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The Chandra Levy Case: Police Receive Tip on Possible Location of a Body

Aired August 1, 2001 - 18:00   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up now in the FIRST EVENING NEWS, if you've been with us for the past several hours, there may be substantial developments at this hour in the case of the Chandra Levy. Authorities right now converging on a site near Fort Lee, Virginia.

To Washington and CNN's Bob Franken, who's been on the air nonstop for the past two hours. And Bob, first a question to you.

Given the massive amount of tips that have come under -- we'll give you a chance to get dressed there as well.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, no. I'll tell you why. As a matter of fact, I was just on the phone with the assistant police chief, Terry Gainer, again in Washington, and he was filling in some details I suspect are going to be the kind of thing that will be contained in your question. Why don't you go ahead?

HEMMER: The question is this, Bob. Given the numerous tips that come in on a daily basis, why this one, why have authorities responded to it in the way that they have thus far?

FRANKEN: Well, they are responding to it, according to Chief Gainer and others who we've talked to during the day, including the D.C. Police Department, because given the futility that they've really had in their investigation so far, their three-month investigation into the disappearance of Chandra Levy, they're responding to just about anything.

In this particular case, what they have is a 3-page single-spaced tip that was sent to the wetip tip line, which is a California organization. It came to the police yesterday. Chief Gainer was saying this is just one of numerous unsubstantiated tips. They have a lot of tips that are this detailed, he said, but they check them out.

In this particular case, they decided that it was not worthwhile to send D.C. detectives, it is not worthwhile to send cadaver dogs from here. They're going to rely on the local authorities on scene -- and that means Fort Lee, Virginia -- to check this out and see if there's anything to it.

The one bit of detail that does interest them a little bit is that there was a description in the tip that came of a parking lot under construction at Fort Lee. There is a parking lot under construction.

If I may, Bill, I'd like to take some of the highlights from the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police news release, which just came out. The D.C. police went to great lengths to say this will be up to the base's provost-marshal to deal with this. The provost-marshal, the police chief.

And they ended the release by saying, "It must be emphasized this is but another of the many unconfirmed tips circulating about the disappearance of Ms. Levy."

HEMMER: We will underline that point. In addition to that, Bob, any indication, given the 3 pages that were written there, any indication about specifics on there that really tipped their hand?

FRANKEN: Well, it's not a matter of tipping their hand. There were specifics, such specifics as the body was shrink-wrapped. Other specifics, which the people at the Web site and the police are unwilling to discuss.

But there have been, as I said, quote, the assistant police chief, Terrance Gainer, said, quote: "We've had a lot of detailed tips." So there's no indication that is any more than somebody writing a book at this point. But of course, given the nature of this investigation, police are checking out everything.

HEMMER: All right, Bob Franken in Washington. Bob, stand by. We'll be back in touch shortly here.

In the meantime, though, I want to take you to the other end of the country and Modesto, California, and CNN's Gary Tuchman, who now joins us live, parked outside the family home there. Gary, good evening to you.

Has there been any response, any reaction from the family, given what we've been reporting out of Fort Lee, Virginia?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, first of all, we can tell you Chandra Levy's parents have been informed about this tip: 50 minutes ago, Susan Levy drove in the driveway here at her home in Modesto, California, and she was met by a friend of the family, an executive director of a missing persons foundation, a close adviser to the family, who informed Mrs. Levy about this tip, about the possibility. And as Bob Franken said, we emphasize "possibility" of the body of Chandra Levy being there in Virginia.

They hugged. It was emotional, and then they went inside this house. Mrs. Levy has not yet talked to us. She has talked to us most days about developments in the case. We haven't heard from her yet.

Her husband, Dr. Robert Levy, we've been told, has also been informed about this, but he has made the decision right now to stay at work. He's an oncologist. He treats cancer patients. He is staying at work right now. He usually comes home about 2 1/2 hours from now. He says he expects to spend a full day at work right now. But he has been informed. The family knows about this development. Last night, we spent some time with Susan Levy. She went to the county fair here in Stanislaus County, California to participate in a booth where children were fingerprinted, small children. She wanted to help make children safer. These fingerprints are taken in case these children end up missing.

