Levy case twists, turns, plods on

03/25/2002 7:40 PM

11/20/2007 10:14 AM

(Published: Saturday, July 21, 2001)

WASHINGTON -- Police on Friday coped with new twists in the Chandra Levy investigation even as they acknowledged that her fate might forever remain a mystery.

"As time goes on, we get more and more concerned that we won't find her at all," Police Chief Charles Ramsey said.

Releasing more of the last Internet sites that Levy visited May 1, from the Drudge Report to BaskinRobbins.com, did not appear to yield many new answers. Nor did several dozen police cadets find much in their fifth day of trolling through wooded Washington parks.

Investigators might have new questions to ask 53-year-old Ceres Rep. Gary Condit, after learning of a report that he dumped a gift watch box into a garbage bin several hours before police searched his condominium.

Multiple news organizations reported Friday that a man walking his dog near Alexandria, Va. -- across the Potomac River from Washington -- saw Condit dumping something into a trash can the evening of July 10.

The witness called police, who reportedly found a watch box whose purchase they traced back to a female friend of Condit's in California. Investigators interviewed the woman, who said she had given Condit the present.

"It's a sensitive allegation, and if it's true it will be investigated," one law enforcement source told The Bee.

Condit spokeswoman Marina Ein said the allegation was unrelated to the search for Levy. "We're not commenting on matters not related to the Chandra Levy investigation," Ein said.

Ein did, however, say Condit's team was "gratified" to hear reports that a Modesto minister had taken back what he told investigators about his daughter having had an affair with Condit.

Minister recants story

Several news agencies reported Friday that O.C. Thomas, who told the FBI and The Bee that his daughter and Condit had a two-year affair, has recanted his story.

Condit, through chief of staff Mike Lynch, denied ever knowing Thomas' daughter Jennifer, now 26.

Thomas is the Levy family's gardener. During a conversation at the Levy home in April, before Chandra disappeared, Thomas told Susan Levy of his daughter's past alleged involvement with Condit.

Thomas said that after Chandra Levy vanished, his daughter fled the valley in fear.

Thomas could not be reached for comment Friday. Members of the church he attends, the Prayer Mission in Modesto, have not seen him since he filled in for the Rev. Cornell Ard when he was on vacation on July 8 -- four days before the story ran.

"We've all been asking about him, and nobody knows," said Ester Ard, the pastor's wife. "We're really surprised he hasn't called us. We'd like an explanation or an apology for getting us in the middle of this."

The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, which has a deputy assigned to work the case with the FBI office in Modesto, was unaware of any such change of story, sheriff's spokesman Kelly Huston said.

In Washington, newly assigned FBI agents are taking a fresh look that could include another interview with Condit.

Washington television station WUSA reported Friday night that Condit has agreed to a fourth meeting with police and that negotiations were under way for the congressman to take a lie-detector test administered by the FBI, according to The Associated Press.

The highly regarded FBI agent now on the case, Brad Garrett, met with investigators and prosecutors at police headquarters on Friday.

Several days ago, according to an informed source, Garrett met for 90 minutes with the former FBI polygraph examiner who conducted a privately administered lie-detector test of Condit.

The consultant, Barry Colvert, has previously worked with Garrett on cases, and he went over Condit's results in detail. Condit's attorney, Abbe Lowell, has previously said that the congressman showed no sign of deception when asked whether he had anything to do with Levy's disappearance, if he harmed her or if he knows where she can be found.

Until now, police have denounced that test. But after the meeting between Garrett and Colvert, the FBI was more noncommittal.

"It is the long-standing policy of the FBI not to render official opinions of polygraph charts submitted by an outside entity because there is no way to verify the totality of the circumstances under which the examination was conducted," the FBI said in a statement.

Cab drivers to be questioned

Today, police will question as many of Washington's 1,600 registered cab drivers as they can, to find out if any recognize Levy. The 24-year-old former Bureau of Prisons intern did not have a car in Washington.

She did, however, travel a great distance through cyberspace on her laptop computer. The still-

incomplete list of sites she visited May 1 that police released Friday -- withholding some for "evidentiary" purposes -- spanned everything from general searches to specific companies.

Levy visited one site called MrShowBiz, one for the Hollywood Reporter, one for National Geographic and one about travel to France.

She visited the sites during about 31/2 hours she spent on her computer that morning; no one has reported having seen her that day or since.

In another development Friday, Condit, a Democrat, became the subject of a formal complaint filed with the House ethics committee. Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., filed the complaint a day after the committee declined to follow up on an earlier Barr request for an inquiry.

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

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