CNN BREAKING NEWS
Body Found May Be Chandra Levy's
Aired May 22, 2002 - 12:01 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bob Franken in Washington.
I want to preface this report by reminding you that there have been any number of false sightings. But the top investigators involved in the Chandra Levy case are on the scene at Rock Creek Park in Washington. It is a park that has been searched many times.
There has been the discovery of a body, and police officials say that there are indications it may -- underline "may" -- be the body of Chandra Levy. They say they are not sure yet; they're not even absolutely positive. These are human remains, but there are indications on the scene that are strong enough to bring in top law enforcement officials, who have been among our sources, saying that there are indications that are worth bearing out, worth investigating, to see if, in fact, these are the remains of Chandra Levy.
Chandra Levy, you will remember is the intern who was 24 years old when she disappeared just a little over a year ago. She was part of a relationship that was acknowledged later by Congressman Gary Condit, who is a Democrat from California, that they had had a personal relationship, an intimate relationship. It was a story that a year ago was causing a huge amount of controversy in Washington.
Condit has lost his congressional seat in the last election. Much of that attributed to the Chandra Levy matter. But up until now, in spite of all of the thousands of clues, tips, that type of thing, nobody had decided that the body of Chandra Levy had been spotted. And I have to emphasize maybe this one will turn out to be another cold lead. But the sighting was significant enough that the investigators in this case and top law enforcement officials are on the scene in Rock Creek Park trying to determine if, in fact, they have this time sighted the body of Chandra Levy.
Bob Franken, CNN, live, Washington.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Bob, stay with me a second here. And I'm going to follow your line of caution and trepidation as we work our way through here. In the past year, have there been other bodies located in that park?
FRANKEN: There have been other bodies located in the park. You will recall, Bill, that oftentimes the remains that were turned up when the police would sweep out and do their extensive searches, that sometimes they would be animal remains. And on other occasions other bodies would be found and there was a considerable period of time that each one -- each time there was a body found, not just in Rock Creek Park, but all over the area, the alarms would go off. But, of course, the story has subsided quite a bit.
The one thing that I will point out, is that Rock Creek Park was an area where Chandra Levy was known to go jogging. She did not live far away from Rock Creek Park, so that has always been a place that's been emphasized. It is a very pretty patch of green that, among other places, covers a part of Washington, D.C.
It has a jogging path, and she, who was considered somebody who was very much into physical fitness, was known to go jogging there. So that was always considered a primary possibility. The police, as I said, have found any number of times remains there.
Again, following that line of caution that you mentioned, they are only saying that this time there looks to be at least the possibility after a year that this might be, might be the remains of Chandra Levy. And that possibility has caused investigators who have been the ones who have been leading this case to go out and see for themselves.
HEMMER: Bob, another question for you. Do you know, through your sources in D.C., as to why or how this particular body was discovered?
FRANKEN: Well, there is some indication -- and I have to say it that way because it's been over a year -- some indication that this may be a human, and that is not as bizarre as it sounds. So often, the remains turn out to be animal remains. But beyond that, some indication, according to the sources in a very preliminary way, that it might be a female.
Other than that, they're not giving any details yet because I think they're still at this particular point trying to gather them. What you are seeing now is some video from last year, when police cadets were taken from the police academy and fanning out to search the area. Mounted police were involved; those were the mounted police from the park police. The D.C. Police was involved.
You can see that they were searching every inch. But is a park. There is so much vegetation in a park, that type of thing, that police officials admitted even with such a thorough search, it did not mean that they would be able to find the remains.
So the search has gone on, it is a case that has been out of the headlines, as we know, for several months. But there have been detectives who have continued to work on it on this particular case. Those detectives and higher up law enforcement officials are on the scene to check out what they would consider, to use a term (UNINTELLIGIBLE), hopeful possibility that maybe this one will pan out.
But they do not know yet. Only that they're out there investigating. HEMMER: Bob, thank you, but stay with me now. WUSA, I want to show a live picture now of Rock Creek Park. Again, as you mentioned, Bob, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) central Washington, D.C., and everybody knows the area. They have passed through this area quite often. It is a place where a lot of people go to recreate. Simply to jog or to run or to walk, whether it's their pet or themselves in the D.C. area.
Bob, you mentioned it has been more than a year, about 13 months by the calendar right now if we go back to the 30th of April. Police sources will tell you on the first of May, I believe, if memory serves me, they located some sort of e-mail contact that Chandra Levy had, whether that was late on the night of the 30th or the first day of May, I'm not quite certain. Maybe you can fill in that hole.
But as you do that, also, Bob, in the past year, when we remember that Rock Creek and the search for that park was essentially dismissed and called off. Have they gone back there very often to look around on this case specifically?
FRANKEN: They have gotten leads. Rock Creek Park has always been considered a primary possibility. And they've gotten leads and they've gone back, and law enforcement officials will tell you that when a body has been found anywhere in the area one of the possibilities they explore is that it is Chandra Levy. But there have also been a million theories, every variety from the tabloid theories to ones that are taken more seriously about what may have happened to her.
But the one principal lead that has always been a focus is the one that would have her as a jogger going out to Rock Creek Park. And again, if you have been there, Bill, it is extremely overgrown as a park, that its intention; to be sort of a nature habitat. And as a result, it could have failed to yield a body for a long time.
The question is, what would have happened to her? But that is a real premature question, because at this particular point the investigators are only out there following what they consider to be a slightly promising lead, but more promising than some of those they've had before.
HEMMER: Many times, Bob, our viewers will remember you last summer in Modesto, California, in the area of Chandra Levy's parents' house. We saw the parents come to the end of the driveway just about once a day, sometimes more, trying to keep the issue and the story of their missing daughter still out there in the media.
And many people will tell you, investigators included, that those efforts are what lead a lot of people to keep this story alive. In fact, just about three weeks ago, the Levy parents with Larry King talking about the one-year marker since their daughter turned up missing.