And we talked with Susan Levy about mail she's received from all over the world.


SUSAN LEVY, CHANDRA LEVY'S MOTHER: It's therapeutic to know you're not alone and you're loved by others who don't know you. Or people who will open up and tell their stories and their pain and their losses. Not that that's therapeutic, but it's amazing how you transcend boundaries, and that's really what this is all about in life.

TUCHMAN: Is it harder now than it was a month ago or two months ago?

S. LEVY: Yes, it is. It's very hard. Very, very difficult. It's hard to get up in the morning. It's hard to get started. Hard to face a new day. Hard to make a bond and just go out and plan things. Very difficult.

TUCHMAN: A lot of us marvel at the fact that your husband is able to go to work as a doctor and treat his patients. That must be hard for him.

S. LEVY: Yes, but he's a committed doctor and he cares about his patients, and the reality is we have to go on living. Even though it's painful, we have to go on and try to find, which is a not easy and normal lifestyle, which I don't think we'll ever have after something like this happens to you. Your awareness is not the same.

TUCHMAN: Still think there are people there who know answers or know things and are not willing to say at this point?

S. LEVY: Well, you're going in the direction of territory that you have to tread lightly in answering, but I believe that yes, there are people out there who may have answers. Yes.

TUCHMAN: Final question I want to ask you: If you could talk to Chandra right now, if she was watching this, what would you say to her?

S. LEVY: I love you very much and please come home and do not be afraid. We love you regardless and we want you to come home.


TUCHMAN: This is a very brave couple, but they do not live in a fantasy world. They realize that the likely outcome to this will be a sad outcome. But they know there is a hope, and as long as there's a minute hope, they will continue to keep it. Bill, back to you.

HEMMER: Gary, curious about the -- the pain that they're suffering here. Given the number of tips that have come and gone -- and most of them at this point, all of them virtually, unsuccessful -- do they talk about that and the torture by which they find themselves experiencing this?

TUCHMAN: Bill, for this family, this is like a roller-coaster ride in hell. It's a roller-coaster that just keeps going down, down, down and rarely goes up.

As we're speaking to you right now, I should tell you that Susan Levy is coming out the door. This is the family adviser who we were telling you about, Kim Petersen, the executive director of a missing persons foundation, who is helping her out, who is advising her, who is telling her what's happening today. We don't know if Susan will be talking right now. She has talked to us most days. It would certainly be very understandable if she doesn't.

And we've all here made an agreement not to bother this family if they're not in a position to talk with us, so that's why we're not coming up to them right now. It's obviously a very stressful, difficult time. We told you, it's like a roller-coaster that keeps going down, and right now, it's obvious she wants some solitude with her close friend as they drive off in this van -- Bill.

HEMMER: Again, Gary, you mentioned the woman who's with Mrs. Levy. Again, give us her description.

TUCHMAN: She is the executive director of the Sund/Carrington Foundation. That's a foundation that deals with missing people, people who are missing. They provide money for reward funds, they seek donations for reward funds, and they have gotten donations to this foundation for any information on the whereabouts of Chandra Levy. She's become a very close friend of the family. She happens also to be a schoolteacher, and she's been with the family since the very beginning three months ago, and she's helped the Levy family a great deal to deal with this situation.

HEMMER: All right, Gary. Gary Tuchman in Modesto, California, with us this evening.

Back here in Atlanta now, our CNN analyst Mike Brooks is with us live now. I want to bring in Mike now to talk more about what it is that forces police and authorities to chase certain tips and leave others by the wayside.

What is it, Mike? If you're a detective looking at a case, what tips it off for you?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN CONSULTANT: Well, in this -- on this specific tip, it is so specific that you have to follow it out. They have received a number of leads and a number of other tips. Here in Atlanta, just recently, she, Chandra, was supposed to have been spotted at a concert here in Atlanta. She was supposed to have been gassing up a Jaguar here in Atlanta. She was seen on the MARTA system.

But this tip is very specific, very specific in nature. And that's why they're going ahead and following this up.

But again, as every tip comes in, they follow it up. The -- on the three tips I spoke about here in Atlanta, the FBI was -- sent leads down to the FBI office in Atlanta and they went out and followed up these leads.

