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D.C. Police Chief Addresses Disappearance of Chandra Levy

Aired July 5, 2001 - 10:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to start this hour with the missing person case of Chandra Levy and the buzz surrounding her hometown Congressman, who has practically disappeared himself. Gary Condit abruptly canceled several appearances yesterday amid questions about his relationship with the 24-year-old. Those questions will undoubtedly surface once again in a live call in radio program with the police Chief of Washington, D.C.

Our national correspondent Bob Franken is at the radio station. Actually, it looks like you're in our bureau, Bob?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, unless they moved the radio station.

KAGAN: OK. Well, you will be listening in with us with the radio station WTOP about this regular appearance that you expect the Chief of police to have?

FRANKEN: Right. And, of course, you pointed out that this is a missing person case and there are thousands of them every year in the United States. But this one has taken on so much intensity in terms of coverage because of the questions that have been raised about the relationship between Congressman Gary Condit and the 24-year-old Chandra Levy. Chandra Levy, a former Washington intern, did not work for Condit, worked for the Bureau of Prisons. She's been missing now for nine weeks. The questions continue about their relationship, with Condit repeatedly denying that he had a romantic relationship with Chandra Levy.

Of course, this has grown by leaps and bounds into questions about other relationships that Congressman Condit would have had, relationships that are alleged by a flight attendant, Anne Marie Smith. Now, this is also just a routine appearance normally by the police Chief of Washington. He is one of the public officials, the local public officials who appears regularly on the all news TV, radio station, rather, WTOP, and normally he takes questions about law enforcement, routine law enforcement matters.

As you can see, Congressman Condit there is, was at an appearance with another Congressman. He has not been somebody who has been available to the media since all of this has occurred. But getting back to Police Chief Charles Ramsey, his police department, of course, has been at the center of this investigation, the police department being helped by the FBI in the nationwide investigation, with people around the country being interviewed about Chandra Levy.

Now, Ramsey is sitting, as you can see, at the microphones at WTOP Radio, just about to take questions. We expect that there will be ones about Chandra Levy and we should probably should listen in now.

ANNOUNCER: ...is down 22. This is CBS News.

KAGAN: Actually, Bob I think they're just finishing up their news. Let's see if they go to the police Chief.

FRANKEN: Probably a bad time for us to join them.

KAGAN: Yeah, not the best plug there, Bob.

FRANKEN: Probably the worst time of all. But in any case, to explain Chief Ramsey's police department has been at the center of this investigation. It's, the investigators have been frustrated because they have not able to determine what happened to Chandra Levy. Chandra Levy, of course, disappeared nine weeks ago. She was last accounted for, investigators now say, on May 1. And apparently now, this is very difficult to tell exactly when they're going to start.

We need to listen now to WTOP and watch and listen as Chief Ramsey takes question about, among other things, the Chandra Levy matter.

QUESTION: The world's biggest missing persons case.

CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. POLICE CHIEF: Yeah, it has turned into that.

QUESTION: Is it still a missing person's case?

RAMSEY: Yes.

QUESTION: The Chandra Levy investigation is what we're referring to.

RAMSEY: Still a missing person's case. We don't have anything to date to show us that it's anything other than that. That's the one thing we know we have is a missing person. We're continuing to interview people, we're continuing to follow leads. Leads are still coming in. Most of them are not leading us anywhere, but we're still following it as a missing person.

QUESTION: Big development this week, six women reportedly say they had relationships with Congressman Gary Condit.

RAMSEY: Well, first of all, the only thing we're interested this is trying to locate a missing person and not any other aspect of what may be going on right now. And, again, you know, we're not in the habit of officially confirming who we may have spoken to and what they may have said to us and all that sort of thing. I'm aware of all the speculation and things going on around the case. But again, I think as far as the Metropolitan Police Department is concerned, we have to stay focused on one thing and one thing only, and that's trying to locate her.

QUESTION: Is the Congressman being more forthcoming with investigators than he is with the media and the public?

RAMSEY: Well, again, you know, we've, the only reason why we even acknowledged that we've interviewed him is because he, in fact, has stated that we've interviewed him. We have asked questions. We've gotten answers to questions. As any investigation continues, there may be a need to ask additional questions at a future point in time. But he's one of 100 people that we have talked to regarding this case. And as more information comes in, we're not afraid to go back and do it again if we need to.

QUESTION: Is the D.C. Police Department still the lead agency in the investigation?

RAMSEY: Yes, we're -- it's -- we're working with FBI because obviously, you know, our jurisdiction is limited just to within the District of Columbia. We're also working with the private investigators that the Levy family hired, although they're not officially part of the investigation but certainly we want to cooperate the best that we can with those folks. So it's an interesting investigation.