A couple of questions for you: What are the Levys essentially doing today? And on the same note, Gary Condit, where is he now?
FRANKEN: Well, in both cases, I'd have to say that I can't say for sure. But if you don't allow for me -- but if you would allow for me to answer in a general sense, the Levys have continued to watch, they've continued to wish the story was getting more attention, as an effort to find Chandra Levy. They have, of course, felt a little bit frustrated that the attention turned elsewhere.
I think we have to say that the Chandra Levy case continued to be the dominating story until September 11, when what was considered to be more significant world events of course took over and that became the primary focus of the media. But the Levys have been frustrated, we've been told by sources, a little bit that have not been able to continue to get their message out.
As for Congressman Gary Condit, of course, he very quickly faded from the public perception. What you are seeing now is when he had not faded. His every move was shadowed by the media; the questions were raised then whether he had any involvement in the disappearance of Chandra Levy.
And the police have gone on and on over and over to say that he is not a suspect. But recently, he appeared before a grand jury, was scheduled to appear before a grand jury as that investigation has gone on. Congressman Gary Condit was involved in all of the discussion about the case because he finally acknowledged to investigators -- after he had been questioned by them three times -- acknowledged that he had in fact had a sexual relationship with Chandra Levy. And that personal relationship, of course, is what fueled this story, and it is also what continued to keep police interest. And you will recall that the story went off on a variety of directions.
Now to finally answer your question, Congressman Condit was defeated in his last election in Modesto. Just about everybody attributes that to the scandal that swirled around the Chandra Levy case. That he was tarnished and was not able to recover after so many years of being almost an automatic reelection.
So in all probability, he is at the Capitol today, as a congressman who will sit to the -- he is, I'm told in my ear, at the Capitol today, as one would expect. There is routine business going on. Congress is in session today, so he is at the Capitol where he will remain until the end of the year and a new congressional session.
HEMMER: And, Bob, just to back up just a little bit to allow our viewers a chance to look back in to what we know and don't know -- and, largely, the latter of that is true right now -- we want to walk again with a bit of caution, but a body has been found in Rock Creek Park. Authorities looking into the investigation of Chandra Levy have responded. We do not know at this time if it is a male or female, is that correct?
FRANKEN: OK, here's what we're being told. Kelli Arena, CNN's Justice Department Correspondent, has been told by someone on the scene that a human skull was found at the scene, and that has raised the possibility among investigators that this might be the body of Chandra Levy. It was found by somebody who was walking his pet in the park right now. Investigators felt that the remains there, that plus other, was enough to suggest that there was a possibility -- underline that -- possibility that this time it may be the body of Chandra Levy, who, of course, was such a focus for an entire year.
There have been leads over and over, Bill, leads that other bodies have been Chandra Levy, but oftentimes they've been very far out. And as you well know, there has been speculation -- some of it quite off on the wall -- about the fate of Chandra Levy.
So what we are reporting, and only what we are reporting, is that police are on the scene. That the top law enforcement officials in Washington and the investigators in this case felt that this lead was significant enough that they wanted to look for themselves to see if this time it turned out to be Chandra Levy.
HEMMER: Bob, thank you. We're going to cut you free just for a couple of minutes, allow you to gather some more information.
In the meantime, by telephone, Marc Klaas, the father of Polly Klaas. You remember that case in California so well. Marc Klaas has been in the front on so many cases of missing young people, essentially, young girls and young boys in different parts of the country. Sir, can you hear me OK?
MARC KLAAS: I can hear you find, thank you.
HEMMER: The news is breaking right now, but it's breaking in a way that we do not have all the complete information. And we want to remind our viewers, again, we are walking with a little bit of caution on this story. But we do know quite a large police response has gone to Rock Creek Park in Washington.
As we await more information, when you hear stories such as these in the efforts that you have put forth for so many years, what comes to mind for you, sir?
KLAAS: Well, a couple of things come to mind, Bill. Number one, I think underlines the importance of conducting physical searches in and around areas where individuals disappear. Secondly, this has got to be the most difficult time that the Levys have experienced probably since the holiday season or perhaps even since their daughter disappeared.
I guess the good and bad news would be that perhaps this is Chandra and it could end the agony of having to wait and not knowing and give some finality at least to what may have happened to her.
HEMMER: I'm wondering also, sir, what it does to the family and the feelings and the emotions of the family when you have false leads? And we have seen them many times in the past 13 months, especially last summer, if you remember, chasing a number of leads that turned out to be empty. What's the emotional toll on a family as a result of that?
KLAAS: Well, it's something that unless you've experienced it is almost impossible to explain. I mean, we invest everything we have in our children, and when they disappear we hold onto any thread of hope. And those threads of hope seem to diminish over time to the point where what was a boulevard of hope becomes a very thin thread of hope. And, certainly, I'm sure that is where the Levys are right now.
I'm sure that what they want right now is to know more than anything. But I think that ultimately knowing what happened to your child is a better resolution than always having that question mark out there and not having any idea.
HEMMER: And I know you're not a master on forensics, but do you have any indication as to how long it may take to get a positive ID on what we are watching here in Rock Creek?
KLAAS: Well, certainly, if they've got a portion of a skull, they will be able to make a determination through DNA. And I would imagine that can probably happen rather quickly. It would most assuredly be fast tracked through the system. And certainly the FBI and other agencies have wonderful DNA labs. And DNA does not lie, so one way or the other it is either Chandra Levy or obviously it's somebody else.
HEMMER: You know, Mark, the last time we saw you with the van Dams in San Diego, when Danielle van Dam, the 7-year-old, turned up missing, later found. She is dead. In fact, the trial will begin in that case very soon. But as you work your way across the country, what is it that families who are now looking their children and other family members, what do they need to hear from you?
