Even though there were no direct evidence against him, Ingmar Guandique, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, was found guilty of murdering Chandra Levy ten years ago. He faces a minimum of 30 years or the maximum of life imprisonment when he reappears before a judge for sentencing on February 11, 2011.
Guandique (gwahn-DEE’-kay), 29, was convicted of first-degree murder for attacking Levy while she exercised in the Washington Rock Creek Park in May 2001. Her body was found one year after she was reported missing. The story of her sudden disappearance had gripped headlines throughout America and destroyed the political career of California congressman Gary Condit. He was believed to be romantically involved with her. His DNA was found on underwear at Levy’s apartment after she went missing. He was once a suspect but police have since dismissed him as such.
On Monday November 22, 2010, the jury returned guilty verdicts on two counts of first-degree murder; one alleging death as part of a kidnapping and one alleging the death as part of an attempted robbery. The jurors had the option to convict him on a lesser charge of second-degree murder. They chose not to exercise that right.
Last year investigators formally charged Guandique with Levy’s murder. While they had no direct DNA evidence linking him to her murder, Prosecutors Amanda Haines and Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez said Levy’s death fitted a pattern of other crimes committed by Guandique in the park. He was imprisoned for attacking two female joggers in the same park.
While the prosecutors were able to obtain a conviction even though they produced no eyewitnesses and no DNA evidence connecting Guandique to Levy’s murder, defense attorneys argued that they (prosecutors) used him as a scapegoat for a botched investigation.
Guandique had never confessed to police. However, the prosecutors based the greater part of their argument on testimony from Armando Morales, who once shared a cell with Guandique. He told the court that Guandique had admitted to killing Levy when he attempted to rob her, but said he never raped her.
The defense attorneys further argued that Morales concocted the confession story to curry favor with prosecutors in the hopes of getting his sentence reduced. They pointed out that DNA from an unknown male found on Levy’s black running tights did not match Guandique or Condit. That, they argued, was powerful evidence that the wrong person was on trial. Prosecutors argued the DNA was the result of contamination during the testing process.
During the month long trial Condit testified and denied any involvement in Levy’s disappearance or her death. He, however, refused to answer questions regarding whether he had an affair with her.
The government also presented testimony from two women who were attacked by Guandique in May and July of 2001 in Rock Creek Park. In both cases, Guandique attacked the women from behind while they jogged on isolated trails but ran off after each woman fought him off.
Susan Levy who had been outspoken in her suspicions of Condit’s involvement in her daughter’s disappearance said she believed the jury’s verdict was correct. “It makes a difference to find the right person who is responsible for my daughter’s death,” she said.