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Unconfirmed Tip: Chandra's Body Near Richmond

Aired August 1, 2001 - 16:31   ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: And if you're just joining us, the breaking news is that Washington police are setting out right now to follow a tip that has come in. CNN has learned via, a Web site there, that the body of Chandra Levy may be buried in a parking lot under construction near Fort Lee, a military installation near Richmond, Virginia.

Let's go to CNN's Bob Franken, who's been on the case and broke the news a short while ago, for more now -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Natalie, you of course have emphasized and we all must emphasize that police get dozens, scores of tips, according to the assistant police chief Terry Gainer, who we tracked this down with. They got a tip on the Web site that you just specified, a tip that Chandra Levy's body was buried in the parking lot, under a parking lot under construction near Fort Lee, Virginia.

Now, as you can see on the map, Fort Lee is near Richmond, Virginia. We estimate it to be about a two-hour drive from Washington. Chandra Levy, of course, has been missing now for three months and there have been any number of tips that come in. The police emphasize that although they want to react to this, they emphasize that it is just one of many, tips that they get. But because in fact there is a parking lot under construction, they have decided that in this case in particular, they will send the cadaver dogs from Washington to go down there. The cadaver dogs, of course, are specially trained to find human remains. They're going to send the dogs from Washington down there to see if there is anything to this tip.

Police Chief Terrence Gainer (sic) who, on record confirmed all this, said, yes, they want to check it out. The credibility it has is because there is such a parking lot under construction. He emphasizes that they get dozens, scores of tips about where Chandra Levy might be. In fact, they get hundreds of tips, literally, that had her spotted in different locations around the United States. What we are reporting simply is that this tip is going to be checked, even though the police have no idea whether it has credibility.

Now, this comes on a day when Linda Zamsky, who is Chandra Levy's aunt and her confidante, has been opening up and talking to television media. Up until now she has avoided it. Recently she started by appearing on the "LARRY KING" show the other night by telephone. Now she went on camera and we talked to her for quite some time at her residence. She was at her residence in Chesapeake City, Maryland. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: We're speaking with Linda Zamsky. So many people now know who you are because you have been such a part of story. You're the aunt of Chandra Levy. Chandra Levy had confided in you and, of course, after three months she is still missing. This must be frustrating for you.

LINDA ZAMSKY, CHANDRA LEVY'S AUNT: Very frustrating. Very upsetting, hurtful. There's not enough words to describe what our family's feeling.

FRANKEN: And now you have the police, in effect, signaling that the investigation may be waning away, may be cutting back a little bit. How do you feel about that?

ZAMSKY: We're upset. I mean, we don't understand why they don't tell us anything. And I guess if they talk to us maybe we'd understand why, but I don't think even that would work. We want them to keep looking forever, until they find her and bring her back to us.

FRANKEN: But there must be another part of you that realizes that's not realistic.

ZAMSKY: I know that. Yes, there is another part of me.

FRANKEN: So now we come to the point where I want to cover some ground and I want to ask you to talk about your conversations with Chandra Levy, your niece, about Gary Condit.

ZAMSKY: Well, we had conversations starting at Thanksgiving, where she told me she was dating a older married man. And I -- and he was somebody powerful in Washington in the government. And I said, well, who is he? And, "No, I'm not allowed to tell." It has to be kept confidential because it would hurt his career.

And I said, listen, you know, be careful. He's married, he had -- oh, she told me he has two kids. I said be careful, he's married, he has two kids, and he's in the government. You just have to be careful.

What else did we talk about? I said, how do you have a relationship with this man, going out, if it's such a secret? And he's seen in Washington -- what if you're seen together? And she told me they don't go out much, that they spend time -- most of the time they spend together was at home, watching movies, just reading the newspaper, just being together.

FRANKEN: Did she describe her hopes for the relationship?

ZAMSKY: In November?

FRANKEN: Whenever she talked to you about it.

ZAMSKY: Yes, I mean, in November it was a very new relationship, so I don't think there was a lot of -- I know she didn't talk to me about, oh, this is my guy for the rest of my life. She was just beginning to date him and have a relationship with him.

In April, she did speak of a long-term commitment with him over five years, of having a relationship in secrecy, keep it low key, and then move past that in five years -- for some reason he had something going on in politics. And then hopefully have a relationship, that they could come out and be together in public, get married, have a family and -- that's what he told her. And you know, when she was telling me this, I told her, be careful. I always said be careful, but I didn't shut her down because she needed to talk to somebody. She obviously needed to share this information, and she trusts me. So that's why she told me these things.

FRANKEN: Did she ever describe her feelings about Congressman Condit's marriages?

ZAMSKY: No. No. Only that she knew that his wife was sickly and that it was a marriage of convenience for him. So she kind of just -- I think -- looking back on it, I would guess maybe she thought it was -- she discarded it, like it wasn't -- he made it seem like it wasn't important to him, so therefore it wasn't a concern of hers. It was almost like when he was done his political thing, he would -- you know, the wife would be gone, they would split.

FRANKEN: Were you left with the impression that she was emotionally equipped, at age 24, to handle the complications of this relationship with an older, more experienced man.