KLAAS: Well, I think that what they need to hear from me, Bill, is that you have to be proactive in the search for your child. The days of sitting by the telephone and waiting for the ransom call to come in are long past. Those exist in Hollywood, they don't exist in reality.
We can hope for divine invention, but the best opportunities we have are to get personally involved and to push these investigations. That, in fact, we are fighting battles for the future of our children, and the generals in those battles are most assuredly the parents. They are the ones that drive it and make it happen.
HEMMER: Thank you, Mark. Mark Klaas, by telephone on the latest story here.
Again, just to let our viewers know what we know at this point. And, again, we largely do not know a number of facts. But what we are watching right now, is Rock Creek Park in the northern section of Washington, D.C. A substantial amount a of police officers have responded. Apparently a body has been found.
And there is some thought given that it may be -- and underline "may" be -- the body of Chandra Levy, the missing Washington intern who disappeared at the end of April, first part of May, just about 13 months ago. Twenty-four years of age, her parents have kept this story in the media for a long time. In fact, last summer it appeared it was the only story a number of news organizations seemed to cover at many turns. But the events of 9/11 put this story firmly on the back burner, and it is possible again -- it's possible that it might be in the headlines for us today. I want to go back to the picture we're watching and bring in Carol Costello here at CNN who formerly used to work in the area of Washington, D.C. Rock Creek Park, describe it to us, Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It is a huge park. I believe it's the largest municipal park in the world. I mean, this park goes through parts of Maryland, parts of Virginia, and through parts of D.C. The area where they found the part of the skull is south of Grant Road, which is off of Brandywine, which is off of Connecticut Avenue. It's not far actually from where Chandra Levy lived.
Her apartment building was on Connecticut Avenue. I would say it's probably about a 10 or 15 minute drive from Chandra Levy's apartment building to this place where they found this skull. The weird part about this, it's such a public area of the park. There are running trails. I recognize this. I used to run through here all the time.
That's Chief Ramsey right now of the D.C. Police. We should listen in -- let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: About 9:30 this morning the U.S. Park Police received a call from a citizen who had been out walking his dog in Rock Creek Park and found what he believed to be human remains at a location very near to where we are standing now. We have homicide investigators on the scene, our mobile crime medical examiners responding. And that is pretty much it right now. We do not know who the skeletal remains, and we are in the process of processing the site.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, is it consistent with the possibility that this could be the body of Chandra Levy?
RAMSEY: We don't know. We certainly are looking into that possibility. But at this point in time, we really don't know. This is a very heavily wooded area, as you can see, and very easy to conceal something here, as we said all along. This is a very difficult place to search. So it is possible that remains could have been here for some time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now it also is a possibility, though, that with a skull you could get dental records and ID. How long would that take, sir?
RAMSEY: Well, again, we are still processing the scene (UNINTELLIGIBLE) working as quickly as we can. We did go through the entire Rock Creek Park. Rock Creek Park covers almost about 30% of the District of Columbia. It's a huge, huge wooded area. And very possible, as you see right now, that something can be easily concealed.
We don't know whether or not over time the remains were just lying in the open or could have been in a shallow grave, any of those things. That's what they are doing now and processing. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be here for several hours...
RAMSEY: We went through the entire Rock Creek Park last summer, and this is one of the areas that we did walk through. But, again, Rock Creek Park is such a large area that it took us literally months to be able to comb the entire section of Rock Creek Park.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it safe to say you will be here all day?
RAMSEY: We will be here a while.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... these remains are the remains of a man or a woman?
RAMSEY: Again, they're skeletal remains. So the forensic pathologists will get here and take a look and let us know exactly what we have. An adult, a child, man, woman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long may that take?
RAMSEY: Well, hopefully we'll get it as soon as we can. But right now, I can't make any promises. I mean, obviously, we'll be very careful when we process this area to make sure that we don't disrupt anything any more than it already perhaps has been. Animals and things like that, certainly are very heavily present in this area.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the position of the remains? Are they spread around or grouped together?
RAMSEY: Well, again, we are processing the scene right now. I am just trying to give you an update the best I can in terms of what we have to date, so that you know where we are right now. But this is the very early stages, the very beginning stages. And I don't have anything to add at this point. But if more information becomes available, obviously, I'll update you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your detectives would have Ms. Levy's dental records at the ready, would they not?
RAMSEY: We have all of the things that we feel we need to be able to make a positive ID if in fact the remains belong to her. But at this point in time, we're unable to determine. These are skeletal remains and just by observing you cannot tell just by looking that there is the possibility that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) female. But we just don't know that for sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.
RAMSEY: I'm not getting into detail right now about what was found up there. But there are skeletal remains that were found, and that's what we're looking at right now. And -- well, again, the possibility is there, but it will take a forensic pathologist to really be able to determine at this point because of the length of time and the fact that it's all skeletal. And apparently the remains have been there for a while. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The way we understand it, chief, is that when the civilian found it, it was just the skull. Can you tell us if in addition to the skull more of a skeleton has been found?
RAMSEY: My understanding is that the remains are not all in one location. So that's why we've got to find a location where perhaps the remains (UNINTELLIGIBLE) located. A lot of times, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) looking at the condition of the remains. So we need to really just take our time and process the entire area, which, as you all can see, is very, very heavily wooded. So it is going to take quite a bit of time before we're able to thoroughly process this scene.
HEMMER: Police Chief Charles Ramsey. To our viewers, we apologize about the breakup in the signal, but we wanted to hear his comments again on the scene arriving a short time ago.
A couple of key things he said. He said it's a quote, "possibility it may be a female," this skull in question. This human skull, we're told. The possibility is there. Again, the police chief's words. And we are approaching this story with a fair amount of caution because we do not have a definitive word and we're not clear just yet when we will have that word as to the forensic conclusion again of what was discovered.
