Skip to main content /transcript




Chandra Levy Case: D.C. Police Look for a Missing Intern

Aired July 20, 2001 - 22:03   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the story griping national headlines, a story that's become captivating because it is involves youth and mystery, sex and politics. For the remainder of our broadcast, we are taking a closer look at where the Chandra Levy case has been, and most importantly where it may be headed. It is our special report tonight.

And in a late development tonight, "Newsweek" magazine reporting that Representative Gary Condit was in a meeting with the vice president the day Levy is said to have vanished. The magazine reports that Condit had a 25-minute talk with Dick Cheney on energy and may provide an alibi for the congressman. In addition to that, there is other news of the day, and for that in Washington, CNN's Bob Franken.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not once in the 80-plus days that Chandra Levy has been missing has Congressman Gary Condit publicly answered questions about the case.

QUESTION: Do you plan to maintain silence throughout?

FRANKEN: Even though, according to police sources, he did finally admit to investigators to having an intimate relationship with the 24-year-old former intern. A source on the Condit team says he will not go public, while "the media typhoon of wild allegations" persists. "When they subside," he continues, "that will be the moment when people are listening to him, instead of crazy gossip and rumors."

The Condit camp is calling for a front page retraction from the "Washington Post" for its front-page story quoting Otis Thomas, a minister who claimed his daughter had an affair with Condit seven years ago, when she was 18 years old. The story was widely repeated by CNN and other news organizations.

Now, law enforcement sources tell CNN they have evidence that Thomas fabricated the story. "The Post's" executive editor says the paper stands by its reporting. Thomas lives in the same area as the Levy family and worked at the house as a part-time gardener.

QUESTION: Do you guys have any comment on Minister Thomas?


S. LEVY: No comment.

FRANKEN: According to Chandra Levy's aunt, Linda Zamsky, Mrs. Levy passed on Thomas' story to her daughter in Washington. Neither Congressman Condit nor his representatives had any comment on a report that he went to Alexandria, Virginia on July 10 and dumped a watch case in a trash can just four hours before he allowed his apartment to be searched by investigators.

Police sources tell CNN a person who recognized Condit from television reports called authorities to report the incident. Investigators recovered the case and traced it to a California woman, who says she had a relationship with Condit and gave him the watch. Law enforcement officials continued to insist this has not changed their view that Condit is not a suspect in Levy's disappearance.

With the new lead FBI agent in attendance, federal and local investigators met once again to try to develop new approaches to a search that has so far been futile.

CHIEF CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: As time goes on, of course, we become more and more concerned that perhaps what may come when we just don't find her at all.


FRANKEN: Now, in addition, detectives are planning to attend a gathering of Washington's taxi cab drivers tomorrow, asking to see their logs to see if there's any indication that Chandra Levy, who did not have a car, rode in one of their taxi cabs about the time she disappeared.

Also, the police put out a list of Web sites that she visited the last time she surfed the Web in her apartment building here where she lived. They said that the list included government agencies, various search engines and There is a Baskin-Robbins just down the street, and investigators, Bill, are hoping that somebody will have his memory jogged and remember seeing her there.

HEMMER: Bob Franken in Washington tonight, outside the apartment building where Chandra Levy lived.

So what more can police do to solve the mystery? Former D.C. detective and CNN consultant Mike Brooks with us again this evening. Mike, good evening to you.


HEMMER: You just heard the report from Bob Franken, very inclusive report here. What do you do as an investigator when you have no clues?

BROOKS: Well, I don't think -- I think right now there are still some outstanding leads that need to be followed up. As Bob was saying, tomorrow at RFK Stadium, they are going to get together with a number of cab drivers. By law in the District of Columbia, you have to keep a manifest. All cab drivers have to keep a manifest.

They're going to look at the area around Dupont Circle to see if anyone similar to Chandra was either picked up or let off during that particular time period, but by law they have to keep that. And it could turn up something. Again, it's a lead that has to be -- has to be played out.

HEMMER: You know the story in "Newsweek" magazine, what they're reporting about Gary Condit meeting on California energy with the vice president on the 1st of May, the day and the time in question that everyone is centered on here. As an investigator, what would you do with that information?