But there's lot of things they could do to try to find out exactly, you know, what this -- if this tip is a good tip, the veracity of this tip.

HEMMER: And Mike, given your detective work in the past, other than common since, how do you know which tips are credible, or do you and is it just a matter of checking them out?

BROOKS: Well, again, it's a matter of checking them out. In this particular case, they don't have -- they haven't gotten many good leads to go on, so I think that's why they're definitely following this one up. And it should be interesting to see what the provost- marshal finds at this particular site.

HEMMER: OK, and quickly, Mike, trying to avoid any speculation here, if indeed there is a body below the concrete here, what happens next?

BROOKS: The FBI has probably already been notified about this, the Richmond office of the FBI, since it's so -- in close proximity to Richmond. They have a highly trained evidence response team. They would come in, do an analysis of the site, and they would probably notify the engineering department in Quantico to bring in the ground- penetrating radar, it's radar that's able to look for anomalies, look for unusual things under the surface of the ground, and stake the area out, grid it off and do a very methodical search.

Should they find something underneath the ground, they would make sure they have the proper resources, the proper equipment to go about their search before they even do this. But there's -- again, that's speculation at this time.

HEMMER: All right, Mike. Mike Brooks, hang with us tonight. We'll be back in touch shortly.

We want to go back to Washington to CNN's Bob Franken, who's working the telephones.

Bob, something new?

FRANKEN: Well, every time we talk to the police, they want to reemphasize -- as Mike just did, as we have -- that this is just another tip, it's one they'll check out. The only difference in the credence in this particular one, is the fact that the writer knew about the parking lot under construction, that is was in a very detail tip, but police point out that they get a lot of detail tips, they check them all out. What's interesting, Bill, this comes on a day when there has been a lot of discussion about the fact that the investigation may be pulling back a bit. That, because at three months the police had exhausted so many leads that they were probably going to put this into a different category, not continue with the intensity. As a matter of fact, that became an occasion for an interview with the aunt of Chandra Levy, Linda Zamsky, you'll remember her.

She's the one that said Chandra Levy had confided in her that she had a romantic relationship with Congressman Gary Condit. Condit of course has been such a central figure in the coverage of this story. It was a romantic relationship that Condit denied through his spokespeople for quite a while, before according to police sources, admitting to investigators during a third interview with them that in fact he had had the affair.

Police are saying that Condit is no longer a central figure in the investigation, and I wanted to ask what Linda Zamsky, the aunt of Chandra Levy, what her feelings were about that.


LINDA ZAMSKY, CHANDRA'S AUNT: The police have to hand -- they're handling the investigation, I can't make that call. I'm not a trained police person, I'm not a lawyer, not an FBI agent, so if they're moving away from him, I would only have to assume that there's evidence that's guiding them away.

FRANKEN: Well, the police...

ZAMSKY: It would be nice for our family to know that, though.

FRANKEN: Police say that Gary Condit is not a suspect; you 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 would use the word suspect. If he -- in not being honest of 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, it doesn't mean he knows who did it. But he may have taken a walk with her somewhere where she mentioned I'd like that place, go back there and visit.

They spent a lot of time together and I'm sure there's lot 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: The family has been quite candid about its hope that somehow, something would come along which would keep this investigation as intensive as it is they were ready to try just about anything, including going public in a variety of ways, but apparently, the impetus for that, Bill, has come from an anonymous tipper to a Web site in California.

HEMMER: Bob Franken in Washington. Thank you, Bob. Great work today.

In the meantime, we want to update you on what we know at this time. According to a Web site,, based on a tip that was received yesterday, a tip alleging that there was a body buried beneath a parking lot on this army base in Fort Lee, Virginia about 120 miles south of Washington, D.C.

The pictures you see here are courtesy of WAVY out of Richmond, Virginia. Again, this story developing just in the past two hours here on CNN. But we will continue to watch this throughout the evening and into our prime-time schedule. On "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" at 8:00, Greta Van Susteren, "THE POINT" at 8:30, and later on "CNN TONIGHT" at 10:00.

For now, we will take a quick time out. More when we continue here on the FIRST EVENING NEWS.



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