But a call from a person walking a dog in Rock Creek Park, which is right on the edge of where Chandra Levy had her apartment in Washington, D.C. Who is it, we don't know. That was clear from the chief's remarks. But a walk-through last summer, a thorough walk- through, he says, took months to comb the area. But skeletal remains have been found and apparently human remains in a number of different locations or at least two based on what the chief was saying there.
And it is quite obvious, based on the amount of attention this story got last summer for the past year that police and investigators have the proper background to identify this body whether that's dental records from Chandra Levy or DNA. One would assume that a good investigation obviously has all those areas buttoned down.
Back to Carol Costello quickly here. And, Carol, you covered the story in D.C. You have been through this park many times and you know it quite well.
COSTELLO: I have. In fact, I lived right down the street from this location.
HEMMER: The thing that struck me is that they did comb it last year and they went through it thoroughly. They had hundreds of people there at any given day.
COSTELLO: More than one time.
HEMMER: And the fact that they did not find it then, perhaps the body is new, perhaps it is not been there for 13 months. We do not know.
COSTELLO: But as Chief Ramsey said, we have to keep in mind this is a heavily wooded area. The only strange thing to me, it is near a very popular running trail and a lost people walk their dogs and run through the area. And there is a neighborhood close by, so it is strange that they would suddenly find this at this time. Also keep in mind, though, there are a lot of missing people in D.C. And the bones could belong to that any of those people.
HEMMER: Carol, thanks.
Back to Bob Franken standing by in Washington. And, Bob, you were saying about 20 minutes ago that animals have been found many times, human remains had been found in the park before. But there is reason to suspect, anyway, that this should be investigated more at this point.
FRANKEN: Well, let's talk about the reasons. First of all, it is Rock Creek Park, as Carol pointed out. It is not far from Chandra Levy's apartment. It is an area where she was known to job, where a lot of people jog, including, of course, Carol. It is just an area that is frequented.
It is also an area that on occasion can be dangerous. And that has always been one of the theories that police have followed. That, in fact, what happened here is that she ran afoul of somebody who caused violence against her. That's always been one of the possibilities that police have explored.
They also pointed out that last year they scoured the park. We followed that just about as closely as they did, as they scoured just about every inch they could of Rock Creek Park, one of the areas that they looked at, having police cadets fan out and search the park. However, as Police Chief Ramsey just pointed out, it is an area that is by design as close to nature as possible. It is heavily overgrown.
They're checking into any number of possibilities. The first one being they're going to have their forensic pathologist try and determine if it is, A, a woman and, B, if it in fact is Chandra Levy. There is no way of knowing if this one will turn out. But the other possibilities are, why are the remains scattered? There are any number of natural explanations or other more sinister ones. Other possibilities, as the chief said, that maybe it was some sort of shallow grave. One of the things that they're only now speculating about, but one of the things that will be investigated.
I will point out that when the chief of police himself comes out, when he's accompanied by his public affairs person to his left -- to his right, rather, you saw Sgt. Joe Gentile, who was out there making sure that the story was told properly. The assistant police chief was out there. When they come out on something like this, it is something that they are taking seriously. Seriously enough that they are hoping to finally, after all these months, more than a year, they have finally begun to unravel the mystery of what happened to Chandra Levy.
HEMMER: Bob, that's an excellent point at the end. If you look at this videotape in a live picture we saw before, the number of police cars that have responded here really took me back. Any picture we see here, with the exception of this one, there are quite a few police officers on the scene now.
FRANKEN: There are quite a few police officers. Obviously, they are following the lead exactly as we described it earlier. That is to say, that there is more than the chance that there had been the before that this could turn out to be the body of Chandra Levy. This is a case that has gone on so long, has had so many cold leads, so many bodies that turned out just not to be case in spite of the fact that police said they were checking each and every one of them. But this one has been set apart enough that the top officials involved in this have gone to the scene themselves.
HEMMER: Bob, thank you, we will let you continue to work your sources there in the Washington area.
The Levy family attorney, Billy Martin, you might remember that name from last summer, right now no comment from the family. There will be no statement, they say, until more is known about the story in the northern section there of Washington, D.C.
By telephone, Professor James Starrs, George Washington University, a forensic scientist who can, in broad terms anyway, describe to us the process. Sir, can you hear me OK, professor?
JAMES STARRS, FORENSIC SCIENTIST: Yes I can.
HEMMER: Good afternoon to you. When it comes to a forensic investigation, we mentioned dental records, we mentioned DNA. What more are we missing from that equation?
STARRS: Well, first we want to make sure we get as many of the remains as possible. I understand they've been scattered. That's always possible with animal activity. But it's also possible with human activity of the worst sort.
It's also a question of whether the remains have been there all this period of time. And, if so, whether they've been buried or simply left on the ground. It could be that they have been unburied from a shallow grave by animal activity, and therefore they were missed the first time around. It could be that they've been placed there more recently after having been kept someplace else and then deposited at this time.
There are lots of "ifs," but the bottom line of all of these ifs is DNA analysis. If we've got enough bone, even without flesh, we certainly can get DNA. And we've got living parents, comparison to those parents should answer the question once and for all as to whether it is or is not Chandra Levy.
HEMMER: Sir, can you look at human remains, bones, and determine a gender male or female?
STARRS: If you have the pelvic cavity, as we say, the pelvic region, birth canal, that area clearly tells you that it is female or male. Any other area of human remains is somewhat speculative. The best area for that purpose, if you don't have the pelvic region, is the skull. And there are a number of different markers on the skull that one can look at.
Generally, the difference between men and women without the pelvic region is the difference between what we call robusticity, meaning robust or large, in the case of a male. Or, the more (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the more gentile, the more fluid in the case of women. And then we look for particular areas on the skull where we can see such distinguishing characteristics.
So I understand the skull has been found. Nothing has been said, to my knowledge, concerning the pelvic region. But the...
