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Chandra Levy Disappearance: D.C. Police Chief Holds Press Conference

Aired July 5, 2001 - 11:01   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 are standing by waiting to hear more from Washington, D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey this hour about the Chandra Levy investigation. Here, though, are the headlines. The chief fielded questions on a radio talk show this morning. Most of those dealt with the missing intern. CNN confirms that the FBI talked with Congressman Gary Condit's former driver about the Levy case. And the Congressman skips hometown Fourth of July parades rather than risk becoming a distraction.

Our national correspondent Bob Franken is working the story today, as he has been from the beginning. Bob, good morning once again.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. It's now July 5.

So let's move on to the fast breaking developments that have occurred today. First of all, Police Chief Charles Ramsey did appear on WTOP radio, a local all news radio station and, of course, we saw a large part of that broadcast on CNN, as he fielded questions, as you pointed out, about the Chandra Levy matter. Chandra Levy, of course, the 24-year-old former Washington intern with the Bureau of Prisons who has repeatedly linked romantically with Congressman Gary Condit, a link that Congressman Condit, through spokesmen, has denied repeatedly.

Chandra Levy has been missing for nine weeks. The police say they are no closer to determining her whereabouts nor do they have any idea what has happened to her, was it foul play, did she just decide to walk off because of some personal reason? They are saying that it's less and less likely that she might have taken her life. That was one of the points that was made by Police Chief Ramsey during that interview which you saw on CNN.

Now, one of the other points that he made is that they're talking to about 100 people thus far, and some of them have been women who have said that they had romantic relationship with Congressman Condit. One of those, of course, was Anne Marie Smith, who made that claim in public on a Fox TV interview earlier this week.

And now, one of the other people the FBI confirms that they've spoken to is Vince Flammini. Flammini was a long time, 10 year driver for Congressman Condit, says he followed the Congressman everywhere, says that he, in fact, was present when Congressman Condit spent some time in a shopping mall with Anne Marie Smith, although, of course, he never saw them in a more private situation. Flammini says, and the FBI confirms, that he talked to FBI. FBI agents interviewed him. The FBI would give no details, but here is Flammini's version.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VINCE FLAMMINI: I even told FBI that. I said, I, they asked me, "What do you think happened to Chandra? Did Gary kill her?" I said, "No, Gary wouldn't kill her." I said, "Not in a million years," I says. "But he would drive her to the brink of making her think that he loved her so much that she couldn't handle that. She might have been a little weaker than people think."

FRANKEN: Now, this is very important. Flammini was let go by Condit. He speculates that it has to do with the fact that he knew about Condit's relationship, alleged relationship with the flight attendant Anne Marie Smith. Flammini insists that he do not have any feelings of vengeance. That is why he is going forward. In fact, he says he continues to consider Condit a friend. Flammini, in fact, it is confirmed, did work for Condit. Condit's lawyer Abbe Lowell confirms that that is the case.

Now, Flammini was talking about the personality of Congressman Condit. He said at one point that he could be friendly but could be a real jerk. However, this is the question that was asked by the FBI agents. He had his own answer to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAMMINI: I want to know what happened to this girl just like everybody else. And I pray every day that we find out what happened her. But I do not in my heart feel that Gary has anything to do with her disappearance, except he might have a little bit more information that might help the police and I don't think he would tell if you put him on one of them medieval stretchers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Well, now, as far as the police are concerned, Police Chief Ramsey has left the radio station. He's now talking to reporters outside.

RAMSEY: Right now we're just exploring any possibility that, you know, we may be able to find something.

QUESTION: Have you gone to landfills here...

QUESTION: Here or in the D.C., outside of the D.C. area?

RAMSEY: Yeah, well, a lot of our, some of our landfills are outside. But, again, we haven't found anything. We've only visited a couple. There may be more in the future. But again, we're just exploring possibilities. It's not because we have any inkling that there's anything there. In fact, it's, to me, good news that we don't find it because I'm still hoping that perhaps she's alive.

QUESTION: Chief, is there any link at all to another missing person?

QUESTION: In your interview with Mrs. Condit, I know that you won't discuss what, if anything, she says. But can you tell us if the interview with Mrs. Condit by FBI or Metropolitan has taken place, is going to take place or isn't going to take place?

RAMSEY: Well, I'm not going to comment on who we're interviewing, when we're interviewing them, the kinds of questions or anything like that. I'm just not in a position to be able to do that. But anyone at all who we think could shed some light on this particular case we are going to talk to, whether we have to go there or whether they come here.

QUESTION: Will the D.C. police be involved with the FBI during the interview with Mrs. Condit?

