It appears that the D.C. police are finally going to arrest somebody in the 2001 murder of Congressional aide Chandra Levy in Rock Creek Park in Washington D.C. No, it's not the Great White Defendant, former Rep. Gary Condit (D-CA), who was having an affair with her. Rep. Condit captivated the attention of the police and media in 2001 and distracted from the pursuit of the real killer. It seemed like a Law & Order episode come to life!
No, the prime suspect now turns out to be another boring, depressing usual suspect. (Actually, this guy had been on the radar screen for years.) Last year, the Washington Post's reporters Sari Horwitz, Scott Higham and Sylvia Moreno took a look at the man the police are finally saying is most likely to have done it:
While D.C. police focused most of their investigative efforts on Rep. Gary Condit and his relationship to missing intern Chandra Levy, they were slow to recognize another lead. It involved a man who was attacking women in the woods of Rock Creek Park.
The day Chandra disappeared, May 1, 2001, Ingmar A. Guandique, a 19-year-old illegal Salvadoran immigrant, did not show up for his construction job. Around that time, he went to stay with his former landlady, Sheila Phillips Cruz, the manager of an apartment building on Somerset Place NW. Cruz noticed that Guandique looked like he had been in a bad fight, his face battered and bruised. He had a fat lip, a bloody blemish in his eye and scratches around his throat.
Guandique (pronounced GWAN-dee-keh) had come from a hard-scrabble hamlet near the city of San Miguel in El Salvador. ...
Guandique wanted a better life in America. A friend of the family lent him $5,000 to pay a "coyote" to smuggle him across the Texas border with more than 50 others. The seventh-grade dropout left home in January 2000, eventually swimming across the Rio Grande, crossing the border near Piedras Negras and arriving in Houston in March 2000. From there, he made his way to Washington to join his half-brother, Huber, and other family friends.
Within a month, Guandique began picking up day jobs on construction sites and sending small amounts of money back home. He also had financial obligations to the family that paid his way. And he had another obligation: his ex-girlfriend, who was pregnant when Guandique left and later gave birth to a boy.
In fall 2000, Guandique met a new girl, Iris Portillo. ...
Guandique was having a hard time adjusting to living on the bottom rung of the American economy. He barely spoke English. He was not used to the routine: waking up at dawn, getting to the work site on time, spending the day toiling at a menial job. He struggled to pay the bills, send money home and buy the nice things Portillo wanted.
In early spring 2001, Guandique started to spend more time drinking and hanging around Rock Creek Park. He began to carry a six-inch knife wrapped in a red cloth. After finding letters from one of Portillo's old boyfriends from El Salvador, he struck her. He once bit her hard above her breast, leaving a scar, and he warned her not to stray.
He attacked at least two other joggers in Rock Creek Park in 2001:
- "Halle Shilling, 30, a tall, blond, athletic aspiring writer"
- "Christy Wiegand and her fiance were jogging in the northern section of Rock Creek Park. It had been raining on and off all day. Wiegand, 25, a former varsity rower at Princeton and a recent Cornell University Law School graduate, was an anti-trust lawyer for Arnold & Porter. Her wedding date was seven weeks away. She was tall and blond, her 5-foot-11 frame moving steadily along the trail, wearing her Walkman. Her fiance ran ahead and was soon out of sight."
It's a good article about the wildly different worlds of D.C., where Rock Creek Park serves as a border between two worlds.
The Condit connection should seem familiar to readers of Raymond Chandler detective novels, where a dead body leads to all sorts of embarrassing revelations about big shots as collateral damage. A dead body with a hole in it demands attention, and winds up shining a light on the private lives of people who didn't kill anybody, but were tangentially involved with the victim.
It shouldn't have taken until 2009 to arrest Guandique. Amy Keller wrote in Salon way back in 2002:
But while my colleagues speculated on the proximity of Condit's Adams Morgan apartment to the section of park where Levy's body was recovered on May 22, I wondered if the location of her body might point to another possibility: Perhaps Levy really was the victim of a random attack. I know the trepidation I feel each time I jog or bike along the park trails near my own neighborhood on the outskirts of Washington. The charming, leafy streets here are deceptive; Washington has its high crime areas, some just blocks from where members of Congress live in opulent brownstones.
I took a straightforward approach, and clicked through news databases, searching through stories about other crimes that might have been committed in the park. Eventually, I clicked my way to Ingmar Guandique.
Guandique is serving out a 10-year sentence in federal prison for brutally attacking two young women along the Broad Branch trail last May and July. That's the same section of Rock Creek Park where Levy was found. She had gone missing in May of 2001.
I knew I had a good story on my hands. But I had no idea that once I published it, other reporters following the Levy investigation would question my motives, or accuse me of being a pawn of Gary Condit.