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Chandra Levy: A Young Woman, A Big Secret, and Her Mysterious Death

One can hardly move through life without accumulating some skeletons in their closets. For some these may come in the form of past trauma, or deeds they're not exactly proud of. But others have secrets that may well become dangerous. The scariest part is that the danger often isn't perceived until it's too late. Sometimes, as with this case, secrets can complicate an investigation, making it more difficult to figure out what happened.

Wikipedia lists Chandra Levy's date of birth as April 14, 1977. She was born in Cleveland, Ohio to parents Robert "Bob" and Susan Levy. The family moved to Modesto, California, which is where Chandra and her younger brother, Adam Levy, grew up. Her parents raised her and her brother in a conservative Jewish synagogue called Congregation Beth Shalom. The bright and driven young woman graduated from Grace M. Davis High School with big plans for a future with the FBI. ABC News gave the most comprehensive report on the case as well as the 2016, 20/20 episode that aired on it. In the article, Chandra was described as being a playful yet bossy older sister that did not like being told what to do. She was involved in little league in her childhood and was a big San Francisco Giants fan.

After graduating high school, she attended San Francisco State University, where she earned a degree in journalism. Afterward, she interned for the California Bureau of Secondary Education, and also worked in the office of Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan as well as the governor's office. Then she was off to the University of Southern California to earn her master's degree in public administration.

As part of her last semester of school, Chandra took a paid internship with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. For this, she was required to move to Washington D.C. on a temporary basis. Excited and ready to kick her foot through the door in D.C., Chandra packed up and made the move. Her internship began in October 2000. She was assigned to the public affairs division and made a good impression on her supervisor, then bureau spokesperson Dan Dunne. He was highly impressed with her work, particularly her handling of media inquiries into the upcoming execution of Timothy McVeigh, the man who bombed the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995. In December 2000, Chandra graduated from USC, but decided to remain in D.C. until the spring, when it was time to walk across the stage in her graduation ceremony. That should have taken place in May 2001.

Chandra was supposed to arrive back home in California on May 1, 2001, but she never returned. Bob and Susan Levy initially tried to remember that their daughter was a 24-year-old woman with a life of her own on the other side of the country. Maybe she had just stepped out. Maybe she was out with her secret friend.

Just before their daughter went missing, Bob and Susan had visited her in D.C. They got the impression that she was quite happy out there. The Nation's Capitol, with so much going on and so many important figures that could make or break the future of a young intern like Chandra. It was no wonder a young woman with the kind of aspirations she had would be drawn to D.C. like a girl dreaming of stardom is drawn to Hollywood. While visiting, Bob and Susan told 20/20 that she would go out with a "secret friend." They thought little of this at the time, but after she failed to return home it wouldn't take long for the cat to escape the bag.

For the better part of a week, they tried to remain calm. She was probably busy. Or maybe she just stepped out somewhere. It had to be a case of bad timing. The one thought that continued to gnaw at the family was that this was not like her. By May 6, when they still hadn't heard from her they got in touch with police in D.C. When her apartment near Dupont Circle was searched, her driver's license, credit cards, checkbook, jewelry, and cell phone were still there. With a suitcase packed and clothes laid out on the bed, it was clear that she had been preparing to return home to California just before she disappeared.

Chandra had been at an important crossroads in her life. With a graduate degree accomplished, she now needed to decide what was going to come next. She had been weighing the choices of either moving back to D.C. to find a job, applying to the FBI, or going to law school. Susan said that her daughter sounded happy when she last spoke with her. She was excited for the next chapter of her life, perhaps even more so by the fact that it was all still so uncertain.

When investigators checked her computer they found that she had researched D.C.'s Rock Creek Park. A search was quickly conducted of the park that the FBI's lead investigator on the case, Brad Garrett, described as being "twice as big as Central Park in New York City." Police scoured the park on foot as well as on horseback, but to avail. Nothing was found. Adam Levy recalled feeling as though it were all "a dream." He hoped beyond hope that his sister was out there somewhere, maybe being held against her will or just hiding out of fear. As time continued to march ever-forward, Adam said that "the hope fades."

Susan took it upon herself to look into her daughter's phone bill after she went missing. She had hoped to find some clues that could lead her to Chandra. There was one number that had been called quite frequently. That was the office number of California Congressman Gary Condit.