RAMSEY: Absolutely. This is still our case. It's a missing person. We're the lead agency but we are working very closely with the FBI. We have been from the very beginning and we will continue to do that.

QUESTION: So if she is interviewed your detectives will participate in that interview?

RAMSEY: Oh, absolutely. Our detectives will be there during any interview that takes place, whether it is that particular individual, if, in fact, we interview that person, or whether or not it is some other person that we interview, whoever that might be. Now there have been some interviews that because of where they have taken place and because of certain other factors we have requested that the FBI do it so we're not just flying all over the United States. But we certainly will send our detectives wherever we need to.

QUESTION: Chief, up to this point, chief, there's been three different possibilities. Today for the first time on there you described, you sort of narrowed that down. You said that one of them is less likely than the other. Can you please repeat what you said and why you said that?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, we've all along said that one of three things could happen. She either left and doesn't want to be found, there's a possibility of suicide or foul play. Now, as time goes on the possibility of suicide becomes more and more remote only because you would think you would find the remains after a period of time. Now, could it still be? Yes. I mean people have been known to literally jump into, you know, the Potomac or whatever and the body doesn't surface for a while and things of that nature. But as time goes on it becomes more and more unlikely that that took place.

QUESTION: Chief, at this point can you rule out Gary Condit as having anything to do with the disappearance of Chandra Levy?

RAMSEY: Until we're are able to answer the question what happened to Chandra Levy we cannot rule out any person that knew her, that may have had anything to do with her, that might have some knowledge or anything else, as having some information that might be useful.

QUESTION: Chief, one of the things you did say upstairs is that when someone is not forthright with you in a first interview and doesn't give you all of the information you are looking for, maybe kept something out -- apparently he did not tell you that Mrs. Condit was with him that weekend that Chandra disappeared. Is that you why you want to talk with Carolyn Condit at this point?

RAMSEY: Well, but again, you know, information, when are you interviewing people, information, they have a lot of information, and one thing that we have to constantly reinforce to them is any bit of information, even if you don't think it's relevant, could, in fact, be relevant to us. The fact that at times when we interview we have a different knowledge base every time we interview people. There are questions that sometimes we don't ask because we didn't think to ask that particular question. You have a second round, now you've got more information, you ask different kinds of questions.

So the fact that during an initial interview people don't respond a particular way is not unusual. We oftentimes have to go back two, three times to witnesses asking additional questions because the subject just didn't come up during the initial round or they didn't think it was relevant so they didn't mention it and it turns out to be relevant.

QUESTION: Sir, do you have immediate plans to go back a third time to the Congressman, then?

RAMSEY: If we need to go back to him or anyone else we will. I am not aware of any immediate plans. However, that's not to say that that won't happen. But, again, he is one of 100 people or so that we have talked to in this case.

QUESTION: Chief, have you started searching the landfills (unintelligible)?

RAMSEY: Yeah, we started that. I know yesterday there was some activity and we'll continue to do that. I have no idea what the schedule is. Quite frankly I've not asked. I just know that this is one thing that they're doing.

QUESTION: And it is in progress now? It's already started?

RAMSEY: Well, we did start, yes. How many we've done and so forth, that I've not yet gotten briefed on.

QUESTION: And what exactly are you looking for at the landfills?

RAMSEY: Well, to find out if there's any evidence, if there was foul play or something. Certainly cadaver dogs come in handy with that. Again, we're exploring all possibilities. That doesn't mean we believe she's there. Again, I always look at it as good news that you don't find something because we still hope she's alive. When you start finding something then that really starts taking it in a different direction. QUESTION: Chief, you've talked, you've gone to places that she liked to go, you've talked to people she dealt with. Why haven't you looked in the Congressman's apartment as a place where...

RAMSEY: Well, as I mentioned before we have to have probable cause before we can get a search warrant and we have to be able to explain specifically what it is we hope to find. Again, you know, is there a connection to a disappearance? That could be the Congressman. It could be one of the other 100 or so people that we have spoken with. We have to convince the U.S. attorney of that. We have to convince a judge of that before we can obtain a search warrant. We just don't get search warrants. We have to have probable cause.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... to a search warrant, could you ask the Congressman for consent to search his apartment?

RAMSEY: If there were a need to do that, something that we thought would be useful, we could certainly ask that question. Whether or not we've asked it or whether or not we will in the future is something I'm not going to discuss. But, again, he's one of 100 people that we have that if we feel like we can find something. But going in someone's home for the sake of going in someone's home is something that certainly we're not incline to do, even with a consent to search. I would hope that our detectives, and I know our detectives would have some kind of probable cause or something that specifically that they would be looking for.

