By Jon Perkins and Allan Lengel
WASHINGTON — After years of bad and often frustrating leads, authorities charged a long-time suspect from El Salvador with first-degree murder in the slaying of intern Chandra Levy.
At a press conference attended by local and federal law enforcement, authorities said they had issued an arrest warrant for Ingmar Guandique, 27, an illegal immigrant who had been a prime suspect for about six years and is serving a 10-year sentence for attacking two female joggers in Rock Creek Park in Washington where Levy’s body was found in May 2002.
Linda Katz, Chandra’s aunt, who lives in Maryland, said upon hearing the news: “I hope justice is served, and if he is proven guilty, he gets the maximum penalty under the law.” The penalty for the crime is 30 to 60 years.
In a statement, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said: “Just as I promised the family of Shaquita Bell, I promised the Levy family that I would renew efforts to find the person responsible for her death. I now believe we have the person in custody that is responsible for her murder.”
The evidence, according to a police affidavit, centered around statements from several unidentified people who said Guandique confessed to strangling and sexually assaulting Levy. Authorities said the slaying appeared to be a random act of violence.
According to a police affidavit in support of an arrest warrant, one witness told detectives during a 2008 interview that in 2003 they communicated with Guandique many times through letters.
The witness said, according to the affidavit that Guandique spent time in a park in D.C. and was responsible for the murder of a young woman. The person became nervous and later recorded a conversation in which Guandique spoke about the “girl who’s dead.”
Another person, identified in the document only as W-10 (witness 10), said they had known Guandique for many years and that he had boasted about being a member of the gang MS-13 and that he committed many robberies.
“Guandique boasted further that he was known as “Chuckie” because he had a reputation for killing and chopping up people.”
He went on to say that he had committed many crimes against woman including rapes.
He said that he and his gang members would attack and rape girls. He claimed he would hide on a dirt path and wait to grab the girls, and bound their hands and feet with rope, or improvise with whatever was available. Then he would rape the woman, the affidavit said.
“Guandique admitted that he did not always know whether his victims were still alive at the end of the attack, but that it would not matter because they would be eaten by animals, like coyotes and vultures,” the affidavit said.
Guandique also told this person that he saw a female jogging on the a path that looked Italian, with thick, dark hair.
Guandique said one of the men jumped in front of her and then Guandique dragged her from the path into a secluded area. Once in the woods, the affidavit said, the woman was knocked unconscious and “they tied her feet together.”
Guandique said they then put something in the woman’s mouth so that she could not scream while they raped her, the affidavit said. He said when the woman regained consciousness during the rapes, he cut her throat and stabbed her.
In September 2008, police said they traveled to the Victorville Correctional Institute in Adelanto, Calif., to execute a search warrant on Guandique’s cell. The officer who wrote the affidavit, detective Todd Williams, said he observed many gang-related tatoos on Guandique’s body including the image of the character “Chuckie” holding a knife. He also found a magazine photo of Chandra Levy in the cell.
Two other witnesses also told investigators that Guandique admitted killing Levy.
One of those witnesses recounted when Guandique recently heard a news report on radio that he would be arrested soon for the muurder, he became very anxious and said something to the effect of “fuck, it’s over. They got me now. What am I gonna do?”