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Hunt for Levy Backtracks to D.C. Parkland

Mystery: Intern visited Web site on recreational area just before she vanished, police say. New search is fruitless.

July 17, 2001|STEPHEN BRAUN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — District of Columbia and U.S. Park police swarmed through tall grass Monday in a park where Chandra Levy often jogged, but found only suspected animal bones after a long day of searching.

The latest move by police came after the revelation by investigators that Levy apparently had used her laptop computer May 1 to scan a Web site about the Klingle Mansion section of Rock Creek Park. That was the day after she was last seen in public. The park area is about two miles north of the apartment where she lived.

A smaller team of police searchers four weeks ago had ranged over the area, a tract of jogging and cycling trails surrounding an old stone farmhouse. But in the last several days, police have been retracing their steps.

They have scoured landfills and abandoned buildings and have issued appeals to cabdrivers in the search for the missing Modesto woman. Teams also waded through dense underbrush in Fort Dupont, a remote park area in southeast Washington where a more cursory search was done several weeks ago, police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile said.

Though Levy was last seen turning in her membership at a health club the night of April 30, D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said investigators were confident that she had used her computer for nearly four hours May 1.

Between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. that day, Ramsey said, Levy looked at air and rail ticket pages and at a map site for the Rock Creek Park area. "When you look at the e-mail messages, particularly one she sent her mother, it wasn't sent by a stranger, it was clearly written by her," Ramsey said.

Mounted officers, more than 50 police cadets and park rangers spent much of the afternoon combing over the hilly terrain, turning up several bones. But authorities played down the discoveries, which included a 3- to 4-inch bone fragment of unidentified origin.

"I don't want to speculate," Park Police Lt. Joe Cox said. "But it's not uncommon to find animal bones in the park. It could be that's what it is, but we don't want to take any chances."

By day's end, D.C. police spokesman Tony O'Leary concurred. "They look like animal bones."

Gentile said police still had not gotten FBI crime lab analysis results from a window blind and other items taken in a search of Rep. Gary A. Condit's condominium last week. Police have said that Condit (D-Ceres), who has acknowledged contacting Levy in the days before she disappeared, is not a suspect in the case.

But, pressing to learn more about his final contacts with Levy, police have interviewed Condit three times, have searched his residence and taken a DNA sample from his skin.

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) appeared to backpedal from comments he made on a Sunday television talk show that implied a demand for Condit's resignation. Appearing as a guest on "Fox News Sunday," Lott said that Condit should resign from Congress if he had been involved in an affair with Levy. The congressman acknowledged that relationship in his most recent interview with detectives, a source has said.

But on Monday, Lott handed out a "clarification" of his remarks. He said infidelity is a "serious" breach, but added that a demand for a resignation would have to take into account all allegations and circumstances.

"I don't know that infidelity should be a litmus test," Lott said. "But it certainly is not the kind of thing you should ever condone."

Marina Ein, a spokeswoman retained by Condit, brushed aside Lott's remarks.

"We've said from the beginning that Congressman Condit is cooperating. The people in his district will have the final say. It's his constituents who will do that, not anyone else."

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