QUESTION: Chief, are you any closer today to solving the mystery of what happened to Chandra Levy than you were a day after she disappeared?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean we've got more information than we had before. We still didn't know where she is. So in a sense I would say that we probably aren't because until we find her, you know, close doesn't really count. We have to find her. We have to answer the question what happened to Chandra Levy. Until we can do that I'm not real happy with where we are right now but I know that our people are working as hard as they possibly can and you folks are working as hard as you can and you haven't found out either. So...

QUESTION: Chief Ramsey, a month ago you were talking about establishing Chandra's state of mind. You've interviewed about 100 people now. Do you have anything further as to what her state of mind may have been?

RAMSEY: No, we don't really know. The only thing we know is that she was planning on attending her graduation, according to conversations she had with her family. Obviously she was upset about losing the job that she had. But how that affects people, I mean everybody reacts to things differently. We have not come across any information that would give us a clue one way or the other as to whether or not she was despondent to the point where she might do something to herself. Whether or not she had, you know, the kind of long range plans, the only thing we know and we suspect is that she had planned on going back to California. And what we've seen so far from her apartment indicates that she had planned to go to California. Now, whether or not that changed suddenly I don't, we haven't found anything.

QUESTION: Did she have boyfriend problems?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean we're looking at everything. We're looking at everything. And we have not ruled anything out because we don't know. As long as you've got that open question how can you rule something out unless you have information that tells you that's not true?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do you have anything to suggest that there's any connection between her disappearance and any other person's disappearance?

RAMSEY: We have not been able to find any links, and believe me, we have looked. We've looked at all the surrounding jurisdictions within our region. As I said before, we also have even taken a look at the VICAP system, which is the FBI's system that primarily deals with homicides, but the M.O.s could be the same look. It would make you take a look at certain cases that are under investigation. But we've found nothing that links right now.

QUESTION: What's your reaction to reports that the Congressman had other liaisons where some of the women are missing?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, I don't know where that's coming from. I mean I think a lot of things have been run with and not verified and so forth. Again, the only thing that matters to me is if there's any link to the current case I've got going on. If it doesn't then...

QUESTION: The "Washington Times" reported that six women have been questioned on their relationship with Representative Condit. Can you confirm or deny that?

RAMSEY: I have no idea what their source is. If the "Washington Times" would be glad to give me their source of information, I could check that out and find out whether or not that's an individual they should believe.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: How actively involved are the Levy parents in this investigation?

RAMSEY: They're very concerned. They've very involved in terms of being updated. They've got their own attorney and a couple of investigators. They're very, they're frustrated, as I would be if my son had been missing all this time. I wish and I hope that we're able at least answer that question of what happened to her because I think it would bring some closure and some relief to them. The worst thing that could happen is for this to continue the way it's continued, being an open case and not knowing. I think that's probably more devastating than anything, and they are devastated by this whole thing.

QUESTION: Chief, is there some other evidence besides the e-mail sent to the mother on the 1st? Is there any, do you have, are you looking at any other evidence of what Chandra, that Chandra Levy was alive on the first and what she was doing? And if you can elaborate a bit on that?

RAMSEY: Well, again, I mean we're looking at a whole lot of things. But even with e-mail, I mean e-mail is sent. It doesn't necessarily give you a 100 percent certainty that she is the one that sent it. I mean, you know, if someone had someone's password or whatever. Now, that does extend it one day into the 1st but that doesn't bring us any closer to finding her.

QUESTION: But is there anything other than that e-mail on the 1st, any sort of pictures or witness sightings on the 1st?

RAMSEY: Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Chief, do you feel that there are still questions or holes in the time line that the Congressman gave you in those interviews that perhaps Mrs. Condit is going to be asked about to fill in or are you satisfied with what he's given you?

RAMSEY: Again, Mr. Condit is only one of many people that we've talked to about this case and trying to piece together what, if anything, may have happened to Chandra Levy and if they have any information that might be useful in that. We don't have anything that connects him to her disappearance.

QUESTION: Chief, are you...

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the time line and the whereabouts during those days surrounding her disappearance?

RAMSEY: Again, that's all part of the ongoing investigation. Everything will have to be checked out and verified and that's what detectives do.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do you have anything to suggest that she didn't send that e-mail?

RAMSEY: No. I'm just, again, you asked a question and we have to make a presumption that she sent it. But, again, I have to also look at a possibility that she may not have been the person that sent it. I have nothing to indicate she wasn't. Does it look like she's the one? Absolutely it does. But we've had people using ATM cards get used by crime victims that you would think were used by a crime victim but actually it was an offender that used the ATM card. All I'm saying is that we can't shut the door on any possibility but I have absolutely nothing to indicate that she was not the person that sent that.

