Levy's death is ruled homicide

District medical examiner is unable to determine how ex-intern was killed

`There's a whole set of questions'

Police probe to narrow in focus

hundreds attend memorial service in Calif.

May 29, 2002|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Nearly a week after her skeleton was discovered in the dirt and underbrush of Rock Creek Park, authorities confirmed yesterday what has long been suspected: Chandra Levy was the victim of a homicide. But officials said they could not determine exactly how she was killed.

Dr. Jonathan L. Arden, Washington's chief medical examiner, said he concluded that the 24-year-old former government intern had been killed based on how and where her remains were found, as well as from evidence at the scene.

"The circumstances of her disappearance and her discovery, having been secluded in the park and taking into account the personal effects that were found at the scene, allows me to conclude that her death was homicidal in nature," Arden said.

The bones themselves, he said, did not reveal the method of attack. Authorities said that was not unusual for a case in which the remains were recovered more than a year after the crime.

The announcement came hours before Levy was remembered by about 1,000 mourners at a public memorial service in her hometown of Modesto, Calif. The ceremony was held in the congressional district of Rep. Gary A. Condit, who was thrust into a news media frenzy after Levy vanished. Levy's family said the married congressman had been romantically involved with her.

Condit, 54, has denied any role in Levy's disappearance. Police have interviewed Condit four times since Levy was last seen April 30, 2001, and said he is not a suspect.

Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey would not rule out yesterday the possibility that detectives might seek to reinterview Condit.

"We'll speak with anyone we think can add some value to this investigation in terms of telling us how she got there and what happened while she was there," he said.

Since last week, police have been combing the crime scene, in an off-the-path area about 100 yards from a well-traveled road in Northwest Washington. That was where a man walking his dog discovered Levy's remains May 22. Later that day, the medical examiner used dental records to identify the remains as Levy's.

Around the scene, according to the Associated Press, police found knotted leggings, which an attacker could have used as a restraint. Ramsey said the FBI crime lab would analyze the clothing found there, including a sneaker, a sweat shirt and a sports bra. He said there were no visible hairs, fibers, blood or other fluids on the clothes.

Most of Levy's skeletal remains have been recovered, some of which were scattered up to 100 yards from the central crime scene.

Given the passage of so much time, Levy's remains yielded no clues about the precise nature of her death. There was no evidence from the bones of a gunshot, a knife wound, a blunt-force injury or strangulation, authorities said.

Levy, who had just finished an internship at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, vanished just before she planned to leave Washington to attend her graduation ceremony from a University of Southern California master's program.

Police searched the 1,700-acre park for signs of Levy last summer, though Ramsey acknowledged that they never examined the spot where the remains were found, which fell between two search areas.

Now that the case has been ruled a homicide, Ramsey said, other lines of questioning can be cut off and the investigation can narrow in focus. During the year since Levy disappeared, police said they lacked hard evidence of a crime; now that they do, legal analysts say, police are at greater liberty to aggressively pursue suspects and hunt down new angles.

Police are examining several theories, including that Levy was attacked somewhere else and dumped in the park, or that she was lured to the park and then slain. Authorities are also looking at the possibility that she was attacked while walking or running, though she was not known to jog in the park. They are also investigating whether she was sexually assaulted.

"At least we know it's not an accident," Ramsey said. "She's not a missing person. She had to get to that location somehow. Did she do it on her own, was she a victim of random violence, did somebody lure her there? There's a whole set of questions that have to be answered."

After Levy's disappearance, her family helped keep the pressure on Condit by suggesting that the congressman knew more than he had said publicly about her last hours. At yesterday's memorial, Billy Martin, a lawyer for the Levy family, returned to that theme.

"Condit, as a result of his relationship with Chandra, knows something about Chandra, her state of mind, how she was feeling, what she may have been doing just prior to her disappearance," he said, speaking before news cameras in Modesto. He said police should talk with Condit about "what he may know about Chandra and that evidence" found at the scene.

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