FBI: Levy murder scene lacked physical evidence

November 3, 2010 

WASHINGTON — The Chandra Levy murder scene lacked usable fingerprints, bloodstains or semen stains, FBI technicians said Wednesday morning.

A retired FBI fingerprint expert and a current agency biologist each testified that they could not identify samples useful in tracking Levy’s killer. Though potential stains were found, nothing could be confirmed.

“No latent (fingerprints) at all, on any of the items,” retired FBI technician Oscar Ford Cheshier said.

The testimony confirmed what prosecutors have already stated, that they lack direct physical evidence connecting accused killer Ingmar Guandique to Levy’s murder.

Prosecutors say Guandique killed Levy on May 1, 2001, during an attempted sexual assault in Washington’s Rock Creek Park. Her disappearance attracted national attention because of revelations that she was having an affair with then-Congressman Gary Condit, who testified on Monday.

Prosecutors are relying on circumstantial evidence, including some presented by a pen pal Wednesday.

Levy’s skeletal remains and the clothes she was apparently wearing at the time of her murder were discovered May 22, 2002.

Small amounts of female DNA were found on Levy's red sports bra, and technicians detected small amounts of DNA from one or more males on Levy's running tights. The bra DNA was traced to contamination in the testing lab. The running tights DNA was tested against that of Levy, Guandique and former California congressman Gary Condit.

"Did it match any of those individuals?" defense attorney Maria Hawilo asked an analyst Wednesday.

"It did not," replied Amy Jeanguenat, a DNA analyst with Bode Technologies.

Prosecutors suggest the running tight DNA could be contamination from the investigative or analytical process, while defense attorneys want jurors to think of the mystery DNA as representing that of an unknown suspect.

Overall, the technical and even boring testimony Wednesday demonstrated the thoroughness of the investigation even as it left a big question mark as to any one person's guilt.

FBI biologist Robyn Wolfe testified Wednesday that she tested Levy’s underwear and black running tights. Wolfe said she identified six stains on the clothing items as being potentially blood, and one stain as being potentially semen.

Wolfe added, though, that she could not confirm the presence of either blood or semen in follow-up tests.

Cheshier, too, was part of the Levy investigation in 2002, when he tested Levy’s sneakers, radio-cassette player, sunglasses and other items. He tested the items with laser lights, a vapor form of Super Glue and a special powder, but he was not able to detect any usable prints.

The testimony was delayed while prosecutors and defense attorneys wrangled for nearly 90 minutes over procedural matters. Eventually, Miami resident Maria Mendez was brought back to the stand for a second day of questioning.

On Tuesday, Mendez had been the first witness since the trial began to directly tie accused killer Ingmar Guandique to murder. Mendez told of receiving a 2003 letter from Guandique in which he spoke of a “muchacha muerta” _ a dead girl. On Wednesday Mendez confirmed her earlier grand jury testimony that the “muchacha muerta” reference was part of a longer, informal criminal confession.

“It was like a list of all the crimes he did,” Mendez told the grand jury in 2008, she confirmed Wednesday. “He didn’t specify anything about that crime, but the letter was specifying his criminal life.”

Prosecutors reinforced this notion by playing a taped April 2003 telephone conversation between Mendez and Guandique.

Mendez was telling Guandique that she would not write him because she was afraid of him, a transcript of the Spanish-language conversation shows.

“The thing that there’s a murder,” Mendez said, laughing nervously. “That scares me very much.” “Yes,” Guandique said.

On a sharp cross-examination, though, Mendez acknowledged that Guandique never told her he killed anyone.


AM UPDATE

WASHINGTON — Prosecutors on Wednesday morning are seeking to fix potential problems with a witness who corresponded with the man accused of killing former Modesto resident Chandra Levy.

Attorneys speak of “rehabilitating” a witness when prior testimony has been challenged. This is what prosecutors were to begin doing about 11:30 a.m. with Maria Mendez, a Miami resident who testified Tuesday.

“I intend to rehabilitate this witness,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez told Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher Wednesday morning.

Mendez’s continuing testimony, though, was delayed while prosecutors and defense attorneys wrangled for nearly 90 minutes over procedural matters. Sounding angry at times, and at other times complaining about unfairness, defense attorneys tried with minimal success to block some questions and testimony.

The 16-member jury panel remained out of the courtroom through much of the morning, as attorneys argued.

Mendez, the first witness to be summoned once the legal skirmishing was done Wednesday, had earlier been became the first witness since the trial began to directly tie accused killer Ingmar Guandique to murder.

Prosecutors say Guandique killed Levy on May 1, 2001 while the former Bureau of Prisons intern was jogging in Washington’s Rock Creek Park.

In testimony late Tuesday, Mendez told of receiving a 2003 letter from Guandique in which he spoke of a “muchacha muerta” — a dead girl.

Prosecutors suggest this was referring to Levy, a suggestion they reinforced by playing excerpts from taped April 2003 telephone conversation between Mendez and Guandique.

Mendez was telling Guandique that she was afraid of him, a transcript of the Spanish-language conversation shows.

“What I’m telling you is that, you know … and plus the thing about what you told me about the girl who’s dead, you know that,” Mendez said, according to the transcript made publicly available Wednesday.

“Yes,” Guandique said.

“You know, those things scare me, right?” Mendez said.

“Yes,” Guandique said.

Later, Mendez added that she needed to feel safe.

“The thing that there’s a murder,” Mendez said, laughing nervously. “That scares me very much.”

“Yes,” Guandique said.

On a sharp cross examination, though, Mendez acknowledged that Guandique never told her he killed anyone, and she conceded that her memory of what he told her was flawed.

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