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: You've got two detectives on this case...

QUESTION: Is there anything in Chandra's background that would lead to...

QUESTION: ... is that the normal number?

QUESTION: ... you know, that she might have been...

RAMSEY: Nothing that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: You've got two detectives...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... with this flight attendant who said she had an affair with Congressman Condit. Does that not give you a reason for probable cause to search his apartment?

RAMSEY: We're not investigating an affair he may have had with a flight attendant. I'm investigating a missing person.

QUESTION: But doesn't that give you evidence to go inside the Congressman's apartment?

RAMSEY: Well, there's a heck of a leap, in my opinion, to move from a relationship that one or may not have had with someone else to a disappearance of a specific person. I'm not trying to find a flight attendant. I'm trying to find Chandra Levy. They're two different people and I just can't go in there and try to, we're not the sex police here. We're trying to investigate a missing person.

QUESTION: Chief, you're...

QUESTION: You said you have two detectives on the case. Is that the normal amount for a missing person's case?

RAMSEY: A detective and his partner. I mean that's what is normally done. Sometimes, some detectives don't have partners, but that's pretty typical.

QUESTION: Sir, are your resources affecting the investigations into other missing persons? I think you said 55...

RAMSEY: No. We have 55 adults from 2000 and 2001, some of whom we believe left on their own accord. They just, their family members just don't know where they are. We have 86 juveniles during that same period of time, most of those are group home walk-aways. Again, people that left on their own accord but we just don't happen to know where they are. Does it affect that? Those cases are given out to different detectives. Even the two detectives that we have now have other cases that they still investigate.

But this has taken up time. The person probably most affected by this is me, probably, in terms of time generated toward one case as opposed to some of the other things that ought to be happening. QUESTION: Chief, I understand when you say that a relationship with Anne Marie Smith is irrelevant, basically, to Chandra Levy, I understand your position on that. But what about, if the reports are true, suborning perjury, to lie about a relationship, would that perhaps raise it to having some bearing on Chandra Levy?

RAMSEY: But again, that's a different issue, and that's one that the U.S. Attorney or somebody will take a look at everything once this thing is either concluded or they feel they've got enough to take a look to see if that's had anything to do with this particular case. But talking about a relationship that you may have had with a totally separate individual is, in my opinion, separate from what we're talking about here with Chandra Levy. Again, that's not to confirm or deny anything. We have a lot of information we've gotten over the past couple of months. But we're only interested in that information that's relevant to the case that we're investigating.

QUESTION: Are you confident now that...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... the U.S. attorney's office is not taking place basically?

RAMSEY: Oh, I didn't hear that.

QUESTION: Your review of that report is not taking place?

RAMSEY: Oh, you'd have to ask, you'd have to ask the U.S. attorney's office. I don't know. Last question.

QUESTION: Do you feel that you understand now the nature and depth of the Congressman's relationship with Chandra Levy?

RAMSEY: Again, that's information that I'm not going to discuss. Suffice it to say that we've got a lot of information about quite a few things but we're only interested in those portions that are directly related to the disappearance of Chandra Levy, and that's all we care about. Again, we're investigating a missing person and I'm fully aware and understand the other angle to this story, but it only matters to me if it relates to the Chandra Levy case. Otherwise...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Thank you, chief.

RAMSEY: See you all. Have a nice day. Enjoy the sunshine. Enjoy the nice day.

FRANKEN: Difficult to believe that this is the police chief who has imposed what his subordinates call a cone of silence on this case. Of course he was taking lots and lots of questions about the disappearance of Chandra Levy. The news out of it, that the police with their cadaver dogs have already searched some landfills in the area, one of the few things that they were able to keep secret. They had told us it possibly wouldn't even occur until next week. And he expressed frustration over and over again about the preoccupation with Congressman Gary Condit, who they said is only one of about 100 people who has been interviewed, some with more sharp focus than the Congressman. Of course, all of this has to do, as the police chief well knows, with the allegations that there was a romantic relationship between the Congressman and Chandra Levy. And the story has spun like topsy to include the entire private life of Congressman Condit.

So. in frustration, Police Chief Ramsey said: We are not the sex police here. We're trying to find a missing person -- Daryn?

KAGAN: And as he added, he's looking for a missing person, not for a flight attendant. Leave to it Chief Ramsey to put a little zinger and a little perspective in there. Bob Franken in Washington, thank you.

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