Prosecutor: Levy ‘random victim’ of Salvadoran laborer

Ingmar Guandique is serving a 10-year sentence for two assaults in the park where Levy's body was found.
Nearly seven years after the remains of federal intern Chandra Levy were found in a Washington park, a jailed laborer from El Salvador faces a murder charge in her death, authorities said Tuesday.

A judge on Tuesday signed an arrest warrant for Ingmar Guandique, 27, who is serving a 10-year sentence for two assaults in Rock Creek Park that occurred around the time of Levy’s disappearance. Her remains were found in Rock Creek Park about a year after she was reported missing. “We believe Levy was a random victim of Guandique, who attacked and killed her as she jogged in Rock Creek Park,” said Jeffrey Taylor, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. Guandique’s public defenders said the case was far from over, and urged the public not to jump to conclusions. “This flawed investigation, characterized by the many mistakes and missteps of the Metropolitan Police Department and every federal agency that has attempted to solve this case, will not end with the simple issuance of an arrest warrant against Mr. Guandique,” the federal public defender’s office said in a statement … We look forward to trying this case before unbiased jurors who will not rush to judgment.” Guandique faces a first-degree murder charge. A conviction on the charge would bring a mandatory sentence of 30 to 60 years in prison, Taylor said. The massive publicity surrounding the Levy case was largely a result of her romantic affair to then-Rep. Gary Condit, D-California. Police questioned Condit many times in connection with the slaying, but the congressman was never considered a suspect. Watch the police announce arrest » A California native working as an intern for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Levy, 24, disappeared May 1, 2001. Her remains were found in May 2002 by a man walking his dog in a remote area of the park. Guandique has been imprisoned at the Federal Correctional Institution-Victorville, a medium-security facility northeast of Los Angeles, California. Officials hope to transfer him from California to the nation’s capital in 45 to 60 days. He’s serving his sentence on the two assault convictions in California because there are no federal prisons in the District of Columbia. Those convicted of federal crimes in the capital are sent to various federal prisons across the country.

Guandique was considered a person of interest in 2002 in connection with Levy’s death, authorities said Tuesday. Before the new charges, his projected release date from prison was October 5, 2011. According to officials at Tuesday’s news conference — and the affidavit supporting the arrest warrant for Guandique — circumstantial evidence played a large role in the case. Authorities presented no evidence Tuesday of anyone seeing Guandique and Levy together. Timeline of Levy’s disappearance » But the affidavit said a witness reported seeing and running from a man in the park, and she said she believed that occurred on the same day as Levy disappeared. Upon seeing a photograph of Guandique in the interim, the woman thought he looked like the man who followed her in the park, the affidavit said. Another witness reported seeing Guandique with “a fat lip and scratches on his face” about the time of Levy’s disappearance, the affidavit said. The witness added that Guandique said he was injured by his girlfriend during an argument. Interviewed by police, Guandique’s girlfriend at the time said that while he was violent with her on occasion, “at no time during any of the arguments or fights did [she] ever strike Guandique or cause any injuries to his face or neck.” Two other witnesses reported that Guandique told them he committed crimes against women, including rape and murder, according to the affidavit. And another witness last month told police Guandique admitted his involvement in Levy’s killing, as well as that he tried to rape two other women in the park at knifepoint, the affidavit said.

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When news emerged last month that Guandique’s arrest was imminent in the Levy case, the same witness told police Guandique “became very anxious and said something to the effect of, ‘[Expletive], it’s over. They got me now. What am I gonna do’ ” Authorities searching Guandique’s cell in California in September found a photograph of Levy that apparently had been taken from a magazine, the affidavit said.

Speaking last month as news emerged that an arrest in the case was imminent, Levy’s mother, Susan, said, “It’s a bittersweet situation for me as the mother of a daughter who is no longer here. I want justice. I want to know that the person who did it is in jail and will not do it to anybody else.” She added, “Every day the elephant is there. Every day you get a knot in your stomach. It doesn’t go away. It’s a life sentence for the families and relatives that miss their loved ones. We have a life sentence of hurt.”