Body of Intern Found in Park in Washington

Charles Ramsey, chief of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department
Charles Ramsey, chief of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department
Chandra Ann Levy
Chandra Ann Levy

WASHINGTON, May 22 — A man walking his dog today found remains that the police identified as those of Chandra Ann Levy, the 24-year-old Washington intern who has been missing for more than a year and was linked romantically to Representative Gary A. Condit.

The discovery of the body in Rock Creek Park, less than four miles from Ms. Levy's apartment, answered the most basic question for her agonized parents, who said they had been holding out hope that she might still be alive.

Ms. Levy's body was found this morning in a secluded part of the park, but forensic experts said the scattered bones might yield few clues about her death. Ms. Levy was last seen April 30, 2001, and her last known act, the next day, was to look up the Web site of a historic house in the park, the Klingle Mansion, on her laptop computer.

Mr. Condit, who the police have said is not a suspect in the case, issued a statement tonight, saying that he and his family extended their condolences.

"The Levy family will remain in our prayers," his statement said.

Mr. Condit, Democrat of California, was subpoenaed to testify last month before a grand jury here investigating Ms. Levy's disappearance. He has acknowledged a close relationship with the intern but denied involvement in her disappearance. Still, his constituents said he did not appear to be forthcoming in the case, and they rejected his bid for re-election in a primary in March.

Because of Ms. Levy's connection with Mr. Condit, the case preoccupied much of the news media until the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The remains were discovered this morning less than a mile from the mansion by a man walking his dog and looking for box turtles in Rock Creek Park, a verdant 1,700-acre preserve crisscrossed by jogging trails and covering a large swath of Northwest Washington.

The police had checked the area at least twice since Ms. Levy vanished but found nothing until the man's dog found the skull. The man called the police at 9:30 a.m. from the closest house. The police and neighbors said that joggers and bikers occasionally went by the area, just off a narrow, winding road, but the remains were in an inaccessible spot.

Confirmation that the remains were those of Ms. Levy came in a matter of hours through a check of dental records, Charles Ramsey, chief of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, said.

"The remains found earlier today are in fact Chandra Levy," he told scores of reporters and photographers from around the world who had quickly congregated in the park.

The finding shifted the status of the case from that of a missing person to that of a death, but the police said they would not know the cause until an autopsy was performed. "Manner and cause of death is pending," Chief Ramsey said.

Billy Martin, a lawyer for the Levy family, said he expected that the autopsy would reveal the case to be a homicide.

Unlike other occasions when unidentified bodies had been found since Ms. Levy's disappearance, dozens of metropolitan police officers were on the scene, as were agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Park Service, which manages the park, the Justice Department and private detectives working for the Levy family, all lending an air that a significant discovery had been made.

The police said they had found items that led them to believe the body was Ms. Levy's even before the dental records verified that it was.

Ms. Levy's parents and brother, at home in Modesto, Calif., learned of the speculation about their daughter's fate by watching television. Chief Ramsey said he had spoken to the family lawyers, who wanted to tell the family.

"Unfortunately," the chief said, "they began to see on news reports some of the speculation that it might be their daughter, and we were trying not to have that happen because that's pretty traumatic, to find out that a loved one passed away that way."

Mr. Martin, the Levy family lawyer, said tonight that the family was in a "fragile emotional state." Confirmation of their daughter's death, he said, is "the worst nightmare that a parent could endure."

Coincidentally, the Levys were interviewed by the television host Oprah Winfrey, this morning before the body was discovered. Asked then if they had hope that their daughter was still alive, Dr. Levy said: "We know, under the circumstances, it doesn't seem likely, but, you know, as parents, we have to maintain that hope. But, in any case, we want to know what happened."

They also told Ms. Winfrey that they believe Mr. Condit knows what happened to their daughter.

Dr. Edward Blake, a forensic scientist in Richmond, Calif., said investigators in this case faced major challenges.

"The main question is, how long was the body there before they found it?" Dr. Blake said. "Has it been there for a year, or was it dumped there more recently?"

Chief Ramsey said that the police had found "quite a bit" of the skeletal remains and that an anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution was being called in to help analyze them. Dr. Blake said it was unlikely that any soft tissue remained. Often, a fragile bone in the throat can indicate if someone were strangled, he said, but in this case, the bones may have been scattered by animals.

"They will do an excavation to try to find that kind of material," Dr. Blake said.

But clues like footprints or fingerprints would have disappeared long ago, Dr. Blake said, prompting him to think the scene may reveal little about the identity of a killer.

Chief Ramsey said, "The remains were exposed to the elements for some time, so obviously there's some disruption that takes place as a result of that, both in terms of weather and other factors." He said there was no indication of even a shallow grave where she might have been buried.

The police and the National Guard were setting up lights in the park tonight to continue their investigation of the scene. Earlier in the day, they found a jogging bra, running shoes and a portable radio near the bones. Ms. Levy was believed to have left her house with little more than her keys. It was not clear tonight if the keys were found.

© New York Times 2002


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