Police searching for clues in intern's death

Friday, May 24, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Police and forensic experts worked Thursday to solve the mystery of how Chandra Levy died, with investigators saying most evidence points to murder. The medical examiner said a determination probably would not come before next week.

The Levy family pressed to have police classify the case a homicide, and Police Chief Charles Ramsey said, "I wouldn't be surprised if it were."

Indications in that direction include the former government intern's young age and fitness as well as the discovery of her remains beneath leaves and underbrush "off the beaten path" of Rock Creek Park, Ramsey said.

Nevertheless, he said the case will remain simply a "death investigation" until Dr. Jonathan Arden, Washington's medical examiner, determines how Levy died.

Arden would not comment on the condition of the remains or what he had learned so far. Police are searching the area where the remains were found.

Arden said because they could turn up new evidence, he probably would not determine the manner of death until next week.

The remains of Levy, 24, of Modesto, Calif., were found by a man walking his dog Wednesday morning. They were located on a steep slope and identified later in the day using dental records.

Ramsey said investigators plan to talk to people who live near and use the park. He also said Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., may be among the people investigators want to talk to again.

Acknowledged affair

Condit has acknowledged an affair with Levy, a police source says, but denies any involvement in her disappearance. Police interviewed him four times and repeatedly have said he is not a suspect.

Police probably will interview for a second time a man convicted of assaulting two joggers, Ramsey said. The attacks occurred in May and July last year in the same area of the park where Levy's remains were found.

Ramsey said investigators talked to the man months ago after U.S. Park Police alerted them to the arrest. "He said nothing to implicate himself with her, but then again we didn't know she was in Rock Creek Park," Ramsey said. He cautioned against calling the man a suspect.

Both women were carrying portable radios and wearing headphones when they were attacked, according to a description of the cases provided by the U.S. attorney's office in Washington. Police said they found a radio and headphones among Levy's remains. She disappeared May 1, 2001, two weeks before the first assault.

Investigators resumed their search of the area Thursday, painstakingly sifting through dirt and leaves looking for blood, hairs, clothing fibers or other evidence that could help determine when and how Levy died.

The items recovered with the skull and bones Wednesday included a jogging bra, tennis shoes, University of Southern California sweat shirt and other clothing. Levy, who had been a Bureau of Prisons intern in Washington, was a graduate student at USC.

Ramsey would not say whether any evidence of foul play had been found. Terrance W. Gainer, the deputy police chief, said the skull was "not in pristine condition," but he could not conclude whether the damage to it came before or after Levy died.

Dr. Cyril Wecht, the county coroner in Pittsburgh, said an examination of the bones would quickly yield any indications whether Levy was shot, stabbed or beaten to death. "Those exams have been completed," Wecht said, noting they typically take no more than a few hours.

Strangulation, which often does not involve fracturing bones or cartilage, would be harder to determine, he said.

He also said investigators are unlikely to find much physical evidence at the scene that would help them identify a potential killer because such evidence probably deteriorated during 13 months outdoors.

DNA analysis can take a couple of weeks to complete, he said.

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