By the time of Chandra's disappearance, Gary Condit had made quite the name for himself in the world of American politics. In 1972, he became the youngest mayor in Ceres, California and didn't lose a single election until 2000. His son, Chad Condit, agreed to an interview with 20/20, not as a representative for his father, but on his own behalf in 2016. He said that his father had been liked by the people because "They knew he would try to do the right thing." His wife was much of the reason for this. Chad said that "she was really beloved." Chad remembers his father working all the time before it all fell apart. Aside from his duties as congressman, he also served as a county supervisor, on the city council, and as a state assemblyman.

Chandra's path crossed with Gary's while she was living in Washington D.C. She met the congressman while visiting his office with a friend. He kindly gave the pair a tour of the Capitol, but Gary and Chandra's chapter wouldn't end there. At the time he was the Democratic representative for her hometown of Modesto. His work took him back and forth between D.C. and California. He was 28 years her senior, and married. The two started an affair that to this day Condit has never gone into any kind of detail about. For a long time he maintained that they had only shared a casual friendship.

Once she began seeing her new love interest, Chandra's life suddenly became very isolated. As the pair both had to work during the day, their visits would often take place in their off-hours. As the affair carried on, Chandra's circle seemed to shrink until it only included Gary Condit.

It seemed to those out looking for her as though Chandra had just slipped off the face of the planet. There was no evidence aside from the many phone calls she placed to Condit's office. The media crashed down on the congressman relentlessly, camping out in front of his California home. Headlines speculated on the romance between the two. It seemed to the cheating husband that there was no way out from under the media scrutiny. Chad recalled, "We rallied around my dad." Though he stood accused of not only having an affair, but killing his mistress, his wife and son stayed by his side.

Chad Condit has always believed his father to be innocent. He told 20/20, "This is a guy that wouldn't kill a fly." Chad never feared for a moment that he was guilty. His fears were more politically rooted. He knew that though his father had spent the past 30 years in politics this scandal would likely ruin him. At this point no one was thinking about all the right he may have done in the past. They were all thinking about the missing mistress in the present.

Susan got the chance to ask the man her daughter had been seeing outright if he killed her. She told 20/20, "Of course, he said no." By August 2001, interest in the case had reached an all-time high. People all over the world wanted to know what happened to Chandra Levy. It was at this time that Gary Condit decided to grant an interview with ABC News' Connie Chung. The interview was seen by 24 million people, and by the end the entire world would be giving Condit the side-eye.

He vehemently denied having anything to do with her disappearance, saying that he did not harm or kill her. When asked if he had a sexual relationship with the young intern, he repeatedly refused to answer. He says that it was out of respect for his family that he would not be disclosing any of "those details about Chandra Levy." This comment made Susan laugh out loud. He went on to say that he was obeying a "specific request" from his family that he not speak on that subject. In his 34 years of marriage, he said, he had "made my share of mistakes." He made it clear to the viewers at home that he was not in love with the young woman and had never held intentions of leaving his wife. Saying he had only known her for five months, at no point in that time had there been any "discussion about a future, about children, about marriage."

The disgraced politician said that when he had been questioned by police, he had been honest and that he had "provided them information in every interview." He even commented that he "gave up a lot of my civil liberties to make sure that they had all the information that they needed." Every question presented to him, he says he answered and that he "did nothing to slow down the investigation."

Susan Levy was quite honest with 20/20 about her feelings on Condit's interview. It made her angry. She said that he didn't seem "really all honest." Though he came off as confident, she could tell that he was "a little bit shocked." It seemed to her as though he were "guilty of something." She felt that he had been "caught in something, and I don't think it was just necessarily because he was caught in an affair." The angry, frantic mother laughed at his claim of obeying a family request because it just seemed " false. Phony."

While Susan viewed Condit's interview as a way of covering his ass, Chad thought much differently of the way his father had presented himself. He said that the congressman had been quite "straightforward." This is a great quality in a politician, but for a man facing the kinds of questions and accusations he was, it left much to be desired. He came off like he had no real concern for the missing woman. Only concern for the way his connection to her made him look. No matter how he came off or what the world thought of him, Chad has remained unshakable in his resolve. His father couldn't possibly have done something so terrible.

As Chad and Gary both cried to the world about how helpful the philandering husband had been, the case's lead investigator had a different story to tell. Brad Garrett said that initially Condit hadn't been helpful at all. In the beginning all they were able to pull from the politician's lips was that he knew her. Eventually, after several interviews they were finally able to learn of the sexual nature of their relationship. He admitted to conducting an affair with the young intern in which "typically he would see her after hours."

