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Suspect in Chandra Levy case is charged with murder

WASHINGTON — Police on Wednesday afternoon formally charged Ingmar Guandique with the 2001 murder of Chandra Levy.

In a brief appearance, the Guandique was charged, booked, photographed and fingerprinted before being returned to a downtown Washington jail cell. He's to be presented with first-degree murder charges in D.C. Superior Court early Thursday afternoon, nearly eight years after Levy's disappearance crushed a Modesto, Calif., family and created a media frenzy.

No Levy family member or representative was present during Guandique's hour-long initial processing or at the subsequent booking.

"I don't really need to know every little detail," Dr. Robert Levy, Chandra's father, said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Levy added that he isn't sure if he or his wife, Susan, will be traveling from their home in California's San Joaquin Valley to observe how their daughter's accused murderer fares in court.

Still, the enduring fascination with Levy's murder and the circumstances surrounding it was apparent Wednesday afternoon. More than a dozen reporters, photographers and television cameramen clustered outside police offices awaiting Guandique's arrival.

On Monday night, the U.S. Marshals Service had quietly delivered Guandique from a federal prison in Southern California, where he's serving a 10-year sentence for attacking two women in Washington's Rock Creek Park. Levy's skeletal remains were found in the park in May 2002.

The three Washington detectives who painstakingly built the circumstantial murder case against him — Anthony Brigidini, Todd Williams and Emilio Martinez — escorted Guandique in a black sedan from the D.C. jail to the department's remote Violent Crimes Branch headquarters.

Clad in an orange jump suit, white socks and blue slippers, and with his hands and legs shackled, the 27-year-old Guandique shuffled in the detectives' grip from the unmarked car to the police office door. His arms looked bare, but the gang-related words Mara Salvatrucha appeared to be tattooed prominently around his neck.

Also known as MS-13, Mara Salvatrucha is a violent gang that began in Los Angeles. Guandique did not have any known gang tattoos when he was sentenced to prison in early 2002.

Now, Guandique has a short beard, and a police detective said his hair had grown out, obscuring what's said to be a tattoo of a devil on top of his head. He glared briefly at reporters Wednesday but mostly kept his head down, and didn't respond to several questions asked in Spanish.

Guandique, who's from El Salvador, is not known to be conversant in English. On Wednesday afternoon, during his initial processing, he had his Miranda rights read to him in Spanish.

Prosecutors say Guandique attacked Levy in Rock Creek Park on May 1, 2001. Levy, a former federal Bureau of Prisons intern, had apparently gone to the park for a jog. At the time, as subsequent developments revealed, she was involved in a relationship with then-Rep. Gary Condit. Police never considered Condit a suspect, but the relationship, once it became public, drew notoriety to Levy's disappearance and brought an end to the Modesto congressman's long political career.

Though police lack DNA evidence, they have several witnesses who say Guandique confessed while incarcerated.

"As early as 2002, Guandique had discussed the murder of Chandra Levy with a witness," one police affidavit states.