Special Reports

March 25, 2002

Police follow trail left on laptop

(Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2001)

WASHINGTON -- Police on Monday searched a wooded area that missing woman Chandra Levy seemed interested in, as Gary Condit's lawyer delivered lie-detector test results to investigators.

Fifty Washington police cadets joined officers in picking through Rock Creek Park, a 1,754-acre preserve police previously had examined.

Monday's search was prompted by the discovery that Levy's Internet activity on May 1 included inquiries about the park's Klingle Mansion. Levy, a 24-year-old from Modesto, was last seen April 30.

"We are exploring a lot of possibilities, one of which is that she met with foul play," Washington Police Chief Charles Ramsey said on NBC's "Today" show. "And if that's the case then (the question is) where could you dispose of a body, and that's really what we're looking for."

Under the scrutiny of television cameras, the police searchers found a small bone in the partially rugged park and placed the find into an evidence bag. Park officials noted, however, that the park is home to deer, raccoon, possum and other wild creatures and will periodically yield animal remains.

"Occasionally, someone will pop up with an animal bone," Rock Creek Park Superintendent Adrienne Coleman said.

Coleman and about 10 other employees work out of the three-story, gray stone building known as the Klingle Mansion. It's about two miles north of Levy's apartment and about one mile from Condit's condominium. The 19th-century building is close to jogging trails that are popular during the day, though the park is closed at night with a gate across the road.

For about three hours on the morning of May 1, police say, Levy surfed the Internet from her laptop computer and visited a number of travel-oriented sites such as MapQuest. Levy's computer searches included exploration of access to the Klingle Mansion, according to police. They are confident it was Levy working on the laptop.

"The sites that were visited were very consistent with what we know her plans were," Ramsey said Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America," "so it is highly, highly unlikely it was anyone other than Chandra using that computer that morning."

Police plan other searches this week, though Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance Gainer told reporters that plans to search landfills were abandoned because of the expense.

Police also will examine results from a polygraph test Condit's lawyer arranged late last week. The police wanted to conduct their own test and thought they were making progress toward that in discussions with Abbe Lowell, Condit's attorney.

"We were misled," Ramsey said Monday on the CBS "Early Show." "During discussions we were actually told that the congressman was busy, didn't have time to take it, and none of that was true, because obviously he did have time to take it and he did with his own private examiner."

Police also have complained that it took three interviews with Condit before they fully understood the nature of his relationship with the missing woman. Multiple news organizations have reported that during the third interview, Condit admitted having an affair with Levy.

Condit's spokespeople have not disputed those accounts, but contend that Condit's private life is irrelevant to the search for Levy.

Lowell said the exam, administered Thursday by former FBI polygraph examiner Barry Colvert, shows Condit was being truthful in saying he had not harmed Levy, did not know where she is, and had nothing directly or indirectly to do with her disappearance.

While investigators search, Condit's congressional colleagues continue to weigh his conduct in the midst of a heated media environment. The weekly magazine The New Republic, in an editorial promoted on the magazine's cover, has called upon Condit to resign because he "cared more about his political career than about the life of a woman he supposedly considered a 'good friend.'"

On another front Monday, police said they asked the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission to provide drivers' manifest logs from April 30 to May 2 to try to retrace Levy's steps before she disappeared. An employee of that commission, who declined to be named, said there are more than 6,000 cab drivers in the city of 600,000.

Since logs belong to the drivers, many of whom work for themselves, the commission would have to call or mail a letter to every driver or company they work for. In nearly 15 years, the taxi commission employee had never heard of such a difficult request.

Knight Ridder Newspapers contributed to this report.

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

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