QUESTION: At first the Levy family wasn't satisfied with the information they were getting from D.C. police or with the pace of the investigation.

RAMSEY: Well, I understand that.

QUESTION: Do you think they're happier now?

RAMSEY: Well, I don't know if they're any happier. I don't know if I would be. I mean, their daughter is missing. There's got to be an incredible amount of frustration that goes along with that. I can't even begin to imagine what that must feel like. So anything short of actually finding her is not going to be acceptable, and I understand that, and we're working as hard as we can. And if they feel that they can, you know, speed it up somehow, you know, god bless them. So far that hasn't happened because there isn't anything we haven't done.

QUESTION: What would change this case from a missing person's case to a criminal case?

RAMSEY: Evidence, something that would indicate that she did meet with foul play or that something else may have happened to her. We continue, again, to investigate all leads that have come in to us. But right now we have absolutely nothing that indicates that this is anything other than a missing person.

QUESTION: One of the woman that says she had a relationship with the Congressman says it was the Congressman who asked her not to cooperate with authorities. Does that flirt with obstruction of justice? RAMSEY: Well, again, you know, we'll look at every aspect of this particular case and that's why we have lawyers to go through all this and figure out if there's other things that we need to be considering right now. Again, as a department our focus is finding Chandra Levy. Anything that comes up as a result of the investigation is something that I'm certain that there will be people that will review all of that. But we just have to stay focused on trying to find her.

QUESTION: We're told the Congressman's wife is not being cooperative with the investigators who would like to speak with her.

RAMSEY: Well, again, you know, there's an awful lot of speculation going on around this case. I just, I can't comment specifically on who we're talking to and what we're talking about. But we will speak with anyone that we need to speak with and if we need to, you know, fly some place or if they need to come see us, whatever the situation is is what we will do.

QUESTION: There is also word that there may be another missing person who may be a woman who was involved with Gary Condit. Have you heard this?

RAMSEY: Well, we've heard a lot of things and verifying it is something that we have to do. We've heard a lot of things. We're getting a lot of tips that come in on our line that talk about the various aspects of this case. We're following each and every one of them down. I'm not aware of any specific case right now that we can connect directly to this. But I am aware that that is something that had been said.

QUESTION: Are there other active missing person cases that involve interns or federal employees?

RAMSEY: Well, we have a lot of missing person cases, not all involving, obviously, interns or federal employees. But just over the last two years, for example, facts that get kind of lost in all the publicity surrounding Chandra Levy, we have 55 adults in the year 2000-2001 that are still open missing cases and about 86 juveniles. Now, most of the juveniles are walk-aways from group homes. And so we have quite a few outstanding cases.

QUESTION: But this is a little different than the typical missing person's case. You've got a woman who was an intern for a federal agency, was about to head home for her graduation, her stuff was packed in her apartment, identification with her belongings.

RAMSEY: Bruce, it's also different because a United States Congressman is one of the people that we're talking to. And that's the bottom line around this whole thing. I mean there are a lot of missing person cases that can be unusual circumstances that we investigate. But what makes this one unique and what's drawing all the attention has nothing to do with her bags being packed and her missing a graduation. It has everything to do with the fact that a Congressman happens to be one of the people that we're talking to in this case which, in my opinion, is a bit unfair that it's being looked at like that. But again, I have no control over that. We're simply investigating it as a missing person.

QUESTION: Regardless of the evidence that you have to present or the evidence that you don't have, you believe in your heart Chandra Levy is alive?

RAMSEY: Well, we haven't found anything to the contrary. We all hope and pray that she's alive.

QUESTION: What's your gut feeling?

RAMSEY: Well, I try not to have too many gut feelings that I can't control through some kind of medication. So my job is to just deal with facts and as they come up. So the good news is that we haven't found anything that indicates that she's met with foul play. The bad news is that we haven't found anything at all period. So, the longer it goes the more concerned we get, and granted, when you look at it, you know, the odds are not real good. But there are a lot of people in this country who coming come up missing and, again, at some later point in time they show up for whatever reason. One of three things happened to her. She either left on her own accord and doesn't want to be found. She may have committed suicide, but that's unlikely because we probably would have found the body by now, or she met with some kind of foul play. We're exploring all three of those avenues.

QUESTION: What do you think is most likely at this point?

RAMSEY: Most likely at this point I think it's either she either met with foul play or she left on her own accord. I think the odds of her taking her own life diminishes as time goes on because, again, I mean you can't kill yourself then bury yourself. So I mean, you know, at some point in time a body does surface. And that's the part that's very, very, we're very concerned about in terms of that particular scenario, although initially we did pursue that as a possibility.

