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THE NATION | THE ROOTS OF A SCANDAL

Police Recount a 911 Call Made by Neighbor of Levy

Inquiry: Resident told of possible scream outside intern's apartment building. But D.C. chief says it's not tied to disappearance.

July 16, 2001|JONATHAN PETERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Police received an emergency call about a possible scream heard outside Chandra Levy's apartment building in the early morning hours of the day after the 24-year-old intern was last seen, District of Columbia police disclosed Sunday.

But as tantalizing as that new information sounds, it only underscores the frustrating nature of the investigation so far, because police also say it appears Levy used her computer for more than three hours later that morning.

Responding to the 911 call from a resident of Levy's building at 4:30 a.m. May 1, patrol officers found nothing wrong in the area. Since Levy had not yet been reported missing, officers had no reason to check her apartment specifically.

"It is apparent there was a call from a resident of the building about four hours prior to the activity on the computer," D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

But Ramsey said police are more focused on the computer activity itself, including questions about who Levy may have been communicating with and indications that she was seeking information about different U.S. cities.

"That's a vital piece of information," he said. "The one person who'd be able to answer [such questions], we haven't been able to find. That's Chandra herself."

Washington police Sunday also were preparing to broaden their physical search, an effort that has focused on woods and abandoned buildings near Levy's Dupont Circle neighborhood in northwest Washington. A decision to comb through woodlands in other parts of the district could be made soon, said Sgt. Joe Gentile, spokesman for the Metropolitan Police.

Levy's disappearance and its possible political repercussions dominated the Sunday television talk shows. Levy, of Modesto, was last seen April 30 at a health club near her apartment. Since then, a media frenzy has focused on Rep. Gary A. Condit, 53, the California congressman who reportedly has admitted having an extramarital affair with her.

Senate Republican leader Trent Lott on Sunday criticized Condit, maintaining that his behavior has raised "additional suspicions" and said he should resign if allegations of Condit's extramarital affair with Levy are true.

"Infidelity is always unacceptable, but particularly when you have an elected official involved in a position of trust with a young girl, an intern," Lott said on "Fox News Sunday." "If these allegations are true, obviously he should resign, and if he doesn't, the people of his district probably will not reelect him."

Levy was an intern for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, not in Condit's office.

In the CBS interview, Ramsey said investigators doubt the likelihood that Levy was lured from her home by a stranger. Levy, he said, is "a pretty cautious woman--and just wasn't one to just throw her door open to anybody if there was a knock at the door."

Levy's parents think she left her apartment to see someone she knew, because she did not take her purse, wallet, identification or credit cards, their attorney, William R. "Billy" Martin, said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"For some reason, Chandra appears to have been lured, called or brought out of the apartment expecting to return. . . . It's suspect," Martin said.

D.C. police officials also reiterated Sunday that they have questions about the privately administered polygraph Condit took last week and are waiting to be given the results. Assistant Police Chief Terrance A. Gainer told "Fox News" that the department would prefer to administer its own test.

"At least the polygraph examiner is very credible," he said of the ex-FBI agent who gave the test.

Condit is not classified as a suspect in Levy's disappearance. Ramsey repeated Sunday that until evidence of a crime is found, no one can be called a suspect.

There are "a lot of possibilities here, and a lot of people we're talking to," he said on "Face the Nation."

But so far, nothing has led to solving Levy's disappearance.

When police responded to the 911 call in the middle of the night near her building, for instance, they found no evidence of trouble.

"The car went there and found nothing--so it has nothing to do with Ms. Levy, as far as we've determined," Gentile, the police spokesman, said in an interview Sunday.

Levy appeared to be using her computer from about 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. later that day, police said.

The media frenzy over Levy's disappearance has reached a point where any discovery of a body near Washington is sparking grisly rumors. On Saturday, for example, firefighters in Maryland's rustic Anne Arundel County uncovered a body in some brush, setting off a media stampede. But later in the day, county police announced that the body appeared to be that of a man.

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