HEMMER: Sir, can I stop you just on that point, because you were talking about DNA before.
HEMMER: Is there a quicker way? If DNA is the full-proof solution here, is there a quicker way DNA versus dental records to make a determination?
STARRS: Well, dental records are very good. I don't know anything at all about the dental treatment that she received during her lifetime. But what we call -- these are anti-mortum dental x- rays. If those anti-mortum dental x-rays are available and she did have some dental work that was done as a result of her treatment by the dentist, and -- and this is the important part -- and we've got the teeth now in both the upper and lower, or at least sufficient number, sure, dental records can be very conclusive.
But there is no question that there are a lot of ifs involved there, a lot of contingencies. That is not the case with DNA.
HEMMER: Overall, sir, in a general sense, what sort of timeframe are we looking at here, given what we know right now?
STARRS: Well, looking at the remains that you have, if you have the pelvic region and the skull, you can tell a great deal concerning whether it is male or female.
And if it is female, you can tell a great deal concerning the age from the teeth and from other aspects of the skull and the bones themselves. So, you can tell something about the size of the person at the time of death. There are -- you can tell whether the person is Caucasian or not, give the racial background, so that, within a matter of literally a day or two, if you have the remains available to you, you can tell those basic characteristics.
HEMMER: You say a day or two. I'm a bit surprised by the length in that.
STARRS: Well, I like it play it safe. Particularly in a case like this, I would want to be very cautious. I wouldn't want to give a snap judgment. HEMMER: Professor, thank you, James Starrs from the George Washington University, a forensic scientist, with us here talking about how investigators may proceed on this matter.
Just to recap what we know, again: Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., northern section of the city, apparently, human remains have been found, at least a skull, we understand, and perhaps other human remains scattered in other areas.
This is the park on which Chandra Levy's former apartment in Washington, D.C. sat up against, essentially. Investigators last summer in the month of May, extending all the way through August, we remember investigators on the scene there in Rock Creek combing the area. But, as police chief, Carol, points out a short time ago, this is a heavily wooded area.
And he did not seem surprised in the least in his comments with reporters that, even though they may have gone quite thoroughly through a certain area, he would not be surprised if they missed something.
COSTELLO: No, because it is very heavily wooded. Let me tell you more about the area. This is in actually in Northwest Washington. It's in a very upscale part of town. And there are neighborhoods around here. And many people jog through this area.
As you might expect, a lot of pressure has been put on the D.C. police to find Chandra Levy's body or Chandra Levy. And although we don't know if these skeletal remains are that of Chandra Levy, it reminds me eerily of another Washington case.
A woman named Joyce Chang -- I don't know if you remember her -- she disappeared before Chandra Levy did. Her body, too, turned up nearly a year later. It was in the Anacostia River. Her remains were skeletal. And that case has never been solved. And it was because the remains were in such poor condition. There was very little evidence left. So, that will complicate things for police to solve the case of this death, whoever it might be.
HEMMER: Let's go back to the map, Carol, if we could, quickly here, and locate this area for our viewers and talk a bit more about it. It is open, surprisingly, during all hours of the day -- many people across the country familiar with their own local parks. They close at nightfall or close around 10:00 local time.
COSTELLO: Well, there's something you have to understand about Rock Creek Park. The roads that go through it are traveled by people going to work. And you're right. They're never closed. They are an artery through the Washington, D.C. area that allows people to avoid the highways. For obvious reasons, many people want to do that.
HEMMER: Yes, Rock Creek Park, completely created by nature. Bob Franken alluded to that just about 10 minutes ago. 1890, September of 1890, that park created for a scenic and recreational enjoyment. And many people in the D.C. area still live up to that definition today -- the Zoological Park, the National Zoological Park a major component of the Rock Creek Valley.
COSTELLO: I believe the area where this part of the park is located is Chevy Chase, D.C. And Chandra Levy's apartment building was in DuPont. That's not far way from this area.
Now, as I said, people live around here. And you're right. This park has been around forever. And there are many things in the park. Many people use it. I believe there is a picnic area not far from here, which, you know, it just surprises me. They took dogs through here so many times, but they didn't turn up something before, although we don't know if this body was dumped here. That happens often in Rock Creek Park. They will fine the remains of someone who was killed someplace else.
HEMMER: And, again, just a reminder to our viewers: We are walking with caution, because there is a lot, frankly, we do not know right now.
The police chief, Charles Ramsey, was at the scene a short time -- there you see him in the videotape from earlier today -- speaking with reporters, briefly anyway. We want to go back and run part of that interview that we heard from the chief about 15 minutes ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. POLICE CHIEF: ... this morning, the U.S. Park Police received a call from a citizen who had been out walking his dog in Rock Creek Park and found what he believed to be human remains at a location very near to where we are standing now.
We have homicide investigators on the scene. Our mobile crime, medical examiners are responding. And that is pretty much it right now. We don't know who. There are skeletal remains. And we are in the process now of processing the site.
QUESTION: Chief, is it consistent with the possibility that this could be the body of Chandra Levy?
RAMSEY: We don't know. We certainly are looking into that possibility. But, at this point in time, we really don't know. This is a very heavily wooded area, as you can see, and very easy to conceal something here. As we've said all along, this is just a very difficult place to search. So, it is possible that remains could have been here for some time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: Chief Ramsey, again, on the scene a short time ago.
What we know from the chief right now, apparently, a person walking a dog earlier today in the vicinity of the park did notify police, made a phone call. And right now, we have seen the response. It is rather intense. In fact, I see some of the videotape from earlier today. A number of police cars have responded there. So too investigators, looking specifically into the Chandra Levy matter, have responded there in Northwestern Washington. Who is it? We don't know. The police wanted to emphasize that a number of times there during that interview. There was a walk- through, an extensive walk-through last summer, an extensive investigation. But, as we have mentioned, this is a heavily wooded area -- months to comb it, he says, the police chief says.
