Chandra Levy murder case is getting more mysterious

mdoyle@mcclatchydc.comApril 12, 2013 

— The Chandra Levy murder mystery twisted again and again Thursday, as defense attorneys asked pointed questions about a "blood-curdling scream" allegedly heard in Levy's apartment building on the day she disappeared.

And for the first time, the judge made public the name of the prosecution witness whose credibility has been called into question in recent months. The witness, former Fresno gang member Armando Morales, was the key to the prosecution's successful case against Salvadoran immigrant Ingmar Guandique, who was convicted of Levy's murder.

"It's the defense's view that the impeachment information is substantial, and that it undermines Mr. Morales' credibility and merits a new trial," D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher said.

As for the scream, at least one news report after Levy's 2001 disappearance referenced a "blood-curdling scream," and police officials declared at the time that a resulting 911 call was unrelated to Levy's case. Still, defense attorneys said Thursday that they apparently had not been given the emergency dispatch tapes from the call.

Taken together, the 911 call and allegations about the most important prosecution witness raise questions about the strength of the case against Guandique as well as whether prosecutors met their legal obligations to share all required information with the defense. A failure to meet the obligation to share information can jeopardize a case.

Early on May 1, 2001, one of Levy's neighbors called 911 to report the scream, which apparently led emergency dispatchers to send a police unit to the building, defense attorney Jon Anderson said. He said defense attorneys didn't know of the emergency call during the high-profile 2010 trial of Guandique.

A July 16, 2001, ABC news report cited an account of a blood-curdling scream, and quoted Charles Ramsey, then Washington's police chief, as discounting its importance.

After a nearly two-hour session at the judge's bench Thursday afternoon, conducted largely out of the public's hearing range, Anderson and his fellow defense attorneys formally asked for copies of the 911 recording and reports of what police did. The information could cast new light on the case, which had seemingly ended with the 2010 conviction of Guandique.

Prosecutors say Guandique stalked and killed Levy in Washington's Rock Creek Park, where her skeletal remains were found in 2002. At the time of her disappearance, the former Bureau of Prisons intern was preparing to return to her Modesto home. Her disappearance drew national notoriety because of revelations that she had been having an affair with her hometown congressman, then-Rep. Gary Condit of Ceres.

Sun-Star Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle can be reached at mdoyle@mcclatchydc.com or (202) 383-0006.

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