QUESTION: More questions about the Chandra Levy investigation, your calls on other matters, as well, when we come back with D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey. We break here for traffic and weather together.

FRANKEN: Many things we probably ought to talk about. First of all, one of the things that Chief Ramsey pointed out is that they have talked to 100 different people. Of course, the most prominent one is Congressman Gary Condit. He has been repeatedly linked to the missing intern Chandra Levy.

There have been allegations repeatedly that there was a romantic relationship, which has been repeatedly denied by Condit's office. He also went on to say that the longer it goes the more concerned we get. That is a quote from the police chief. Although, various other police officials have said that oftentimes a missing person case can go on considerable period of time before anybody shows up. So you can't make the link that because this has gone on so long it increases the chance of foul place.

What we also did hear, however, is that the longer it goes the less likely it is that Chandra Levy might have taken her own life because, as the police chief said, you cannot bury yourself if you've committed suicide. Now, he did say that there is an incredible amount of frustration and increasing amount of frustration right now on the part of not just the Levy family, which, of course, we can understand, but the police, too, because they not been able to, in fact, find out where Chandra Levy is. They say that they have no evidence of foul play. That's the good news. But they have no indication where she is right now.

As far as the interviews are concerned, they're interviewing about 100 people thus far. I've been told by various police that, in fact, Congressman Condit is not even the one who they focused on the most. They will not specify, but they say they've paid attention to any number of people who knew Chandra Levy, who might have seen her in the last days before she disappeared, people, for instance, who knew her from the health club that she frequented, that type of thing.

We've been told that we should not, as media, put so much focus on Congressman Levy as somebody who is really the main subject of this investigation. And this was something, of course, that we heard from the police chief...

KAGAN: I think you mean Congressman Condit.

FRANKEN: ...the police chief -- what did I say?

KAGAN: Congressman Levy.

FRANKEN: It's Congressman Condit. Congressman Condit. In any case, we've been told that even though, of course, all the focus has been on the Congressman for the reasons that we all know all too well, the fact of the matter is is that this is not really the focus of the investigation. The focus of the investigation is on any number of people and any number of possibilities, Daryn.

KAGAN: It was interesting to hear Chief Ramsey say that as many as 100 people have been interviewed in this investigation. No mention specifically, though, of Mrs. Condit, and there was some news in recent days that police or FBI were trying to set up a way that they could talk with her. Do you have anything else on that, Bob?

FRANKEN: Well, we've been told by just about everybody involved in this investigation on all sides that there is an effort to do an interview with Mrs. Condit, who lives out in California in the Congressional district, in Ceres, California near Modesto, but that they have not been able to pull this off so far. Let's go back now to police chief on WTOP.

QUESTION: Now on WTOP is a free call on Verizon. Star WTOP is a free call in Cingular Wireless. E-mail questions from our Web site, wtopnews.com, and you can watch this program now on wtopnews.com, powered by Connect Live Broadcast Services. I'm Bruce Allen -- WTOP's Derrick Ward joining us later.

Chief, yesterday Congressman Gary Condit canceled a number of Fourth of July appearances, saying circumstances had come up that will be clear in a few days. Did this involve a police interview, perhaps? RAMSEY: I mean, I just, I have no idea what he meant by that.

QUESTION: Was there a recent interview with Condit?

RAMSEY: I read in the paper that he missed some events but again, that's something that, you know, his office I'm sure will respond to. Again, if we feel a need to re-interview the Congressman, we will. Right now I'm not aware of any need to do that at this particular point in time. But again, as any investigation progresses, more information becomes available, questions that you didn't think to ask or didn't know to ask at the time you had the original interview come up and if there's a need to talk to him again we will. But I'm not aware of our, of us having anything to do with him canceling his plans yesterday.

QUESTION: One of the women who says she was involved with the Congressman says she used the same phone number that apparently Chandra Levy was using to contact the Congressman. Does that put more validity in what they're saying or link him more closely to Chandra Levy than you had originally suspected?

RAMSEY: Well, I'm looking for a link that could involve, that could put anybody with Chandra just prior to her disappearance that, so that that person may have something to do with that disappearance. The other kinds of links that you are referring to are links that there's a lot of information we have available to us, but again, our focus is on a missing person and not on anything other than that. So, again, we're all looking for different kinds of links here. Our links are all directed toward trying to find a missing person.

QUESTION: Are any relationships that he might have had with Levy or these other women completely irrelevant to your investigation?

RAMSEY: Well, nothing's irrelevant and everything is taken in but then we have to figure out does it mean anything in terms of this particular investigation? If the answer to that is no, then that's information that we may have available to us but it's information that's not useful to finding Chandra Levy. If it is something that is relevant then, of course, we would pursue it.