BROOKS: Well, it would be fairly easy to verify. If, in fact, he was at a meeting on Capitol Hill, U.S. Capitol police could be asked to pull tapes, there are a number -- a lot of video cameras on Capitol Hill, as you know, and they do keep these tapes for a certain amount of time. It would be fairly easy to check to see if he was there within that certain timeframe.

HEMMER: And as you know, there's so much of the attention in this case has been centered on the congressman. You're well in touch with the people in Washington, D.C. and the law enforcement side. Can you say without question that this is not a one-track investigation?

BROOKS: Absolutely. It's been a multi-track investigation from the very beginning. Of course, they're still saying there's a possibility of suicide, it could have been a random act of violence on the street, she may not want to be found.

And there's also -- what they're going to take a look at is possibly was there someone who may have been obsessed with her, someone possibly she may have just come in brief contact with, someone she knew from the gym, someone she knew from her work, a friend, an associate, someone who may have passed her on the street, made eye contact with her, and it could be an obsessive type of relationship. These are all the things they are going to take a look at.

HEMMER: Mike Brooks with us this evening here at the CNN center in Atlanta. Mike, thanks again.

BROOKS: Thank you, Bill.

HEMMER: Weeks of relentless media coverage have kept Chandra Levy in the public eye. CNN's Rusty Dornin now with a private look at the young woman who is now a household name.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her name and face are now recognizable to millions, a spotlight friends say that would make Chandra Levy very uncomfortable. JAKUB MOSUR, FORMER CLASSMATE: This whole circus that's around Chandra, which a person that I know would -- would have been just completely just like trying to hide her face.

She was a reporter at the time. I was a photo editor.

DORNIN: Somewhat shy, but not afraid to get the job done. When Levy was sports editor of the school newspaper at San Francisco State, classmates like Jakub Mosur say Levy didn't date other students, or join them to party, but she stood out.

MOSUR: One thing that really struck me was that she was like, in here, she was good. Like I knew that she wasn't the kind of person that would like step on a toad or something, or a snail if she saw it. She would probably walk, you know, around it. She was -- she had a really good spirit.

DORNIN: Her journalism professors say she was a good student and a good writer, but midway through her major she knew her heart really wasn't in it.

JOHN BURKS, JOURNALISM DEPARTMENT HEAD: She was not interested in going to journalism, actually, that it was law enforcement or government, those two things were interesting to her, and probably where she wanted to go.

DORNIN: Where she wanted to go most weekends was home, to Modesto, to family and friends, people she loved.

JoAnne Tittle lives two doors down from the Levys. Befriending Chandra when she was a teen, Tittle colored her hair and shared confidences with a young woman she saw blossoming.

JOANNE TITTLE, NEIGHBOR: I would describe Chandra as very strong, directed, aware -- very aware, she knew everything that was going on around her -- and excited. She was adventuresome. I mean, she ate bugs with her parents in South America.

DORNIN: Things that made her interesting to people like Matt Szabo, a classmate and buddy at USC, where Levy was completing her master's degree.

MATT SZABO, FORMER CLASSMATE: She's a very observant, very astute person, and so know you can have a two-hour conversation and it can be one of the more interesting conversations you'll have in a month.

DORNIN: Nearly all who knew her agree, a woman sure of herself and sure of her future.

MELVA GIANNINI, NEIGHBOR: She had plans, like Sue said, to go to law school or do something if she didn't get into the FBI. I don't -- she wasn't going to sit around, that's for sure. She wasn't that type.

DORNIN: Not the type, say those closest to her, to just disappear without a word to anyone.

TITTLE: It's been hell. Yes, I really feel bad for the family. I miss Chandra. God darn it, just to think if anything happened to her that was bad -- I can't stand it.


DORNIN: A young woman with a bright future. A young woman by all accounts who, before her disappearance, just wanted to come home -- Bill?

HEMMER: Rusty, we heard briefly from the parents earlier today. What do we know about their weekend plans?

DORNIN: Well, that's something they tend to keep very close to the vest. They are very patient and very polite with the press during the week. Talk to us -- Dr. Levy talks to us before he goes to work, and Mrs. Levy will say comments to reporters. But when they take off for the weekend, it's a very closely guarded secret and it's well respected.

DORNIN: Rusty Dornin in Modesto, California this evening. Try as he might, Congressman Gary Condit cannot shake his link to the Levy case, nor escape the glare of the spotlight, for that matter.

