Tales from the Trail

The chill of the Chandra Levy murder trial

October 18, 2010

USACRIMELEVYThe Washington summer of Chandra Levy seems to belong to another era — one where a missing government intern and a straying congressman dominated headlines and chatter in the U.S. capital. Congress was somnolent, the country was at peace and prosperous and a new president was learning the ropes. The big concern at the Pentagon was making the U.S. military more efficient in a process dubbed “transformation.” It was the summer of 2001.

It’s now the autumn of 2010, more than nine years since Levy disappeared from her apartment on May 1, 2001, and the trial of a suspect in her murder is at hand. Between then and now, the world has changed. The 9/11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania banished the Levy case to the back pages of newspapers and a brief mention in newscasts (this was before news a la Facebook or Twitter). The military moved away from “transformation” to war in Afghanistan.

When Levy’s remains were discovered in Rock Creek Park in May 2002, it was an eerie reminder of what held Washington’s attention at the beginning of a tumultuous decade. Crisis followed crisis — the autumn of 2002 brought a pair of murderous snipers to the area — and the Levy case grew cold again. The United States went to war in Iraq. The snipers were tried and convicted. Gary Condit, the Democratic congressman who had been involved with the 24-year-old from Modesto, California, lost his bid for re-election and left the House of Representatives in January 2003.

Monday saw the start of jury selection in the trial of Ingmar Guandique in Levy’s murder, a trial expected to last five weeks, according to The Washington Post. One image can bring it all back: the portrait of Levy released by authorities early in the case, with the pale skin, confident smile and curly dark hair. Washingtonians could see a lot of that picture as the trial goes forward.

Photo credit: REUTERS (undated handout photo from the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, editorial use only, not for sale, marketing or advertising campaigns)

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