But skeletal remains have been found, including that of a human skull. But the remains, we are told, are not in one location. But, in the words of the police chief, there is a possibility, a possibility that it may be a female.
Bob Franken back with us in D.C. -- what more do you have, Bob?
FRANKEN: Well, first of all, what the police was saying is tracking what CNN said early on, that they are operating on the possibility, possibility, that this is Chandra Levy.
And if I sound like I'm being so cautious, it is because you will recall that, over the year that the Chandra Levy case was at first such in the forefront of our coverage, and then, of course, sort of went to the back burner, there have been thousands, thousands of leads. Many of them have been really far out there. But some of them have included the sightings of bodies in the Washington area and elsewhere.
Officials have investigated, usually very quietly, unobtrusively, and have turned up what have turned out to be false leads. And this particular one, this sighting -- for a couple of reasons that I will mention in just a moment -- this sighting piqued the curiosity enough that the investigators in the case themselves, as opposed to the patrol people on the beat. And top police officials, the chief, assistant chief, the chief of detectives, that type, went to scene in Rock Creek Park to look.
Now, after a year, why would they think that this one has the possibility to be Chandra Levy? Well, first of all, according Mike Brooks, who is a consultant with CNN -- he's a former D.C. policeman himself who has gone on to work anti-terrorism cases and the like -- his sources are saying that there are two reasons.
First of all -- this is interesting -- that they are human remains. I have to say that, over the years, so many of the remains that were found in Rock Creek Park and elsewhere turned out not to be human. The other one: because of its condition, the fact that it is only a skeleton. Usually, when remains are found, they are in more intact form, which would indicate that they hadn't been there this long.
The fact that this is a human skeleton that is found in an area that had been such a primary target of the search in the Chandra Levy case suggests to investigators that this particular one they have to take seriously. It's almost a paradox. The fact that it is harder to identify means that, after this period of time, it's an indication that they have to look closely to see if it is Chandra Levy.
Just to review just a little bit, Bill, Chandra Levy was announced as missing about a year ago. The investigation became a national, worldwide story because of the involvement in the life of Chandra Levy of Congressman Gary Condit. He acknowledged to investigators, law enforcement sources say, that he had had a sexual intimate relationship with Chandra Levy.
Police have always said that, while he is not a suspect, he has been somebody who could provide some information. This story, of course, continued until Congressman Condit had his reputation damaged enough that, after so many years of being reelected, he was defeated for reelection in the Democratic primary not too long ago in California.
His base in Modesto, California, the voters, in effect, turned against him because of all of the questions that had been raised. In the months since September 11, the family of Chandra Levy sometimes expressed frustration that the world, the media had forgotten about the disappearance of their child. Just recently, on the anniversary of her apparent disappearance, May 1, the family appeared on the "LARRY KING LIVE" show on CNN and talked about all the sadness that they felt over a period of time.
CNN, by the way, has talked to the attorney for the family. You might remember Billy Martin. He has said, at the moment, the family would have no comment, which is understandable. There is little comment they could make, since the police are only in a very preliminary stage, only interested in what they found in Rock Creek Park.
And, Bill, if I may go a little bit further, Carol Costello just a few moments ago was talking about Rock Creek Park. It is A, a very pretty part of the city that is, in fact, kept as natural as possible so it can be enjoyed. There are, however, jogging paths and bike paths. And the jogging paths are what always interested police.
Chandra Levy was somebody who was very much into physical fitness. One of the last places that she was spotted was, in fact, a health club not far from where she lived. She was known to go down to Rock Creek Park and jog there. There are two things about it. One, it is a frequently used place for joggers. And, secondly, it is a place that, on occasion, can be dangerous.
That combination is what always caused the police to be so interested that they fanned out and tried to scour every inch of the place. But the other characteristic of it is, it is very much overgrown on purpose. And the police always said that it is entirely possible that there is no search that could be thorough enough to turn up something that a person was looking for.
But, after a little bit more than a year, a passer-by walking his doing, as a matter of fact, spotted the skull. Police have said now that they have found human remains scattered over a part of the park, which has various possible explanations, some of them natural, perhaps some, along the lines as the chief of police said, that there was a shallow grave.
It will take now some forensic work to see whether this ones pans out -- Bill.
HEMMER: Bob, was there ever any evidence, going back to April of last year, or the first of May, that Chandra Levy may have gone out for a jog in that park, knowing that she was so physically active?
FRANKEN: There was some indication that that possibility existed, but it was sort of passive evidence: what she did not take with her when she went out.
Some of the personal belongings that somebody who was going out for other activities might take with her were found in her apartment. But somebody who was jogging might not take a purse, for instance, might not take some of the things that you normally have when you are going to a more conventional undertaking.
So, that was always considered the possibility. But the police have always said publicly -- and privately, frankly -- that they have been somewhat stumped. They have not exactly been able to pin down what happened to her. And, of course, we have followed, over the months, some pretty bizarre theories about what might have happened to her.
HEMMER: We sure have. Remember the parking lot we watched for hours one evening last summer. There was a construction site, word that a body was buried in the concrete. It turned up nothing, Bob. You remember that?
FRANKEN: Oh, boy, do I remember that.
But this one is being taken a bit little more seriously over a period of time by police officials. In that particular case, what they were responding to was really possibilities. And they were responding -- as, by the way, we were -- within a context of a story that had captured the nation and the world's attention so much that, just about any lead that was possible within the limitations of this Earth, just about any lead had to be pursued.
But over time, a bit of a quiet has descended on this case, for the obvious reason. It was overtaken by the events that still consume us of September 11. And, as a result -- and, as a result, the police have in fact treated this in a more normal way. I don't want to say routine, but a normal way. This one has some potentials of at least being a possibility that needs to explore whether it is Chandra Levy.
And somebody is saying, "Hey, Bob" in my ear.