CNN's Frank Buckley now with a close-up look at the beleaguered politician.


FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Residents of the small town that is Gary Condit's hometown, Ceres, California, first elected him to public office when Condit was is in his early 20s to the city council. They would later make him a county supervisor, then state assemblyman. In 1989, a congressman to represent California's Central Valley.


REP. GARY CONDIT (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm going to bring the Valley values to Washington, D.C.


BUCKLEY: Nice young man who had represented them in local and state offices, the one they knew as just Gary was off to Washington.

SANDRA LUCAS, STANISLAUS CO. DEMOCRATIC CENTRAL COMMITTEE: People have been able to touch him at every step as he's moved up the ladder. And people are very proud of our local boy went to Congress.

BUCKLEY (on camera): The pride that many people here had in their favorite son-turned-Congressman and the support they gave him -- nearly seven in 10 voted for him in the last election -- was reciprocated in the form of access and attention. Attention to their local needs and access to a sitting congressman, a man they'd known personally for years.

(voice-over): Or did they, some now wonder. The "good example" he'd advertised himself to be, the husband and father of two children and the son of Jeanne and the Reverend Adrian Condit, a Baptist minister at a church in town, he is not the Gary Condit they're hearing about now, the one who sources say told police he was intimate with Chandra Levy, the one whom this flight attendant says asked her to lie about their alleged affair.

JEFF BENZINGER, EDITOR, "THE CERES COURIER": Diametrically opposed to the image that he's had all these years, the faithful husband, a good father and just an honest person.

BUCKLEY: In fact, say observers here, there was always at least whispered talk of a double life. In the 1980s, Condit was serving as an assemblyman at the state capital, gaining a reputation as a maverick, a conservative Democrat member of the so-called gang of five, which dared to challenge the leadership of then-assembly speaker, Willy Brown.


CONDIT: It's time that we need a leader and not a dealer, and that's what this is about.


BUCKLEY: But at night, say some, he was gaining a reputation of another kind. The "California Journal," claiming in a 1988 article about Condit, that while he preached family values and religion in his socially conservative district, he was a different person in Sacramento.

"Condit is a flamboyant party boy who uses his prestige as an assemblyman to fuel a busy social life," the journal reported.

MAYOR CARMEN SABATINO, MODESTO, CALIFORNIA: The rumors have been there for 20 years, you know, 30 years. I mean, it's not something that the people of this community have not been made aware of. But they were exactly that, rumors.

BUCKLEY: Rumors that never, at least publicly, threatened Condit's marriage to his wife, Caroline, whom he first began dating while both were high school students in Oklahoma, where Condit was born.

Condit's former driver says Caroline still clearly loved the man years later.

VINCE FLAMINI, FORMER CONDIT DRIVER: I asked her, I says, Caroline, you and that Gary, and she goes, "I worship the water he walks on."

BUCKLEY: Many constituents also continue to respect Condit. In the farming communities of Condit's district, the belief that they have a strong advocate in Congress. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDIT: Can you tell me how you can figure out how our farmers can be competitive?


BUCKLEY: Condit remains on the job, but at times he's on the run, an odd image to his constituents back home of the man they've always known.

Frank Buckley, CNN, Modesto, California.


HEMMER: And now we have learned so much about who she is, but can we predict what Chandra Levy would do based on the clues she left behind?

Coming up: how police get inside the mind of missing people to guess how they'd react.

Plus, desperate solutions for desperate times. Does resorting to the sixth sense make any sense?

ANNOUNCER: Washington police stopped keeping comprehensive statistics on missing young adults in 1995.


ANNOUNCER: As of January, the FBI had approximately 103,000 missing persons on record.

HEMMER: The D.C. police now working closely with the FBI to try and put together a personality profile of the missing intern. More on that story tonight in Washington, and CNN's Kelli Arena.


KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How would Chandra Levy react if approached by a stranger? How did she deal with stress? How has she had handled relationships in the past?

Analyzing everything from her work habits to the Web sites she visited, an elite team of FBI profilers hopes to gain a better understanding of Levy's personality and help Washington police better focus their investigation.

ASST. CHIEF TERRANCE GAINER, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: I think that would help us determine whether she was suicidal, whether she's ducking and trying to hide out from people. Or whether it was none of the above.

