claimed to have valuable information about Chandra. He told investigators that his former cellmate, Ingmar Guandique, an undocumented 20-year-old man from El Salvador, had been paid $25,000 by Condit to kill Chandra. Because Guandique had already admitted to attacking two other women in Rock Creek Park, investigators cleared Condit as a suspect, but continued to investigate Guandique.

Guandique denied having anything to do with Chandra’s disappearance. Both men were given polygraph examinations; Morales failed and Guandique passed. Judge Noel Anketell Kramer, the judge who sentenced Guandique to ten years for the assaults on the two other women, expressed her opinion that he did not have anything to do with Chandra’s disappearance. The trial began in October 2010, with no physical evidence linking him to the crime scene. One of the two women that he was already serving time for attacking in Rock Creek Park, testified that Guandique had grabbed her from behind while she was jogging, held a knife to her face, and dragged her down into a ravine.

It was the testimony of the prosecution’s star witness that would ultimately get Guandique convicted. Morales stated that Guandique told him, “Homeboy, I killed the b----, but I didn’t rape her.” The reason for this confession, Morales told the jury, was that Guandique was worried about being transferred to a different prison due to the influx of violence against convicted rapists. The defense provided a statement from the their third cellmate, who had heard no such confession.

Condit also testified at the trial, but would not reveal the true nature of his relationship to Chandra. The defense presented DNA evidence found on Chandra’s underwear that was retrieved during a search of her apartment. The DNA matched Condit’s, but there was also no physical proof linking Condit to the crime scene.

After three days of deliberation, the jury found Guandique guilty of first-degree murder. The defense requested a retrial three months later, and the process continued for years until, in 2015, the prosecution suddenly dropped their opposition.

The prosecution’s undoing

In late 2012, it was discovered that Morales had in fact been an informant for the police before. He requested to be placed in the witness protection program in exchange for his testimony, which directly contradicted his statement that he was not testifying for his own benefit.

In a bizarre turn of events, the conviction would be overturned by evidence presented by an actress from House of Cards, a Netflix drama about a ruthless democratic congressman. The woman, who called herself Babs Proller, had a brief role on the series. She contacted Susan Levy through Facebook and told her that she had a relationship with Morales, and that he had told her he lied during his testimony. Proller had recorded over seven hours of conversation with Morales, where he bragged about violence and criminal activity. Proller claimed that he had admitted to fabricating the story about Guandique, but nowhere on the tape was that confession made. In fact, in the tape he maintained that Guandique had killed Levy saying, “It was an accident. He didn’t know he killed her. He went back. That was his area to steal and rob and whatever he was doing. That was his location. He went back.”

During his testimony, Morales called himself a changed man. “I got tired of all the violence,” he stated. He claimed he had turned his life around, and was part of a “life skills” mentoring program in prison. Because of the violent and criminal nature of the statements made by Morales in the tape, as well as the new evidence that Morales had worked as an informant before, prosecution dropped the charges against Guandique, knowing that the credibility of their main witness had been destroyed. The prosecution instead shifted their focus to having Guandique deported.

Renewed interest in Gary Condit

In addition to the loss of credibility of Morales, the defense also came forward with a new witness. One of Chandra’s neighbors had called 911 at 4:37 a.m. on the last day Chandra was known to be alive. The neighbor told the operator that she had heard a 'blood-curdling scream,' and that it had come from the direction of Chandra’s apartment. The defense claimed she had been killed in her home and her body dumped in Rock Creek Park.

The media coverage of Chandra Levy’s disappearance led to the undoing of the political career of Condit. He lost the 2002 Democratic primary, and him and his wife moved to Arizona and opened two Baskin-Robbins franchises, which ultimately failed. He is now president of the Phoenix Institute of Desert Agriculture.

Condit became famous for his involvement with Chandra due to his prominent position in society, but more so for his fervent refusal to declare publically his true relationship to her. Police also stated that a few hours before the search he was spotted throwing a gift from another woman into a dumpster. He has long maintained his right to privacy regarding his personal life, and has still never admitted publically to his affair with Chandra Levy. He claimed that he cooperated with police from the very beginning, even though the police accused him of obstruction of justice for not coming clean about the affair to them in the first interviews. Connie Chung, in her famous 2001 interview with Condit, brought up his breaking with the democratic party over his demand that Bill Clinton “come clean” about his own affair.

Now two women have come forward to make new claims about Condit. Both women claimed to have had sexual relationships with Condit in the past, and both claimed that he was interested in bondage, especially tying the women to his bed. One of the women claimed that he had become sexually aggressive with her during one encounter. The defense for Guandique pointed to the knotted tights as evidence that Condit could have accidentally killed Levy during dangerous sexual activity.

One of them women claimed that Condit’s attorney had tried to get her to sign an affidavit saying she did not have a sexual relationship with Condit. She would not sign it. The other woman claimed that she was “scared” of Condit, and came forward anonymously because she “feared repercussions from Condit.” 

Condit has never been a suspect in the murder of Chandra Levy, and it is unlikely that he will be charged in her death. But many are still wondering if the ex-congressman could have been involved, either directly or indirectly, paying off Guandique or someone else to have Chandra killed. Others claim the media lambasted an innocent man and destroyed his political career. It’s clear that Condit has much to hide, but it remains to be seen how big his secrets truly are. The bigger question still remains: will the Levy family ever get the answers they seek? 

 

 

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