Despite his reluctance to admit to the affair, Garrett thought him to be innocent. In his opinion, Gary really seemed to care about her. In a voicemail from Condit found on Chandra's phone after she went missing, he appears to be looking for her with genuine concern. Garrett also considered the fact that the congressman's life hadn't changed in the slightest as a result of his affair being uncovered. At that time he still held his position in office, and his wife and son were still by his side. It would seem that Brad Garrett was just as convinced of Condit's innocence as his son was.

Chad knew of nothing more to do at that time than pray. He said that he just prayed for "everything to be OK." He wanted both of his parents to be alright. He didn't want to see his father's long career end before its time. What he wanted most of all was for Chandra to turn up alive and well so all this could be put to rest. "But that didn't happen," he told 20/20.

By September 10, 2001, somewhere around 30 journalists had made themselves at home right outside of Condit's house. It seemed as though there would be no reprieve from the constant scrutiny. Then the terrorist attack of the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11 changed that. Suddenly the reporters that had seemed to be going nowhere anytime soon dispersed. Chandra Levy was no longer the top story in the country. Americans gathered around televisions all over the nation in horror. Schools stopped classes to hear the news while work ground to a halt nationwide as everyone tuned in one-by-one. The news spread more quickly than a virus and with it came a newfound sense of patriotism.

The attacks came just four months after Chandra had gone missing. Police didn't slow their efforts in finding her as a result of the national tragedy, though. Even though 9/11 had become a priority in D.C., Chandra Levy was still a priority as well. Attention was never drawn away from her case where the authorities were concerned. Though the rest of the world was preoccupied with the recent attacks, police and FBI were resolute in finding her.

Everyone in the country remembers where they were and what they were doing when they were told to turn on the TV. Susan Levy will never forget because she and her husband were supposed to have already been in New York City that day. Thankfully, they hadn't made it yet. That day the couple was heading to Chicago to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show. They would make the trip to New York afterward. Susan received the same phone call that many did that day, telling her to turn on her television. Her friend on the other end of the line commented, "You're not going anywhere."

As Susan was coming to terms with the temporary end of the media tour for her daughter, Chad Condit was learning of the attacks as well. He was already in New York City that day, scheduled to appear on The View to talk about the case. He was in the middle of a haircut when he suddenly heard the sirens blaring past the shop. Fire trucks barreled down the street right past the window as everyone inside wondered what was going on. It was inside this barber shop right alongside life-long New York residents that Chad learned of the terrorist attack on the U.S.

A year went by and much changed in America. Airport security was tightened until travelers couldn't breathe. Gas prices rose so high that no one was allowed to fill their tanks without paying first due to all of the gas theft. The country had gone to war and many were wondering what the reason really was. By May 22, 2002, the world looked slightly different from the way Chandra Levy left it. It was that afternoon that her skull was found in a remote area of Rock Creek Park in D.C. This led to her skeletal remains being quickly located as well.

That same afternoon Bob and Susan were appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show remotely from their home. It was after their television appearance that they learned of the discovery. Susan said that they "screamed and cried" upon hearing the devastating news. Adam commented that this was the worst day of his life. Their hopes of finding her alive were dashed in just a short sentence.

Her bones had been found down a steep embankment within the park. Then Washington D.C. medical examiner Dr. Jonathan L. Arden told a news conference in late May that he had been unable to determine a cause of death. He did tell the press that "the circumstances of her disappearance and her body on recovery are indicative that she died through the acts of another person." Crime scene photos show her jogging pants with knots made at the bottom of the legs. Investigators believe that this signifies a homicide was committed. There was little to nothing in the way of forensic evidence to recover. After a year nature had made its attempts to reclaim the scene, wiping away evidence in the process. There was no DNA found of a potential murderer, but they did have the scene, however lacking it was in evidence.

Just two months after Chandra went missing, Ingmar Guandique was arrested for assaulting two women in Rock Creek Park. The first, he attacked in mid-May 2001, the second right before his arrest in July 2001. Ingmar Guandique was an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador. In 2002, he was sentenced to 10 years for assaulting both of these women at knifepoint. As his case was moving its way through the court, Chandra's was moving through the investigative process at a snail's pace. It seemed that her case had stalled since the discovery of her body.

In 2007, new detectives were assigned to the case, taking it in a whole new direction. Given his priors and the timing, Guandique became their prime suspect. By 2009, he was charged with the murder of Chandra Levy. He maintained his innocence throughout the trial and told 20/20 in an interview that he'd never had any contact with her.