HEMMER: Yes, got it. Yes, Carol is here.
COSTELLO: That was me.
HEMMER: And, Carol, before we go back to Bob, this location right here that we are watching -- just to bring our viewers up to speed -- this is right near that Rock Creek area.
COSTELLO: Yes, this is Brandywine. Like I was saying, it's a very upscale area. There's some embassies tucked away in there. And I would say it's an upper-middle- class neighborhood. But, as you can see, it is a residential area. And then the park kind of winds through the residential areas of Washington. And that's where people go to jog.
And, Bob, you are right. A lot of women jog on the paths through that park. And they wouldn't take a wallet with them -- I never did -- or a purse. You would just go out with -- you would carry as little as possible, because you are living in a city.
The other thing I was curious about, Bob, when police found this skull, did they contact the Levy family or their attorney?
FRANKEN: When I first talked to the police, they had not contacted the Levy family.
As a matter of fact, I will tell you that the police at first were reluctant to go on the record with me earlier this morning, because they wanted to make sure that the family had been notified. The moment they felt they could talk with me, of course they did. And by "they," I mean the number of sources who were developed over the months of covering this story.
But they were very sensitive, as they should be -- in the minds of many people, at least -- that the family should be contacted. So, that was one of the explanations why they were low-keying this for a while. The other one is, they say over and over again, this is only a promising lead. It is nothing more than that, but promising enough that it has piqued the interest of the top law enforcement officials in Washington -- most of whom we have seen either live or on videotape -- and the investigators in this case.
We see the police cars that are still out there. There are a large number of them, as both of you pointed out a while ago. We have also seen on videotape, not only the police chief, Charles Ramsey, but the assistant police chief, the deputy police chief, Terry Gainer. As a matter of fact, we see Chief Ramsey right now bending over to check out some information in his car.
This became such a prominent story that the police chief and assistant police chief spent a massive amount of their time dealing with media requests, keeping the world updated on various developments in this case, some of them quite incremental, some of them glacial. Right now we're seeing somebody standing in front a camera.
But there you get a sense of Rock Creek Park. As you can see, it's a heavily forested area. Carol, I know you will agree, it is beautiful area of Washington.
COSTELLO: Oh, it is absolutely -- it is gorgeous. It's just gorgeous.
I wanted to ask you how far off the roadway there, where we see the police cars, were these skeletal remains found?
FRANKEN: Well, they were found in a lower area.
We haven't gotten an exact figure yet. But it was an area -- Rock Creek Park is named that because Rock Creek runs through the park. And there are areas, as you get closer to the creek, that are very heavily overgrown, areas where it would be very easy a year ago to have missed human remains. That is one theory, that they just missed the body.
The other one is -- that the police chief talked about -- is the possibility that the body was put there perhaps at some time in that interim. And there are, of course, any number of possibilities. He suggested the possibility of a shallow grave. And forgive me for being so repetitious here. All of these are listed as, in the chief's words as well as everybody's, possibilities.
HEMMER: Possibilities, indeed. And we hang a level of doubt right now on our story, because we do not have confirmation.
Bob, thank you again in D.C.
Ben Ermini, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, now joins us by telephone.
Sir, can you hear me OK?
BEN ERMINI, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: Yes, I can.
HEMMER: I don't want to necessarily address what we are watching here in Rock Creek Park, because there are a lot of blanks that we still need to fill in right now.
But, for a family like the Levys, whose daughter has been missing now for almost 13 months, explain to us and describe to us the range of emotions that occur in a family when stories like these hit the airwaves.
ERMINI: Well, I think that it is very traumatic for a family to hear this. And they are going to be speculating that it is not going to be their daughter. They are going to try to hope that it is not Chandra. And they will be going through a terrible time at this point, until it is confirmed or not confirmed.
HEMMER: What sort of support would the Levy family be getting in the past year, sir?
ERMINI: Well, I think they probably have been having some counseling, through local counseling and people of that type, to help them get through this particular situation. Also, family will be helpful in helping them get through it.
HEMMER: Ben, with us here is Bob Franken in D.C.
Bob, what's your question for Ben?
FRANKEN: Well, my question is, would the family have been told -- or would you have some insight into how likely, less likely it becomes as you go on and on and on discovering a missing person?
ERMINI: Well, it is extremely difficult. We handle cases of children under 18 years of age. So, we wouldn't be involved -- we were not involved in this case. And we wouldn't be involved in adult missing cases.
But, if you are talking about remains being found and trying to verify the remains that are found of a child with a child that's reported missing, certainly it would be forensic examination. We would use DNA testing, dental charts. And so those are the things that we would be using to verify the identity of an individual.
FRANKEN: Well, let me ask one more question if I may, Bill.
And that is, is that Mike Brooks, who is a consultant on police matters with CNN, said that they think that this has the possibility of being Chandra Levy, A, because these are human remains -- as you know, oftentimes, they have not been in Rock Creek Park -- and B, because of the condition, that it was a skeleton. Missing after almost 13 months, that would be the case.
How significant is that to you?
HEMMER: Do we still have him?
Ben Ermini, are you still with us?
ERMINI: I'm sorry. I didn't hear the question.
FRANKEN: Well, again, given your expertise in missing-person cases, given the police reasons for believing that this has the potential of being Chandra Levy -- the largest one being that the remains are in a condition that suggests that they have been remains for a while than something more recent -- how significant is that to you?
ERMINI: Well, it's very significant, because that means that the test, the forensic examination is going to be easier. DNA is available. And I'm sure that they have dental charts that will assist in making a confirmed identification.
FRANKEN: Now, Bill, you will recall that one of the offshoots of the Chandra Levy case is, it brought to the attention of many of us the huge number of missing-person cases in the United States.
It had -- and I will ask if you can comment on this too, sir -- it had what could be construed as that positive effect, that, in fact, it brought that issue to the forefront. Would you agree?
