Robert and Susan Levy understand better than most the pain and anguish being felt by the family of Laci Peterson, the 27-year-old pregnant Modesto woman who disappeared Christmas Eve.
"It makes me very heartsick," Susan Levy said Friday morning at her home. "The fact this is happening again, in this community, is very hard for us."
Levy consented to an interview even though she said she was suffering with a flulike virus and a fever of 102.
"(Peterson's disappearance) brings it all back," she said. "The holidays are hard for us, but this makes it doubly hard, it seems."
The couple's 24-year-old daughter, Chandra, was missing for more than a year before her skeletal remains were discovered in May in a remote area of a park in Washington, D.C.
Authorities in the nation's capital believe someone murdered Levy, who had been linked romantically to Rep. Gary Condit, D-Ceres. Investigators repeatedly have said that Condit is not a suspect in the slaying.
That romantic link, which Condit has not denied, helped propel the Levy case into the national spotlight.
No criticism from Levys
The Peterson case also has garnered national media attention and some already are criticizing the press.
Not the Levys.
During the height of their case, the Levys spent countless hours with countless television, radio and print journalists, trying to keep their daughter's name and story in the news.
"We think that's very important," Susan Levy said. "It's important to get the word out."
Modesto police say they now believe Peterson might have been the victim of foul play. But her family steadfastly refuses to believe that. They continue to hope and pray that she will return safe and unharmed.
The Levys and their 21-year-old son, Adam, also refused to lose hope.
As the days of their own ordeal slipped into weeks, and then months, the Levys founded a support group -- Wings of Protection -- for people with missing or murdered loved ones.
The Levys said that group stands ready to provide whatever help and comfort it can to Peterson's family.
"(Peterson's disappearance) is hitting everybody in Wings very hard," Susan Levy said. "No one knows what it's like unless you've been in the same situation yourself."
On New Year's Eve, the Levys were among an estimated 1,200 to 1,400 people who attended a candlelight vigil for Peterson in East La Loma Park, where the mother-to-be regularly walked the family dog.
Susan Levy said she has visited the Peterson family's all-volunteer "command center" at the Red Lion Hotel in Modesto and introduced herself to family members there. At the center, volunteers field calls and disseminate missing-person fliers.
The Levys said they would prefer to remain in the background and not detract from the search effort.
"You won't see us out front waving signs with the group's name on them," Robert Levy said. "We're a support group. The family knows we're there and ready to help them when they want our help."
Bee staff writer Michael G. Mooney can be reached at 578-2384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.