WASHINGTON — Nearly eight years after federal intern Chandra Levy's disappearance that ended a congressman's career, the man accused of killing her was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder.
The announcement of Ingmar Guandique's arrest was a long-awaited break in a case that has long stumped the U.S. capital's police department and led to harsh criticism that the initial investigation was bungled because police missed leads. When her remains were found in a city park a year after her disappearance, they were so decayed police couldn't recover much evidence.
Ingmar Guandique, 27, was expected to have his initial court appearance Thursday in District of Columbia Superior Court. A D.C. police arrest warrant issued last month accuses him of sexually assaulting and killing Levy on a trail in Rock Creek Park in May 2001.
Serving a sentence in California
The illegal immigrant from El Salvador had been serving a 10-year sentence in California for a separate assault. He was brought to the D.C. police department late Wednesday in a dark Chevrolet sedan, and escorted into the building by three detectives. Handcuffed and wearing an orange jumpsuit, Guandique walked with his head down. A reporter asked if he had anything to say, but the prisoner did not respond.
When he left the building 1 1/2 hours later, reporters asked more questions and photographers scrambled to get a shot of him. Visible on Guandique's neck was a tattoo referencing the MS-13 gang.
In a statement Wednesday, lawyers for Guandique said they're glad he's in D.C.
"We are glad that Mr. Guandique is back in the jurisdiction and look forward to a formal appearance in court at which time the government's flawed investigation and lack of reliable evidence — eyewitness, physical or otherwise — can be addressed for the first time," said public defenders Santha Sonenberg and Maria Hawilo.
Disappeared after leaving apartment
The 24-year-old Levy had just completed an internship with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons when she disappeared after leaving her apartment in jogging clothes. The Levy case has been blamed for destroying the political career of former U.S. Rep. Gary Condit, who was romantically linked to Levy. Authorities questioned the Democrat who represented the California district where Levy grew up, but he was never a suspect in her death.
Last month, police released a detailed affidavit with the arrest warrant, listing a dozen witnesses who helped point investigators to Guandique. At least two of the witnesses claim Guandique told them he killed Levy.
Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, has said a grand jury will convene to consider indicting Guandique, but he could not say when. In D.C., suspects must be indicted within nine months of being charged.
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