ARENA: Police have said suicide is unlikely, and from what is known about Levy's frame of mind, many profiling experts are also ruling it out. ROBERT RESSLER, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Suicide by its nature is a person who is depressed, who has a very bad state of mind and who, in fact is punishing others by their death. And they always leave suicide notes, they leave their bodies in locations where they'll be found.

ARENA: One FBI veteran and former profiler says understanding the victim's mind-set and lifestyle can be the key to solving difficult cases.

PETER SMERICK, FORMER FBI PROFILER: You have to look at significant activities going on in that person's life just prior to their disappearance, and is there any cause and effect. In other words, if a person is about to leave a certain geographical area, why at this particular time is she attacked, or does she disappear? Is it strictly a random crime of opportunity, or is there some other motive behind it?

ARENA: FBI profilers are rarely asked to help find missing adults, most often they're used to track suspects, such as serial killer David Berkowitz.

While sometimes successful, profiling is more of an art than a science.

JAMES STARRS, FORENSIC BEHAVIORAL PROFESSOR: There are things that go on in the minds of people that you can't piece out by behavioral characteristics, because they keep them concealed, and so therefore you're being very selective. You're selective with only what you have to go on, and that could be completely misleading.

ARENA (on camera): Even profilers admit the technique is most often a method of last resort, an indication that police may be at the end of their investigate rope.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.


HEMMER: And they have been used in many high-profile cases, but could a psychic help police crack this one?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know of no case where a child was recovered as a result of psychic information.


HEMMER: Is it new hope for the Levys, or is it just another false lead? That's when we come back.


HEMMER: So, then, where do police go from here? First, they continue to follow up on the 50 to 100 calls, letters and e-mails that they've been receiving every day on the case, and tomorrow, Saturday, police will meet with many of the city's 1,600 licensed cab drivers to review their passenger logs from the days surrounding Levy's disappearance. And on Monday, police will resume their search of area parks in the Washington area.

In cases like this, though, police and families sometimes turn to less conventional means of finding the missing intern. Tonight, CNN's Jonathan Aiken and the involvement of psychics in this and other prominent cases.


JONATHAN AIKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police will tell you it's gumshoe work that cracks cases, slow and methodical, like the inch by inch search of Rock Creek Park. But when the clues yield nothing but more questions, curiosity can turn to frustration, and that's when families and police departments may turn to a psychic.

BEN ERMINI, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN: The families will usually go to psychics before law enforcement, and that's usually because they become frustrated by the fact that their loved one or the missing person hasn't been found.

AIKEN: Psychics sometimes work with police in developing sketches or locating possible crime scenes, and they've been used in high-profile murders, like the 33 murders attributed to John Wayne Gacy in the '70s, and more recently, the still unsolved murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

Chandra Levy's parents have reportedly talked to psychics and heard the statements of others in news reports.

R. LEVY: It's not really accurate enough to give much credence, because I mean, anyone can guess something bad has happened.

AIKEN: Sylvia Browne is a psychic who has appeared on numerous TV shows, including CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE." Browne believe the 24- year-old former intern is dead.

SYLVIA BROWNE, PSYCHIC: The minute I heard about it, I knew she was gone. I mean, you just know.

AIKEN (on camera): The accuracy of a claim like that will be hard to prove until the mystery itself has been solved. There was one study that shows that up to a third of America's urban police departments have actually used psychics, but very little scientific evidence that proves psychics have actually helped the police, and a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest they have not.

ERMINI: I know of no case where a child was recovered as a result of psychic information.

AIKEN (voice-over): Psychics do get credit for sometimes asking more probing questions than police officers, but critics say they take from police more than they give. BILL CLARKE, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: They're very, very smart. They observe everything in the office. They look for any type of charts that are up, with addresses.

AIKEN: Even skeptics agree psychics bring hope to the family of a missing person, and as formal investigation slowly moves forward, some might think hope is the only thing worth having, other than getting your child back.

Jonathan Aiken, for CNN, Washington.


HEMMER: And that concludes our special report of the Chandra Levy case. Stay tuned to CNN throughout the weekend for all developments on this matter. Until then, I'm Bill Hemmer, live in Atlanta.



Back to the top