Editor’s note: In Session correspondent Jean Casarez covered the Chandra Levy case. Here she talks with Nancy Grace Producers about Chandra's disappearance, the discovery of her remains and Ingmar Guandique's murder conviction.
Q: What do you think of first when you hear the name “Chandra Levy?"
A: I think about a family that suffered far too long in finding out what happened to their daughter. Not getting answers for a year…believing she could be alive must have been so very painful for the Levy family. I also think about a young beautiful lady who was just about to leave Washington D.C. for a new life back in her home state of California. She was so close to graduating from my alma mater the University of Southern California and she was prevented from having that future because of one evil person…now convicted murderer Ingmar Guandique.
Q: What were some of the theories about Chandra’s disappearance floating around that summer?
A: There were three main theories floating around that summer about what happened to Chandra Levy. First, it was believed she had just run away. Secondly, investigators looked at the possibility of suicide and thirdly they looked at whether Levy could have been the victim of foul play. Shortly before she went missing, Chandra had told a friend of hers, Sven Jones, a colleague at the Bureau of Prisons that she was having an affair with someone very powerful in government.
In addition, she confirmed with her friend Robert Kurkjian right before she disappeared that her boyfriend was a married congressman who was going to give up his elected office, divorce his wife and begin a new life with her. Those comments to close friends had to factor into their investigation.
Q: Chandra’s remains were found in a heavily wooded section of Rock Creek Park in May 2002. What do you remember about that day?
A: I remember sitting in my office hearing about the possibility of human remains being found in Rock Creek Park. The speculation was that they could be the remains of Chandra Levy. I remember that it was rather shocking and extremely saddening. I remember thinking that there had been previous searches in this park during the month of July 2001…so why hadn’t she been found at that time? Was the body moved there after those searches or was this a botched investigation?
Q: Police searched the park that summer after she went missing, but didn't find the body -- why did it take so long to find her remains and why did they miss it?
A: Cadets from the police academy searched the extremely large 1750-acre Rock Creek Park during July 2001. Plain and simple, they missed finding her remains because they searched in the wrong area. Searchers were instructed to search by law enforcement 100 yards off the park’s roads. By doing this, they missed Levy’s body which was along the edge of a ravine. They missed the body in July of 2001 by about 79 yards. In other words, they neglected to search the remote areas, focusing on the more heavily traveled trails. It was later determined to be a miscommunication in search orders which was pretty unacceptable in the minds of a lot of people.
Q: What was your reaction when you heard Ingmar Guandique was arrested for Chandra’s murder? Had you heard his name before his arrest?
A: I think the name Ingmar Guandique had been floating around a bit. But it was not until his arrest for Chandra Levy’s murder that the public really began to learn the facts. Guandique had assaulted not one but two different young women in Rock Creek Park close in time to when Chandra Levy had disappeared…but we also learned at that point that investigators had discounted him because they found it hard to believe that he would kill Levy and then go on to let two other young women go free. They also relied on a polygraph he had undertaken where he seemingly passed. It wasn’t until after the fact they realized that a bi-lingual polygraph administrator would have produced a more accurate result.
Q: Why do you think Chandra Levy’s story resonated so much with the public?
A: Good question…there have been many young women who have gone missing and then whose bodies are discovered many months later. I hope the reason that this case was on the front page of newspapers all across the country for months was not because Chandra was allegedly involved with the married Congressman who represented her own district in California, but I am afraid that was part of the reason.
Chandra Levy needs to be remembered as a young woman who was on the eve of a graduate degree with a brilliant future before her. Chandra Levy was a daughter, a trusted friend and her legacy should be remembered as that loving young woman.