ZAMSKY: Yes, I think -- Chandra was most -- more mature than a 24-year-old. I mean, she handled herself very well. She's traveled around. She's educated. I mean, I had no doubts that she would be -- I didn't think she would get in trouble. I thought possibly she would get hurt, because, you know, he's a married man and just because somebody says, oh, my marriage isn't good, I'm going to leave -- you just never know. Obviously, going out with a single man would have been a lot safer than a married man, just for her emotion-wise.

FRANKEN: She had confided in you, you were her confidante. Had she ever talked about other relationships that perhaps were similarly precarious?

ZAMSKY: No, not at all.

FRANKEN: So this was the first one. And I asked that because of Vincent's suggestions that she was a "woman of the world," and you know what I mean by that.

ZAMSKY: Yes. No, absolutely not. She was not a woman of the world. She did not date 10 guys in one week. That was not her -- she didn't have time. I mean, obviously, she's a young, attractive girl and she would date guys. But, other conversations we had in the past eight years that we've known each other, she's been in love a few times and, you know, she's had her heart broken, and that's it. I mean, that happens in living your life.

FRANKEN: Did she go any further in describing how the congressman described the relationship with his wife? ZAMSKY: Just as a matter of convenience. They slept in separate rooms when they were at home in California. She was sickly, the wife. And that's why she didn't come to affairs with him. She used to in the beginning, and that was the extent of what she shared with me about her.

FRANKEN: Now we come to the point where police are saying -- quote -- "Gary Condit is not a central figure in this investigation." Do you agree with that?

ZAMSKY: I don't know. I mean, the police have to handle -- they are handling the investigation. I can't make that call. I'm not a trained police person. I'm not a lawyer, I'm not an FBI agent. So if they are moving away from him, I would only have to assume that there is evidence that's guiding them away. It'd be nice for our family to know that, though.

FRANKEN: Are you saying that there has not been adequate communication between police and you?

ZAMSKY: That is correct.

FRANKEN: What do you mean by that?

ZAMSKY: I mean, we know nothing that they're doing. From the very beginning, when I gave my statement, I was told, you know, don't talk to anybody, keep quiet, don't talk to the media. It will hinder the investigation. And since then I had a few conversations with Detective Durant (ph). He was most helpful. And after that, they just shut down. I would call, ask questions. I wouldn't get answers or they'd tell me it's something they're investigating but they can't discuss it. So eventually I stopped calling because, why waste the phone call? You know, get the same answer over and over again.

FRANKEN: Police say that Gary Condit is not a suspect. You've talked to your niece. To Linda Zamsky, is Gary Condit a suspect in the disappearance of Chandra Levy?

ZAMSKY: I don't know if I'd use the word suspect. I think he -- in not being honest about his relationship with Chandra in the beginning, that leads me to think that he is hiding something. It doesn't necessarily mean that he -- hiding what? Information that would aid us in finding her. It doesn't mean he did it, doesn't mean he knows who did it, but he may have taken a walk with her somewhere where she mentioned, "I like that place. I'd go back there and visit." You know, they spent a lot of time together, and I'm sure there's tons of information that he has that we don't know if he's given to the police or the FBI.

And as a family, you know, if we were told that, then I would guess that we would feel that -- based on the information we would be given, we would come to our own conclusions.

FRANKEN: Linda Zamsky, I think it's fair to say that the entire world shares your hopes. Thank you very much for talking with us.

ZAMSKY: Thank you.


FRANKEN: And of course, part of what the family has had to deal with is the ups and downs of some hope or some tip that has not born fruit. I want to, if I could, Natalie, supplement a little bit what we're reporting.

First of all, we've been reporting that police, and the scores of tips that police have gotten about the whereabouts of Chandra Levy are going to investigate a tip that came in to a California Web site, wetip. That's the one that we've shown earlier on our screen, that Chandra Levy's body was buried at a parking lot under construction near Fort Lee, Virginia, which is a military base around Richmond. It's about a two-hour drive from here.

One update: the information that the police originally had was that the cadaver dogs would have to come from here. It turns out that the Provost Marshall which, in effect, is the police chief on the base there, has cadaver dogs. Those cadaver dogs will the ones which will be used in the search. For one thing, cadaver dogs coming from here, there would be a licensing problem. So the dogs, in fact, will be ones that are provided by the military base. This is from an informed law enforcement source.

The tip, by the way, was put into the Web site yesterday. So this is something that the police do not consider a matter of urgency. It is one they want to check out, as I've said repeatedly. It is one of scores of tips that they've gotten -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And, Bob, they're using local cadaver dogs. Are they still waiting for officers to come down from Washington, D.C., which is still a couple hour's drive?

FRANKEN: Well, the Washington, D.C. police detectives will go down there to make whatever contribution they can. The information is sketchy. The military base is not providing much information. There's probably a lot of coordination -- no "probably" about it -- a lot of coordination that has to be done. Again, we must emphasize, this is one of scores of tips. The police are treating it in a fairly methodical way. It was a tip, as a matter of fact, that was on that Web site yesterday.

ALLEN: Any idea when the search of this parking lot is going to begin?

FRANKEN: No idea whatsoever. Probably at this particular point, they're trying to decide how to proceed from here.

ALLEN: All right. CNN's Bob Franken, we'll stay in close contact with you.



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