The case against him was largely dependent on testimony from his cellmate, Armando Morales. According to Morales, his bunk-mate told him that he killed her, but he didn't rape her. He had apparently only planned on robbing her when he saw her running in the park. He hid in the bushes before running up behind her and grabbing her by the neck. He dragged her to the bushes, but she stopped struggling before he got her there. After that he stole her fanny pack before fleeing. Morales said that his cellmate told him he had no intention of killing her. He apparently had no idea she was dead until after he was jailed for his other two crimes. This is what Morales testified to in court and it was the most evidence the prosecution was able to come up with.

Garrett admitted that it was a loose connection. Especially when considering the lack of physical and forensic evidence. All they had was an MO and a jailhouse confession, which can rarely be trusted. Truly believing this man to be guilty, the prosecution gave it their best shot with what they had. While Bob Levy was confident the right man was being tried, Susan wasn't so sure.

He was charged with Chandra's murder in 2010 and sentenced to 60 years in prison. Though Susan felt "a sense of relief" after hearing the verdict, she said "I didn't feel happiness." Somewhere at the back of her mind and the bottom of her stomach it still gnawed at her. What really happened at Rock Creek Park?

Guandique was granted a new trial in 2015 after allegations were made of prosecutorial misconduct in his first trial. His attorney argued that the prosecution's key witness had lied on the stand. Armando Morales had told the jury that he had never helped police before. In fact, he had a history of it. It was the job of the prosecution to know this information and pass it along to the defense.

Susan was surprised to hear about the new trial, but was hopeful. She hoped to learn more about what happened to her daughter. She also held out hope that the new trial would prompt Condit to reveal more about their relationship. Neither ever happened. New evidence surfaced in the middle of the trial that cast doubt on the jailhouse confession that had held the entire case together.

Babs Proller was a divorced mom that was between homes at the time. She had temporarily moved into a hotel with her dog, Buddy. One day while bringing her dog back from their walk, she met a friendly neighbor that helped her carry Buddy back to her room. This amiable neighbor was Armando Morales. He soon started joining Babs and Buddy on their walks as he got to know the mother that was a little down on her luck. He was up-front and honest about the fact that he had recently served 20 years for "gang-related, drug-related" charges. Armando also told her about his prior affiliation with a gang.

He was a charming man that Babs said, "gave me no reason to be scared." He displayed a very kind and gentle front that was almost curated to lull her into a sense of security. It worked well as he convinced her that "He felt sorry for whatever he had done." In her presence, Armando was a changed man seeking repentance. Babs believed that he had changed his ways and she could trust her new friend.

She took off on a trip to Ocean City, Maryland that she couldn't take Buddy on. She needed someone to watch her dog while she was away and Morales volunteered. He was really rather insistent upon not only watching her dog, but also her belongings while she was gone. Feeling as though she had a trustful bond with her new friend, she agreed. It didn't take her long to regret her decision to befriend Armando and allow him into her hotel room.

At the start of her trip, Babs remembers receiving selfies from him with Buddy to show that all was well with her furry friend. This made her feel even better about her choice to allow Morales to watch her dog, but that feeling only lasted briefly. One day she received a picture from him of one of her business cards. This would've been just fine had she given him one, but she didn't. The only way he could've gotten his hands on one was to break into her locked folder file. At that point she became very nervous of him, saying, "He betrayed my trust." When she returned to her hotel room shortly after it was on awkward footing with Morales.

One day after coming home, Babs needed to make a trip to the storage unit that contained most of her possessions. Morales kindly volunteered to go with her, and she accepted. Armed with a hidden recording device, Babs was determined to find out something, but not what she ended up hearing. As the two talked, she was terrified that he would discover the device and kill her. Storage units are rather dark, empty, lonely places after all. Babs had thought to tell no one of her plan, either. She was just out there alone with a man she didn't know, recording him without his knowledge.

Somehow their conversation turned to the Levy case. Initially Morales tells her the same thing he told the court. That Guandique had killed Chandra, but he hadn't raped her. Soon after he makes a very sharp left turn, making it quite clear that his testimony was a lie. He almost seems to justify the act by stating that the prosecution already knew they had the right man. All they needed was someone to more-or-less confirm it for a jury. He goes on to say that Guandique was a "thug" that belongs in prison anyway as he had already attacked two other women.

Babs called her former friend a "master of manipulation." She learned firsthand that he could "convince you of anything." Once she managed to come away from the storage unit in one piece and with her recording, she tried to offer it to Susan Levy. Susan suggested she tell the defense and the prosecution about it instead. The prosecution and defense both received the same seven hours of audio. 20/20 also obtained these recordings, none of which reveal Morales admitting to committing perjury. Nevertheless, doubt was cast on a witness that the defense had already proven to be less than credible.

