Suspect in Chandra Murder Bragged About Slaying: Cops

Arrest warrant issued for imprisoned immigrant who claimed he had help from two others during brutal attack

By Matthew Stabley
|  Tuesday, Mar 3, 2009  |  Updated 8:27 PM EDT
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The Mysterious Case of Chandra Levy

AP

Officials say Ingmar Guandique will be charged with first-degree murder in the 2001 death of Chandra Levy.

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Warrant Issued in Chandra Levy Murder Case

Washington police and federal prosecutors now say the intern was a victim of circumstance when she was allegedly murdered by Ingmar Guandique. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

What Led to Arrest in Levy Case?

The U.S. Attorney's Office tells why they are now able to make an arrest in the Chandra Levy case after all these years.
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WASHINGTON -- The jailed Salvadoran immigrant suspected of murdering Chandra Levy repeatedly talked of choking the intern to death during an attempted rape in 2001, according to statements from prison snitches revealed today by authorities.

Ingmar Guandique's admissions also revealed for the first time that two other  "teenagers" helped him grab Levy as she jogged in the Washington D.C. park and hold her down. When she began to fight off her attackers, Guandique said he choked her to stifle her screams, fearing nearby joggers would hear her, the statements said.

After strangling her to death, Guandique, a reputed member of the MS-13 gang, and his co-cohorts buried the lifeless brunette under "some leaves," according to an account given to investigators in February from an unnamed prisoner who spent time with Guandique.

The affidavit also contained statements from other witnesses who said Guandique was known as "Chuckie" because of a large tatoo on his back of the deranged doll from the "Child's Play" horror movies.

The stunning new details emerged as an arrest warrant was issued today for Guandique, who investigators say has been a person of interest in the case since 2002 and will be charged with first-degree murder upon his transfer from a California federal prison to the District.

"We believe that Ms. Levy was a random victim of Guandique, who allegedly attacked and killed her as she walked or jogged through Rock Creek Park on May 1, 2001," U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said in a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

The warrant was issued now that authorities believe they have sufficient evidence to show not only probable cause but to prove their case against Guandique beyond a reasonable doubt, Taylor said.

It was unclear if investigators are seeking the two men who allegedly helped Guandique attack Levy. They only said that the investigation is on-going.

Guandique is serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison in Adelanto, Calif., for attacking two female joggers in 2001 in Rock Creek Park, the same public park where Levy's remains were found in 2002, the Associated Press reported.

The case was cold for years after destroying the career of former U.S. Rep. Gary Condit, of California, who admitted to an affair with the intern but always denied any role in her disappearance.

Levy was 24 and had just completed an internship with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons when she disappeared in May 2001 after leaving her D.C. apartment. After a year of searches failed to find her, Levy's remains were spotted by a dog walker in May 2002.

Investigators questioned Guandique, 27, in Levy's slaying after he was convicted in the two other attacks.

Guandique used Rock Creek Park as a "hunting ground," prosecutors said, stalking victims along popular running trails, according to court documents. One victim said she is convinced Guandique was intent on raping her.

In September 2008, D.C. Police and the U.S. Attorney's Office executed a search warrant on Guandique's California jail cell. They reported he had many gang tattoos on his body (some related to MS-13) and that a photo of Chandra Levy, possibly from a magazine, was found in his cell.

According to the affidavit, in November 2008 an unidentified person said he knew Guandique for many years. The witness said Guandique boasted that he was a member of MS-13, that he committed many robberies and that he was known as "Chuckie" because he had a reputation for killing and chopping up people.

He also bragged about a previous attack on a woman in the D.C. park:

"Guandique told (the witness) that he and two other males were in a park when they saw a female jogging on a path. Guandique said that the female looked Italian with thick, dark hair. Guandique said that one of the men jumped in front of her, and then he (Guandique) grabbed the woman from behind around her neck, with his arm, and that he dragged the woman from the path into a secluded area. Once into the woods, the woman was knocked unconscious and they tied her feet together. Guandique confessed further that they put something in the woman's mouth so that she could not scream while they raped her. Guandique told (the witness) that the woman began to regain consciousness during the rape, so he cut her throat and stabbed her."

That story could not be verified by cops, but it had eerie similarities to the events that lead to Levy's murder.

According to the affidavit, another witness told investigators in February that Guandique relayed the story of killing Levy, admitting he and two teens were smoking marijuana laced with cocaine on a park bench when he saw Levy and said she  "looked good" and he was going to "get her."

Police said her clothing was strewn from the path, down a steep hill toward the bottom of a ravine. Her shoes were unlaced. Her clothing was turned inside out. Her tights were knotted into restraints.

"It appears that Guandique wanted Ms. Levy naked and incapacitated," the document said.

During the attack, Levy scratched him, the affidavit says. To hide that evidence, the witness said Guandique instructed his family to tell police the scratches came from a fight with his girlfriend if he was ever questioned.

Detectives investigating the case flew to California last week, police said. Investigators spent last week interviewing two inmates Guandique spoke to while in prison, the AP reported.  It was not clear if the above witness in the affidavit was one of those inmates.

During that time Guandique heard news reports that detectives were closing in him and became very "anxious" and told a fellow inmate that "it's over. They got me now. What am I gonna do?" the affidavit said.

In a statement, his attorneys called the investigation flawed and said police had made numerous mistakes.

"The public should not draw any conclusions based on speculation by the media and incomplete information," said Santha Sonenberg and Maria Hawilo, the public defenders representing Guandique.

Guandique is expected to be transferred to D.C. in 45 to 60 days. If convicted, he would face a mandatory minimum 30 years in prison and a maximum of 60 years.

"There is very little that I can do or that any of us can do, now, to offer anything to the Levys other than justice, and I hope that this offering of justice gives them some sense of peace," said D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who spoke with Chandra Levy's parents, Robert and Susan, Tuesday morning.

"We take solace in the fact that the search for the person responsible has ended and our daughter can finally truly rest in peace," Levy's parents said in a statement given to the AP from their home in Modesto, Calif. "Thankfully the individual responsible for this most heinous and terrible crime will finally be held accountable for his actions and hopefully unable to hurt anyone else ever again."

During the initial investigation after Levy's disappearance, authorities questioned Condit, Levy's congressman, revealing his affair with her. He was never a suspect in her death, but the publicity from the alleged affair is considered the main reason for his 2002 primary loss.

Condit was glad to hear the arrest warrant was filed, according to his mother, Jean Condit, but she doesn't think the development can erase the pain both families have suffered, the AP reported.

"It is good news in a way, but it's still heartbreaking," said Jean Condit, of Ceres, Calif., the small San Joaquin Valley town where her son's political career began. "The hurt that has been done to our family will never be resolved in this world and of course this is nothing that's going to make any difference for her parents, who have grieved so much."

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