Chandra Levy search comes to tragic end

By Brain Melley The Associated Press
Thursday May 23, 2002

MODESTO — The parents of Chandra Levy tried to avoid watching television Wednesday after word broke that a body was found in a Washington, D.C., park not far from their daughter’s apartment. 

But with a crowd of reporters massing on the sidewalk and a wall of satellite trucks lining their street, they couldn’t avoid the news. 

Their long-missing daughter was dead. 

Dr. Robert and Susan Levy remained grieving inside their one-story brick home throughout the last day of their 13-month ordeal. Outside, the yellow ribbons that have lined neighborhood trees and lamp posts for more than a year were tattered and faded. 

“Two parents have just received the most horrifying news they could ever receive,” family spokeswoman Judy Smith said outside the Levy home. “Certainly no parent would think they would ever bury their child. It’s usually the other way.” 

Washington Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said he told a family lawyer that dental records confirmed the identity of the remains. 

“This long road they’ve traveled has now come to an end. It’s the worst possible scenario for the family,” said Kelly Huston, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s spokesman who frequently met with the Levys. 

Family friend Donna Raley, whose stepdaughter, Dena Raley McCluskey, disappeared in 1999, was at the Levy house Wednesday morning and left just before the remains were identified. 

She called the mood inside “rough.” 

“They held out so much hope, and they’ve been so strong. It’s just devastating to them,” said Raley, who co-founded of the Wings of Protection support group with Susan Levy. “The Levys are a very strong family.” 

At least 16 TV crews and dozens of reporters surrounded the Levys’ house in a replay of last summer, when Chandra’s disappearance — and her romantic links to the area’s longtime Democratic congressman, Gary Condit — gripped the nation in scandal. 

Condit, who lost re-election in the March primary after his political support crumbled, was in Washington on Wednesday. His offices referred all calls to his Los Angeles attorney, Mark Geragos. 

“Congressman Gary Condit and his family want to express their heartfelt sorrow and condolences to the Levy family,” the lawyer said. 

Geragos suggested Levy’s killing seems to parallel that of two other missing women in Washington, which could support Condit’s belief that a serial killer is responsible. He also suggested police had been derelict in their search of the park where the remains were found. 

“My feeling is that the police have a lot of explaining to do,” Geragos added. 

“If, as reported, she left with only her tennis shoes and her keys, and was going jogging, wouldn’t you look on the jogging trails?” he asked. “How do you miss somebody? It’s mind-boggling.” 

Ted and Donna Salmans, the Levys’ next-door neighbors for 16 years, said the Levys were a “class act” — and accused Condit of complicating the search for Chandra to the point that he has only himself to blame for voters tossing him out of office. 

“The way he handled this, Gary Condit is responsible for him being out of work,” Ted Salmans said. 

Neighbor Joanne Tittle, her eyes red and puffy from a day of crying, spoke warmly of Chandra, who used to hang out at her house. 

“My gut instinct was hopeful,” Tittle said. “I hoped she was in a foreign country or something.” 

Michael Levine, who helped raise $250,000 in reward money, said that at least the family has some resolution. “It’s a very, very, very sad, deeply disturbing final answer today,” Levine said.