Before Chandra Ann Levy grew up and left Modesto, she was a little girl who loved to gaze at the stars with her father.
Before she disappeared in May 2001, she became a vegan -- swearing off meat, eggs and fish.
Before she became the subject of national headlines and intrigue, she was a young woman with ambition and a bright future.
Levy was a 24-year-old with striking, jet-black hair. She admired authority and intellect. She worked for Gov. Davis and Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.
Never miss a local story.
Her drive led her to Washington, D.C., where she worked as an intern at the Bureau of Prisons and hoped to get a job with the FBI. Her remains were found Wednesday morning in a Washington park where she liked to exercise.
Levy was secretive as well as ambitious. Her parents and friends provided a window into her life and personality during a series of interviews in the year since her disappearance.
They spoke of Chandra the person, not the missing person.
She was born April 14, 1977, in Cleveland. The family moved to Modesto when she was 3.
She attended public schools, graduating from Davis High in 1995, and took lessons at Juline School of Dance.
Her father, Robert, is a cancer treatment specialist in Modesto. Her mother, Susan, is a sculptor and amateur photographer whose portfolio includes dramatic stills of people from the many countries she has visited.
Well traveled as a youngster
Levy accompanied her mother on many of those trips and had traveled extensively by the time she finished college. Family vacations took them to France, England, Greece, Turkey, Tanzania, Kenya, South America, Costa Rica, the Middle East and Canada.
She loved to shop -- always bargain hunting, her mother said -- and to skate.
She loved a challenge -- even if she hated to admit it, said her mother, who once took her to a rope-climbing camp.
"I marched her in there and signed her up," Susan Levy said. "She walked in -- not by choice -- and there were a bunch of boys from about 14 to 19 years old. They said, 'What are YOU doing here?'"
Chandra got rope burns and sunburns, but she completed the camp, while a half-dozen or so boys quit, Susan Levy said.
"In the end, though Chandra wouldn't come right out and tell it, she was thrilled she had completed it," her mother said. "She wore that T-shirt for a long, long time."
As a teen, Levy showed interest in a career in newspaper work.
Levy wrote for the Davis High newspaper and carried the writing bug with her to San Francisco State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in criminal justice.
She later worked briefly for The Modesto Bee as a sports clerk, and it was a path that her father later wished she had followed.
"In retrospect," he said, "staying in journalism would have been a much better choice."
Instead, Levy followed her other prime interest: criminal justice. She had been an Explorer in high school, sometimes wearing her uniform to school. She worked for the Modesto Police Department, both as an Explorer and as a paid police assistant.
After receiving her undergraduate degree from San Francisco State, Levy entered the master's program at the University of Southern California's School of Policy, Planning and Development.
Friends and schoolmates described her as a bright and motivated young woman. Her black, curly hair and smile naturally drew attention.
"You walk into a room, and she's the first one you notice," college classmate Matt Szabo said.
She preferred dating older men, including an officer while she worked for the Police Department.
Drawn to people in power
"She liked people in law enforcement and power," Susan Levy said.
Ultimately, her daughter was drawn to Washington, where she lived alone in an apartment in the trendy DuPont Circle area.
In Washington, she encountered Rep. Gary Condit, her hometown congressman. Condit has not denied reports that he and Levy had a relationship.
Early in April 2001, Susan Levy suspected that her daughter had been seeing Condit and tried to question her about it. Chandra assured her mother that she knew what she was doing.
Levy's internship ended abruptly in April when the Bureau of Prisons learned that she already had graduated from USC. Disappointed but not distraught, her mother said, Levy began making plans to return to California.
"She was thinking about taking the LSAT (law school admissions test) and going to law school," Susan Levy said.
While Levy had told her parents very little about her relationship with Condit, her tendencies indicated that she would open up to someone about it.
Levy's high school counselor, Julie Danielson, described the trait in Levy that later proved to be accurate.
"If there was a problem, she was very open to people she trusted," Danielson said. "I just know she has confided in someone. If only that person would please come forward and let us know where she is."
That person was Linda Zamsky, Levy's aunt, who lives in Maryland. Zamsky claimed that Levy described intimate details of her relationship with Condit, including bedroom details and how to reach him through a secretive phone-call system.
But Zamsky couldn't answer the question that befuddled law enforcement for so long:
Where was Chandra?
The answer came Wednesday, and it was the one her family and friends dreaded most.
Bee staff writers Kerry McCray and Michael G. Mooney contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Jeff Jardine can be reached at 578-2383 or email@example.com.