QUESTION: How much cooperation would you say you're getting from the Congressman as to what you would normally expect from a member of Congress?

RAMSEY: Well, fortunately, I've not had a lot of experience in investigating members of Congress and I hope I never have that experience again, quite frankly.

QUESTION: Has it been tough?

Well, I mean, it's all the attention. I mean it just, it takes a way from a lot of the other things that are going on and it just makes it more difficult. It makes it more indicated. Imagine trying to conduct an investigation where before you do something it's in the paper. I mean not only do decent law abiding folks read the paper, but let's just say if we're in a scenario where something happened and foul play was suspected, I mean the person responsible is reading the same thing and may know what it is we're doing. So it's very difficult and that's not a slap at the media. Most of the leaks are coming out of, you know, so-called law enforcement sources, whether its our department, the FBI or some other place. But it just hampers your ability to investigate

QUESTION: Our phone number is 1-877-628-WTOP, pound-WTOP a free call on Verizon and star-WTOP is free on Cingular Wireless. We can also take e-mail questions from our Web site, wtopnews.com.

A call from Decatur, Illinois...

FRANKEN: The, of course, the investigation of Chandra Levy has dominated this appearance on WTOP Radio, which is an all news station in the Washington, D.C. area. Questions would normally be about matters more mundane, but the Chandra Levy matter is what is causing everybody to focus right now.

And, of course, what we just heard the police chief say a moment ago is he wishes there wasn't so much attention, saying that this is the first time he's involved in an investigation involving a Congressman and, "I hope I never have to do it again," explaining that all this media attention has been a huge distraction not only to his police officials but also to the progress of the investigation because it could, in fact, provide somebody who is necessary to the investigation a warning to watch out because of all the publicity. And he acknowledged that there were leaks, leaks that were going on.

Let's go back to police chief right now.

RAMSEY: ...that a lot of information concerning homicides is entered into to see if there are M.O.s that are similar to anything we may have uncovered during the Levy case. So we're exploring every possible avenue that I can think of and we've not come up with anything.

QUESTION: We go to Ashburn, Virginia. Mark, good morning. You're on the with chief.

CALLER: Yes, hello, chief. How you doing?

RAMSEY: I'm doing fine.

CALLER: I liked your comment about only trying to have gut feelings that you can treat with medicine. I liked that a lot. I try to stick to that, too.

QUESTION: What's your question, Mark?

CALLER: My question is about how the Internet might be used in not just the Chandra Levy case, but other cases related to missing persons? Are there improvements or things that you can see could happen to make it better to spread news across the country or even the world, I guess, about missing persons?

RAMSEY: Well, one thing that has been positive about this particular case is because of the amount of publicity it's gotten, it has led to a lot of phone calls from all over the United States. Now, granted, most of them have not led us anywhere. But the fact that people are aware and are paying attention to what's going on is very, very useful. And the Internet, both in terms of searching records to find out, you know, and she did use the Internet, to find out what they may have been doing and e-mailing people, they may have been e- mailing, things of that nature. But also just getting the word out nationally and internationally, the Internet is very, very useful for that.

QUESTION: In fact, wasn't Chandra Levy's use of her computer one of the clues that led police to believe she was in the apartment a day after they originally suspected she had gone?

RAMSEY: Well, certainly checking her e-mail records, you know, that is something that we're looking at. But again, you don't, you can only presume that she's the person that sent a given transmission, because it is an e-mail. If someone has your password or whatever, anybody could send something. However, having activity the day after she was last sited was something that we did pay close attention to but that, so that does extend it out one day. But it still doesn't bring us any closer to finding her.

QUESTION: More on the Chandra Levy investigation and other matters with D.C. Police Charles Ramsey as we break here for traffic and weather together -- Julie Wright (ph) standing by in the traffic center.

FRANKEN: And one point that I want to clarify, which came up during an earlier part of the interview that Police Chief Charles Ramsey is having on WTOP Radio, the reporter at the radio station asked him about some published reports that there have been six other women who, six other women, including Anne Marie Smith, who have come forward to say they, too, had romantic relationships with Congressman Condit. We have been told, Daryn, that that number is far less than that but the police would not be any more specific than that. Anyway that is the latest from Chief Ramsey on this investigation.

KAGAN: All right, and Bob, is it possible that he's going to be holding a news conference after he's done at WTOP?

FRANKEN: Well, he's certainly going to be encouraged to. There's a bunch of cameras outside.

KAGAN: OK, well, we will see if your encouragement works. And if he does do that, you'll see that live here on CNN. Bob Franken in Washington, thank you.

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