WASHINGTON — A pair of investigators working for Chandra Levy's family on Thursday found a 12- to 14-inch bone near where the young woman's remains were discovered in Rock Creek Park here, and the Washington medical examiner said he believes it may be her missing tibia.
Jonathan Arden, the medical examiner, said that the leg bone is "consistent in every way" with the remains that were recovered two weeks ago.
"It is in the same condition. And it is essentially the same size as the right tibia, or shinbone, that we had," Arden said. "So my working hypothesis is that it comes from Chandra."
Arden has called the case a homicide, but said the new find shows "no specific injury" that would lead him to change the cause of death from "undetermined," the official conclusion he reached after examining the skeletal remains and other evidence.
The private investigators also found some twisted wire, possibly a clothes hanger, not far from the bone. The wire was bent and had been formed to resemble a figure eight, with two distinct loops.
Police spent a week canvassing the area, a process that was described as meticulous and was aimed at ensuring the recovery of as much evidence as possible. The search continued day and night and at various points involved police recruits, about 15 dogs, crime scene technicians, anthropologists and an archeologist.
But the possibility that a bone likely belonging to Levy was somehow overlooked--and in proximity to where most of the remains were found--raises questions about how thoroughly and systematically the immediate scene was covered.
Police initially downplayed the likelihood that the bone might be Levy's, but Thursday night the department released a statement saying the find was uncovered just 25 yards from where the young woman's skull was found.
The mobile crime unit was ordered back to the scene, and the area was cordoned off and the search resumed.
"It is unacceptable that these items were not located," Police Chief Charles Ramsey said in the statement. "I have directed that this matter be thoroughly reviewed to determine why these items were not originally found."
The two private detectives, who were hired by Levy family attorney Billy Martin and were in the park Thursday accompanied by a reporter, found the bone only about 50 feet from a cleared section of the park where police looked for Levy's remains during a weeklong search of the crime scene.
The two former Washington homicide detectives, Joe McCann, 52, and Duane Stanton, 43, were raking the area looking for evidence when they found the bone and the wire. Both items were covered by leaves.
"You'd think the cadaver dogs would have located it," Ramsey said before Arden had identified the bone.
"If it was a [body part], obviously we would have liked to have found it. When we released the scene, we knew the left leg had not been located. We were out there for a week. We did not find 100% of the skeleton."
Thursday morning, on WTOP radio's "Ask the Chief" program, Ramsey said the mobile crime unit had done "an excellent, excellent job" of investigating the area. "It's very difficult to search" the remote thicket where the bones were found, he said. "That's why it took so many days."
Ramsey said that the wire found in the park may not be connected to the crime scene, but instead might be wire used by the National Park Service to support growing trees.