It turned out that he had been granted a deal to relocate to another prison. A little more digging also revealed that this was a technique he had honed after learning it from a prison mentor. This mentor had received a reduced sentence for information he held on a case. Morales learned quickly that the right information could either reduce your term, or gain you better conditions.

Guandique's second trial was swiftly proceeding without delay when the new evidence provided by Babs Proller upended any hope the prosecution had of making Morales look credible. The case against him was dismissed in July 2016, with a judge citing that they could "no longer prove the murder case against Mr. Guandique beyond a reasonable doubt." His charges were dropped without prejudice, meaning that at any time in the future he could be tried again.

While Babs says that she was "completely unbiased," Susan still had her quandaries. This woman says that she just so happened to stumble upon this information discrediting the only witness for the prosecution in the middle of the second trial. Within just five days what had looked to be a slam dunk for the prosecution quickly sailed down the tubes. Bob and Susan were astonished at the short amount of time in which the case against Guandique fell apart. Bob still firmly believed that he was guilty and was outraged to see his charges dropped.

While Babs claimed to 20/20 that she had nothing to gain from the information she recorded, ABC News revealed that she had recently been slapped with three years probation in Pennsylvania. Susan hadn't been alone in questioning this woman's motives for illegally recording a witness in their daughter's murder case without his knowledge. Bob Levy pointed directly to her witness tampering as the catalyst for his daughter's killer walking away. Now police were back to square one in a case that could certainly be considered cold by this point. The frustration felt by the Levy family was palpable.

Had Guandique never been convicted of Chandra's murder, he would've been handed off to Immigration and Custom Enforcement once his 10-year sentence was served for his previous two attacks. Instead, he ended up landing at an immigration detention center in Virginia with deportation hearings pending. He granted an interview with 20/20 in order to tell the nation that he never had any contact with Chandra Levy and had not killed her. Insisting that he was a viable scapegoat due to his previous two convictions, he swore upon his innocence. Though he did meet Armando Morales in a Kentucky prison, he had never spoken with him about the Levy case or the fact that he was being investigated in connection to it. Ingmar Guandique only wanted Chandra's parents to know that he did nothing to harm their daughter. When asked what he would say to Morales if he had the chance, he said that he was "nobody to judge or sentence anybody." He said that Morales was aware of what he had done, saying, "May God forgive him."

Guandique was fighting deportation at the time of his interview. He described his home country of El Salvador as being "dangerous." As news of the Levy case had made its way abroad, he feared for his life. At this time in his life he was 35-years-old and got engaged while in prison. His fiance had introduced him to religion and he was focused on getting right with God, and repenting for all he'd done wrong. Desperately wanting to remain in the U.S., he planned to fight tooth and nail to do so. He lost his fight to stay in the country in May 2017, sixteen years after Chandra's death.

Adam Levy was absolutely shocked when Guandique's charges were dropped. The death of his older sister had rocked his entire world. He said that the experience robbed him of his innocence. A mixture of grief, disappointment, and rage settled inside of the anguished sibling. The term "closure" became a dirty joke that offended the family. The dismissal of the charges robbed them of hope, justice, and finality. Susan asked, "If he didn't do it, then who did kill my daughter?"

To this day Gary Condit has never publicly admitted to a sexual relationship with Chandra. Charges were never brought against him because authorities felt him to be innocent from the very beginning. His son never once asked him about the affair. The scandal didn't change the way he saw his father. Likewise, his wife remained by his side after all of the headlines that gripped the nation right up until September 11th. Though his home life remained remarkably intact, his career was another story altogether. His wife and son still thought the world of him after so publicly learning of his faults. The public needed much more convincing of his virtue, though.

The downfall of his career started with the first bid for re-election after Chandra Levy's death, in 2002. He lost the bid for the first time in 30 years. From there Condit's family watched as the powerful politician they once knew withered away. Chad commented about how sad it was to see his father's long career fall apart so quickly. A very carefully constructed, well-built house of cards, knocked to the ground by the breath of a scandal.

Chandra Levy's case leaves much room for speculation. Of course a main favorite among the theories is that Condit either killed her, or had her killed. A stranger-on-stranger attack is equally possible as they are nearly impossible to solve. It is also conceivable that the killer was already deported back to El Salvador. One could speculate for days and keep coming up with more theories. Today, Chandra would be nearly 46-years-old. She should be a successful career woman, possibly a wife and mother. Instead someone we still cannot identify 22 years later robbed the world of her presence.

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