(Published: Wednesday, August 01, 2001)
WASHINGTON -- John Woodfolk remembers cutting Chandra Levy a duplicate set of house keys in early May.
The fact that three investigators showed up to interview him Tuesday shows how many questions remain unanswered in the search now 3 months old.
By his account, Woodfolk could be the last person known to have seen Levy before her disappearance. She was last heard from, via e-mail, on May 1. That was just about the time, Woodfolk claims, that he made keys for her at the hardware store where he works.
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"I know it was her, because she left her name on the (key) bag," Woodfolk said Tuesday morning. "She dropped them off, and (when) she picked them up, she seemed in a happy mood."
One of Woodfolk's co-workers, though, suggested that Levy might have appeared at the hardware store in late April. This version would render Woodfolk's encounter significantly less useful to investigators -- although her need for duplicate keys would still raise questions.
In other developments Tuesday, 25 police recruits finished searching area parks, and a Democratic colleague offered a damaging assessment of the situation facing Rep. Gary Condit of Ceres.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has worked closely with him in the past, said Tuesday afternoon that she does not believe Condit can rehabilitate his reputation in the wake of the Levy case.
"I don't think that there's anything he can do to regain his credibility," Feinstein said.
Previously Feinstein said she urged Condit early on to tell police and the Levy family everything possible about his relationship with the 24-year-old intern. Feinstein also revealed Tuesday that she had specifically discussed with him the nature of that relationship during a telephone call early in the investigation.
"I called him on the phone, and he said he did not have a romantic relationship with her," Feinstein said. "He lied to me, and that's something I just can't forgive."
Through his staff, Condit denied for nine weeks that he had an affair with Levy. According to multiple news accounts citing anonymous law enforcement sources, Condit subsequently admitted to police on July 7 that he did have the affair; Condit's representatives have neither confirmed nor denied those reports.
This long public silence provoked Levy's parents Tuesday to criticize Condit in the most personal terms yet.
"Girls have their own minds," Dr. Robert Levy said outside the family's Modesto home Tuesday, "but she was seduced by someone older and wiser, and who does it frequently."
Three investigators, including FBI Special Agent Brad Garrett and Washington police Detective Ralph Durant, spoke Tuesday with Woodfolk at the hardware store where he has worked for almost 15 years. The Candey Hardware store is across Connecticut Avenue from the gym frequented by Levy and is several blocks from her apartment building.
Levy went to the Washington Sports Club on April 30 to cancel her membership. Until now, that appeared to be the last time she was seen in public.
Police believe Levy spent about 3 hours on the morning of May 1 surfing the Internet from her laptop computer and sending at least one e-mail, to her parents.
Although he no longer has a receipt, Woodfolk said he distinctly recalled Levy's purchasing the duplicate keys in the first week of May.
He believes, furthermore, that she might have used a credit card to pay for the purchase.
Despite the nonstop media attention to the Levy case, Woodfolk did not call investigators until recently. "I just thought it wasn't even relevant," Woodfolk said.
The investigators appeared to stay several hours at the hardware store but left little clue about how helpful the interview might have been.
Reporters found out about the investigators' interview with Woodfolk before it took place, so television crews met the detectives as they entered the store.
In other ways, the investigation showed signs Tuesday of losing some of its public frenzy.
The television cameras and microphones that had been on permanent standby outside Washington police headquarters were gone Tuesday afternoon. Condit's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, started a 10-day vacation. And after two weeks of sending police recruits shoulder-by-shoulder through Washington's wooded parks, and coming up with little but urban litter, police ended their public search for a body.
"The search today ends the search of parklands within the District of Columbia at this time, pending any future developments in the course of this investigation," Washington police said in a statement.
Bee Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle can be reached at (202) 383-0006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.