Special Reports

May 23, 2002

Chandra's remains found in D.C. park

WASHINGTON -- The Chandra Levy missing-person case ended and a death investigation began Wednesday, after discovery of her remains in a park about two miles from her apartment.

"Now we know her death is a reality," Police Chief Charles Ramsey said. "Now we have to investigate the circumstances surrounding her death."

A man and his dog, on a hunt for turtles, came across the skeletal remains shortly before 9:30 a.m. Police converged on Rock Creek Park, a focus of the search for Levy during the summer.

Within hours, the medical examiner's office used dental records to confirm the identification.

The 24-year-old Modesto woman had been missing for almost 13 months. Her disappearance caused a media furor when allegations of an affair with Ceres Rep. Gary Condit came to light. Those allegations ultimately brought down the Democrat's congressional career.

Ramsey placed a call to Levy's parents in Modesto and told them of the discovery of the remains. Robert and Susan Levy and their son, Adam, remained secluded in their home as dozens of news crews took up positions outside.

Wednesday night, the Levys' Washington attorney, Billy Martin, issued a statement from Florida: "Although the discovery of Chandra's body closes one chapter and brings some resolution to this ordeal, it does not, and I repeat, it does not solve the mystery of what happened to Chandra."

Martin said he is certain the death investigation "will shortly be formally classified as a homicide investigation."

In Modesto, Levy attorney George Arata, a longtime family friend who spent the day with them, said the Levys vowed to "continue their fight to find out who did this."

In Washington, police reported finding a skull and other bones. They planned to continue their search into the night, and portable lights had been set up.

Other items found at the scene, according to a law enforcement source, included a tennis shoe and remnants of a red sports bra and a University of Southern California T-shirt. Levy was a USC graduate student who had just finished an internship at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

By analyzing the bones and remnants of clothing, the medical examiner hopes to pin down the cause of death and the time, whether Levy died someplace else, and whether she had been sexually assaulted.

"There's a lot of work that has to be done," Ramsey said. "It's not something that's going to be easy."

Once the remains had been identified, Ramsey said, he had hoped to get word to the Levys before they heard about it through the media. The chief delivered the news to Stanislaus County Sheriff Les Weidman, and he planned to tell the family.

But with minute-by-minute cable television coverage, the Levys heard the news before Weidman arrived.

Media crews not only swarmed Rock Creek Park, but also made their way to Condit's Capitol Hill office.

Condit has said publicly only that he considered Levy a "good friend." However, the 54-year-old congressman, defeated in the March 5 primary election in his bid for an eighth term, has not denied published reports that he told police he and Levy were having an affair.

Condit remained out of sight throughout the day, but he issued a statement through his Los Angeles-based attorney, Mark Geragos, expressing "heartfelt sorrow and condolences" for the Levy family.

"The Levy family will remain in our prayers," the statement read.

Condit's Wednesday schedule went unchecked as he participated in routine votes and a hearing of the House intelligence committee, which was scheduled to receive a briefing on the FBI's anti-terrorism warnings.

A grand jury has subpoenaed documents from Condit's office and investigators have interviewed Condit at least four times, but police have consistently said that they have no suspects in what until now was a missing-person case.

Geragos, appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live," said of Condit: "Now they'll be able to completely exonerate him, but that isn't his concern at all." He added that news of Levy's death had upset all of the Condit family.

Rock Creek Park is within about a mile of where Condit formerly owned a condominium.

Levy had used her laptop computer shortly before her disappearance to visit an Internet site for the park's 19th-century Klingle Mansion. The three-story mansion, now used for storage and office space, is about a mile from where her remains where found.

Police spent days searching the park during the summer and found nothing.

"It's a heavily, heavily wooded area, and things do appear to be scattered about," Ramsey said, noting the possibility that the remains had been moved. "It's not along a path, it's really in a remote area."

Wednesday morning, the man looking for turtles was alerted by his dog to something untoward.

"His dog veered off from a path and sniffed something," said Sgt. Scott Fear, a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police.

Fear said the man went to investigate, pulled away some leaves, and uncovered a skull. The man then went to a nearby construction site and called police.

Officers who responded included the two FBI agents and two police detectives who have been on the case.

For extra help, before sending the remains to Dr. Jonathen Arden, the District of Columbia medical examiner, officials brought in anthropologists from the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.

"In many cases, law enforcement offices like to have our assistance," museum spokesman Randall Kreamer said. "We have the finest, most eminent forensic anthropology team in the world."

Levy spokeswoman Judy Smith said Wednesday night that it was not clear when the family might go back to Washington; she and Martin both said the family needs private time.

Earlier Wednesday, outside the Levy home, Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department spokesman Kelly Huston said: "The family is distraught. They're extremely emotionally drained.

"This long road they've traveled has come to an end and it's the worst possible scenario for them."

By chance, the parents had arranged for a live appearance Wednesday morning for the Oprah Winfrey television show; the interview occurred before news broke of the discovery of remains.

"I'm angry," Susan Levy told Winfrey. And, "I want my daughter home."

Bee staff writers Michael G. Mooney and J.N. Sbranti contributed to this report.

Bee Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle can be reached at (202) 383-0006 or mdoyle@mcclatchydc.com.

Related content