Pat Collins, Sketches courtesy of Bill Hennessy
It’s been almost a decade since Chandra Levy’s disappearance became a mystery that garnered national attention. Finally Monday, opening statements were delivered in the murder trial of the man accused of killing the Washington intern.
Levy’s disappearance made headlines when she was romantically linked to then-California Rep. Gary Condit, but police no longer believe Condit had anything to do with Levy's death.
In their opening statement, prosecutors described the grisly May 2002 discovery of a 180-foot trail of evidence leading to Levy's remains, News4's Pat Collins reported. They acknowledged massive mistakes in the investigation into Levy's death. Police botched the investigation by mistakenly focusing on Condit, but prosecutors said they now have the man who killed Levy.
Susan Levy, the victim's mother, faced her daughter's accused killer for the first time, Collins reported. She appeared to be taking many notes in a legal pad and fought back tears as prosecutors described how her daughter died. Susan Levy had no comment for News4 about today's proceedings.
Prosecutors acknowledged that they have no physical evidence or eyewitnesses in Levy's slaying. But two other victims survived similar Rock Creek Park attacks of which Guandique was convicted, prosecutors said, and the suspect made the mistake of confessing to the Levy homicide to cellmates while he served 10 years in prison. He also had injuries consistent with the attack on Levy, prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys said the evidence against Guandique is practically nonexistent. The government has missed evidence and misplaced evidence and can't undo their mistakes, the defense said. They are trying to make Guandique a scapegoat for their mistakes, the defense said.
After the opening statements, a park ranger was the first to take the stand, followed by an assault victim who described how she was attacked. Halle Shilling testified that Guandique followed her on a jogging trail and jumped her from behind.
"I felt this incredible thud," she said. "He jumped on my back. I screamed "No!" over and over again, as loud as I know how to scream."
She escaped by jamming her fingers into Guandique's mouth -- a self-defense move. He bit her and ran.
"I felt as afraid and as alone as I have ever felt in my life," Shilling said.
A jury of 12 women and four men, which includes four alternates, was selected last week. The trial is expected to last at least a month.
Condit has said through a spokesman that he expects to testify.