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A True Washington Murder Mystery

by Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz

Pub Date: May 11th, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4391-3867-0
Publisher: Scribner

Two Pulitzer Prize–winning journalists for the Washington Post document what went wrong during the investigation of the high-profile Chandra Levy case.

Upon her mysterious death in spring 2001, Levy had been serving as an intern at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons just before graduating from college. While visiting Congressional offices with a friend seeking a job, Levy met Gary Condit, an elected representative from California. Levy and Condit, a married man more than twice her age, became involved romantically, and only a few people knew about the relationship. But when Levy disappeared after telling her parents that she would return to their California home just before the college graduation ceremony, those who knew mentioned Condit to D.C. police. What began as a missing-persons case morphed into a criminal investigation with Condit as the lead suspect. Although Condit seemed like a natural suspect, tunnel vision prevented the investigators from considering other credible alternatives. Higham and Horwitz (co-author: Sniper: Inside the Hunt for the Killers Who Terrorized the Nation, 2003) covered the case for the Post in 2001-02 amid the media frenzy. Police never arrested Condit and the case went cold, but the Post reporters kept looking for leads. Almost one year after Levy disappeared, a hiker in Rock Creek Park located Levy's remains in an area supposedly searched previously by law-enforcement officers. That portion of the park had experienced violent attacks on other women by Ingmar Adalid Guandique, a 19-year-old immigrant from El Salvador who eventually ended up in prison for two of the attacks. Some police and prosecutors believed the immigrant had killed Levy in a crime of opportunity. But those in charge continued to focus on Condit, and he lost his Congressional seat in the next election. The case is still not closed—and the publisher promises “new material on recent developments”—but the Post investigation forming the basis of the book strongly suggests that Guandique was the murderer.

A well-reported, well-written chronicle of a botched criminal investigation and its disturbing aftermath.