ERMINI: Yes, I would.
FRANKEN: What has been the result in the period of time since then? Has this interest continued or has it sort of waned as other things have captured our attention?
ERMINI: I think it increased. I think that the interest has increased, because a lot of information has been brought up about this recently. And so, as the media brings it up, it's going to continue.
FRANKEN: And has it been something that helped your cause?
ERMINI: Well, certainly it has helped our cause. Any time we can get that kind of coverage, it is has helped our cause.
HEMMER: Mr. Ermini, I'm curious to know, in the cases where they do not get the publicity that Chandra Levy has gotten in this matter, I imagine that has to be frustrating for the families who do not get the attention.
But if you look at the van Dam case in Southern California in San Diego, when that story broke, there were a lot of people, not only in this newsroom, but in a number of newsrooms across the country, wondering why certain cases get the attention and why others do not. Can you put your finger on that?
ERMINI: I think that, in large media areas, when a child is missing from a large metropolitan area, they get a lot more media coverage.
And I think, here at the National Center, we have about 5,200 active cases. Many of those cases are long-term cases that get very little media attention. And I think it involves the circumstances surrounding the case, the circumstances surrounding the disappearance. And it also involves the area, the location where the child is missing from.
HEMMER: Thank you, sir, Ben Ermini, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Thank you, sir, for your thoughts, again, this afternoon. And perhaps we will be coming back to you a bit later in our broadcast today.
Chandra Levy last seen on the 30th of April last year, 2001 -- the morning of the first of May, authorities documented that Chandra logged on to several Web sites, apparently inside of her apartment there on the edge of the Rock Creek Park.
One of the Web sites, Bob, you remember, the Pierce-Klingle Mansion -- that was located in Rock Creek Park. Why would that mansion, that particular site, be of interest to people in D.C., or even Chandra Levy, for that matter?
FRANKEN: Any number of sites -- again, Carol, you are sitting there. And I'm going to take advantage of that.
There are any number of sites, this being Washington, D.C., that have historic significance or are so incredibly beautiful. And any number of them were in Northwest Washington, which oftentimes translates to near Rock Creek Park. And so, when she would go on to that Web site, a good piece of logic, an obvious one would be that you have to check and see if in fact she had decided to go by there. And I recall at the time that there was some question about whether there had been some sort of rendezvous there, that type of thing, a question that has never been answered. But it would seem, as you suggest with your question, that it is a fairly obvious lead to follow. Again, that whole area, Rock Creek Park, was an area known to be a possible place for Chandra Levy to indulge her physical fitness interests by going out and jogging. That's why it has always been, that entire area, an area of particular interest, all facets of it.
COSTELLO: Yes, Bob, we keep telling people how large Rock Creek Park is. But the area that we are talking about isn't really that large. From where Chandra Levy lived at DuPont Circle to the Northwest Washington site where these bones were found, the Klingle Mansion, I think it's off Tilden, isn't it? That's in Northwest Washington, too.
FRANKEN: That sounds right.
HEMMER: I can I help you out here: 3545 Williamsburg Lane -- just found it on the Internet.
FRANKEN: Now, you're so smart. Is Williamsburg Lane off Tilden?
HEMMER: That's a good question.
FRANKEN: What you are seeing, by the way, is her condominium, the apartment house in DuPont Circle area, which is an area of Washington that is populated, to a large degree, by 20-somethings. And Chandra Levy was 24 when she disappeared.
There is the scene of her computer, which has been the source of so much of a police investigation. It is not far from Rock Creek Park. It is an area where a runner could, in fact, go out, run over to Rock Creek Park, and then take what many runners would call the scenic route. It is very, very pretty and a wonderful inspiration to the people who like to have an inspiration to go out and go through the drudgery, the agony of running.
COSTELLO: Yes, wouldn't you say, though, for Chandra Levy or anyone to run from that condo complex in DuPont to this area in Northwest where police are right now, it is probably about a 10- or 15-minute run?
FRANKEN: But that, quite frankly, is not unusual. It is something that runners would do.
By the way, CNN's Kelli Arena, who is constantly checking Justice Department sources and other sources, says that the skull was not found anywhere near the Klingle Mansion. It was found quite a bit down from that. Now, of course, the immediate explanation, in terms of priority, would be that in fact it was never there. The other one could be, of course, that it was moved. And that is the type of thing that police are going to investigate. I would point out here that the remains were found scattered a bit. There are any number of natural possibilities that could have caused that. But there's always, also, the possibility that any of us could speculate on. We, of course, are trying to avoid speculation. The police say they are, too.
They only are interested enough to decide that they want to come out and see if, unlike so many of the other leads that were clearly not going to be productive at the beginning, if this particular case -- they are going out there to see if this time they have found the remains of Chandra Levy.
And, of course, I should point out here that the family and all of us hope that they have not, that, hopefully, somehow the theories about her being alive, one of them proves to be true.
HEMMER: Well, it's about 390 days missing.
Just to cross some T's on that mansion, by the way, that apparently was surfed on the Internet by Chandra Levy on the first of May: the Pierce-Klingle Mansion, a large stone farmhouse originally constructed in 1823. That house now serves as the headquarters, in fact, the headquarters for the superintendent of Rock Creek Park.
COSTELLO: Oh, OK. It is not on Tilden, then.
HEMMER: OK, what we know right now, we know human remains have been located and discovered in Rock Creek Park. That is the same location on which Chandra Levy's apartment sat when she turned up missing at the end of April last year. A heavy police force has responded there. So, too, have investigators, investigators specifically charged with the investigation of the disappearance of Chandra Levy.
The Levy family, responding through their attorney earlier today to CNN, saying they have no statement, no statement for now, until more information is found.
We are all talking about this story right now. We walk with caution, again, because there is a substantial amount of information that we simply do not know. But we will stay on.
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