Women and Children

Chandra Levy's parents still hope for miracle

Washington Sunday, April 28  Globe and Mail Online Edition, Posted at 10:06 AM EST
Reuters News Agency Chandra Levy went missing a year ago and while investigators have some leads, they still do not know what happened to the bubbly intern whose ties to a married congressman sparked a media frenzy last summer.

Wednesday, May 1 is the first anniversary of Ms. Levy's disappearance from Washington, where the 24-year-old had just ended an internship at the federal prisons department and was set to head home to California to receive a graduate degree. Thousands of people go missing in America each year, but it was Ms. Levy's relationship with California Congressman Gary Condit that made her case the top story until the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. Condit, who publicly refused to confirm he had an affair with Ms. Levy and denied involvement in her disappearance, suffered huge political fallout from the scandal. He lost the March Democratic primary for the seat he had held for six terms.

The odds are stacked against them but Ms. Levy's parents, Bob and Susan Levy, cling to the hope that a year after they last heard from her, Chandra is alive. "We try to maintain faith and hope, no matter what. We hope someone will be courageous enough to come forward and help us find her," said Mrs. Levy in a telephone interview from their family's home in Modesto, California. Their daughter's 25th birthday passed this month; her room is as she left it and her car is parked in their driveway in the hope she will reclaim it and end the nightmare. "There are no really good days. Some of them look better than others and we have more hope, but there is never really a good day like before this happened," said Dr. Levy.

The U.S. Attorney's office is working on the case and the Levys are still employing top Washington criminal lawyer Billy Martin and his team of investigators to find their daughter. "It is still an active, ongoing investigation and we are trying to wrap it up as expeditiously as possible," said Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office. Mr. Phillips declined to comment on a grand jury which has been meeting in secret over Ms. Levy's disappearance, trying to decide whether anyone should be charged in the case.

Mr. Martin said his investigators were following several strong leads, which his office has shared with the authorities. "We have been working on a couple of solid leads for seven or eight months," he said. "And we keep picking up bits and pieces of information that tell us that our leads might have something." Mr. Martin strongly believes Ms. Levy was not victim of a random attack. "Usually if it's a random act of violence, or if there has been a kidnapping or murder, then the body is discovered or some evidence is found. Here none of that exists."

Both Mr. Martin and the Levy family are critical of Mr. Condit and have said he was too slow in helping the police. "We believe had he come forward sooner and disclosed to her parents or to the authorities his relationship, when he last saw Chandra and her state of mind, it would have helped accelerate the direction of the investigation," said Mr. Martin. He said Ms. Levy was in an upbeat mood when she went missing and Mr. Condit could have dispelled one suspicion early on that the young intern might have taken her own life.

Ms. Levy was last seen working out at her gym in the trendy Dupont Circle area on April 30 last year and police believe she spent much of the morning of May 1 surfing the Internet and shopping for an air ticket home. When police searched her apartment, they found her wallet, computer and luggage packed at the door. Only her keys were missing.

From his side, Mr. Condit's lawyer, Mark Geragos, said his client had co-operated with the authorities and still strongly denied any involvement in the young woman's disappearance. "I have turned over more than 7,000 pages worth of documents to the government to attempt to help them in their investigation everything from potential leads or other information," said Mr. Geragos. Asked whether he had found anything that might indicate what happed to Ms. Levy, Mr. Geragos said: "We have, but we are dealing with the authorities on that."

Mr. Geragos said Mr. Condit was the victim of a "media lynching" and was doing his best to serve his final months in office. "He hasn't made any plans yet when his term is finished. He's keeping his options open from white-collar to blue-collar jobs. This past year has been a nightmare for him."

He declined to comment on criticism by the Levy family, who are angered by his re-election campaign in which he told voters that supporting him would help the Levy investigation. "He has never helped us in the past and we feel he knows more than he is saying. He has been evasive," said Mrs. Levy.

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