Special Reports

July 16, 2002

Levy remains await trip home

WASHINGTON -- Chandra Levy's remains are ready to come home.

Having yielded as many secrets as possible to investigators, most of Levy's skeletal remains have been packaged into several boxes and await a shipment that could happen at any time.

"It's just a matter of making the arrangements," Washington Medical Examiner Jonathan Arden said Monday. "We are completely ready to release her remains."

Arden talked Monday with Levy family attorney Billy Martin about getting the remains returned to her parents.

Some details are mandated, such as the legal requirement that a licensed funeral director take charge of the transport. Arden said for geographically distant next-of-kin, that typically entails hiring a local professional to handle the Washington end.

Other details remain unclear, including whether Bob and Sue Levy will travel to the nation's capital once more from their Modesto home to escort their daughter's remains.

"They're still working those details out," Levy family spokeswoman Judy Smith said Monday night.

But at least a small part of the remains will stay in Washington, where Levy's disappearance 14 months ago and subsequently revealed friendship with Rep. Gary Condit, D-Ceres, pushed the former intern into the national spotlight.

Arden's office will hold on to some skeletal pieces for potential future use as the investigation warrants.

Among the bones of interest, for instance, is the hyoid. This is a U-shaped bone about one inch above the Adam's apple, and its condition leaves investigators with at least a suspicion that Levy was strangled.

"There is a little irregularity," Arden said. "There is some damage, but it is not conclusive."

Arden ruled Levy's death a homicide, but was not able to pinpoint the cause of death. He said there was not sufficient evidence -- for instance, staining of the bone that would indicate bleeding -- to conclusively show whether the hyoid bone fracture occurred before or after Levy's death.

Investigators recovered roughly 85 percent of Levy's skeleton from a heavily wooded hillside in Washington's Rock Creek Park, after a man walking his dog came upon her skull on May 22. Police searched the area for a week, and then resumed searching after a private investigator working for the Levy family found in the same area a footlong leg bone later determined to be Levy's.

Portions of Levy's pelvis are among the bones still missing, with police officials noting that Rock Creek Park's myriad animals could have spirited away some of the remains. Some of the bones that were recovered had shown the kind of animal activity that has complicated investigators' work.

Arden and his staff of about 50 typically conduct about 1,450 autopsies annually; very few of these, as Levy's did, draw in the assistance of a top Smithsonian Institution forensic anthropologist.

"It's such a high-profile case, I think we've put in more time on this than we would have otherwise," said Arden, who's been Washington's chief medical examiner for four years.

Other potential evidence found near Levy's remains, including a Walkman-like radio, a University of Southern California shirt and her leggings, have been retained by the FBI for laboratory analysis.

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

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