WASHINGTON AND MODESTO — Police believe they have finally solved the slaying of government intern Chandra Levy, eight years after her disappearance transfixed Washington and much of the nation and ended the political career of a prominent California lawmaker, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.
The Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department has given prosecutors evidence that it believes proves that a Salvadoran immigrant, already in prison for attacks against two other women, killed Levy, 24, in a remote part of Washington's Rock Creek Park in 2001, the official said.
Levy's remains were found a year after she vanished, and police and federal authorities have been investigating the case as a homicide ever since.
Police recently submitted their evidence to the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, which prosecutes most local crimes, seeking an arrest warrant for longtime suspect Ingmar Guandique, said the law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Levy's parents, Robert and Susan Levy, said Saturday that two top Washington police officials had called them the previous night to say an arrest was imminent. The officials said they could not disclose the suspect's name, but that they had evidence that could "pinpoint" who killed their daughter and result in a conviction.
One of the officials, Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier, said she considered it "the highlight of her career" to be on the verge of closing the case, Susan Levy said in an interview at the couple's Modesto home.
"I think they have some new evidence, but I don't know what it is," Robert Levy said. "We think it is the same person" convicted in the similar assaults, he said in a reference to Guandique. The couple "thought that a few years ago," he said.
Susan Levy said the news was welcome but it will never bring back her only daughter.
"I was excited at first because it's been seven, eight years and there's no answer. We want answers, we want judgment," Levy said. "But it's a bittersweet excitement. . . . Why did it even have to happen?"
Federal prosecutors will review the Police Department's request for a warrant and determine if there is enough evidence to proceed. If there is, they will forward the prosecution package to a judge for a second-tier review and approval.
Guandique is serving a 10-year prison sentence for attacking two female joggers in the same park within a period of weeks.
The Police Department said it would not discuss the case, and a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office also declined to comment.
Levy's disappearance in May 2001 set off a dragnet by the police and FBI that prompted headlines worldwide because it initially ensnared Rep. Gary Condit (D-Ceres), a married man who was reportedly having an affair with the former Bureau of Prisons intern.
At times, police lines were flooded with calls from tipsters and psychics who claimed to have information about Levy's whereabouts and what might have happened to her.
When last seen, Levy was wearing jogging clothes, and her possessions were found in her apartment as if she were planning on returning soon.
Soon, Condit was being followed by reporters in Washington and his home district in California's Central Valley. He was cleared as a suspect, but the publicity led to his reelection defeat in 2002.
In a statement to television station WJLA in Washington, Condit said:
"For the Levy family, we are glad they are finally getting the answers they deserve. For my family, I am glad that their years of standing together in the face of such adversity have finally led to the truth.
"It is unfortunate that an insatiable appetite for sensationalism blocked so many from searching for the real answers for so long," Condit added. "I had always hoped to have the opportunity to tell my side of this story, but too many were not prepared to listen. Now I plan to do so, but I will have no further comments on this story at this time."
How the police came by the information that they believe solves the case was unclear.
The Levys said that they were told that a possible breakthrough in the case came, at least in part, due to the increased attention spurred by a Washington Post series last year about the slaying and the Police Department's handling of it. The 13-part series concluded that the initial focus on Condit distracted investigators.
The series identified Guandique as the leading potential suspect, based in part on documentary evidence assembled by authorities. It also interviewed Guandique, who said he welcomed an aggressive police investigation because he believed it would clear him.