Central Valley

Two more charges dropped in Levy murder trial

WASHINGTON -- Prosecutors and defense attorneys on Monday concluded 10 days of pro-and-con testimony about the man accused of killing former Modesto resident Chandra Levy.

After hearing from some 45 witnesses over 10 days, jurors today will hear closing arguments before they start deliberations on the government's scaled-down case.

"Ladies and gentlemen, that is the evidence," Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher declared shortly before 4:30 p.m.

The case that jurors will consider is smaller than the one prosecutors first proposed when they initially charged accused killer Ingmar Guandique last year.

On Monday, prosecutors dropped kidnapping and attempted robbery charges against Guandique, apparently because of statute of limitations issues in a case that dates to May 2001.

The decision by assistant U.S. attorneys Amanda Haines and Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez leaves only two felony murder counts remaining. Fisher on Monday had not yet decided whether jurors can settle on a lesser charge of second-degree murder.

At its peak, the prosecutor's case against Guandique included a total of nine charges including attempted sexual assault, obstruction of justice and other crimes. Seven of these charges have now been dropped.

Prosecutors say Guandique killed the 24-year-old Levy on May 1, 2001, in Washington's Rock Creek Park. Prosecutors initially theorized the murder occurred during an attempted sexual assault.

With Chandra's mother, Susan, watching from the audience, Guandique on Monday formally declined the chance to testify in his own defense.

By staying off the witness stand, the 29-year-old Guandique avoids what could be a withering cross-examination that would bring to light more of his criminal record. Jurors, for instance, do not currently know Guandique is now serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for attempted robbery.

Prosecutors previously presented some 40 witnesses, although only inmate Armando Morales directly tied Guandique to Levy's murder. A former member of the Fresno Bulldogs gang, and a one-time cellmate of Guandique, Morales testified that Guandique confessed in 2006 to killing Levy as part of a robbery.

On Monday, defense attorneys continued their effort to challenge the credibility of Morales. Another federal inmate who was discovered to have shared an 8-foot-by-12-foot cell in 2006 with Morales and Guandique testified he never heard Guandique talk about Levy or murder.

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