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Chandra Levy Case Declared Homicide

Aired May 28, 2002 - 11:46   ET


KRIS OSBORN, CNN ANCHOR: We understand we are now just minutes away from an expected press conference from the Washington D.C. medical examiner's office, at which point they will announce the cause of death in the Levy investigation.

So for a lot of aspects of this, let's talk to CNN's Bob Franken. He has been reporting on this since the remains were found in Rock Creek Park not long ago.

Bob, as we were talking about earlier, you expect there will be a pretty definitive statement as to in fact what caused her death.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're probably going to hear, and I underline "probably," as opposed to we know, is that the investigators are thinking that he will announce this was a homicide. Probably will not be able to give a lot more detail, because this kind of thing takes a while, particularly under the circumstances that the remains have been remains, they think for over a year. So I would expect the preliminary announcement, but an important one.

In the meantime right now, let's go to the news conference with Dr. Jonathan Arden.


DR. JONATHAN ARDEN, D.C. MEDICAL EXAMINER: ... take a few questions.

The remains recovered last week in Rock Creek Park were positively identified by the office of chief medical examiner as those of Chandra Ann Levy, and that was done by comparison of dental X-rays. Her death has been certified today by this office. Cause of death has been certified as undetermined, and the manner of death has been certified as homicide.

In this case, there was not specific -- excuse me, sufficient evidence to ascertain conclusively the specific injury that caused her death.

However, the circumstances of her disappearance and body of recovery are indicative that she died through the acts of another person, which is the definition of a homicidal manner of death. I will not comment specifically on the details of the ongoing law enforcement investigation.

By way of background, let me share with you some basic definitions. Cause of death is the specific disease or injury that leads to the death of the person. The manner of death is an explanation of how the cause occurred. The choices being natural, accident, homicide, suicide or undetermined.

Prior to this press conference, I spoke with Mr. Billy martin, the attorney for the Levy family. I disclosed these results to him, and offered my condolences to the Levy family.

Thank you. I will take a few questions now.

QUESTION: Doctor, are you going to perform any other tests, any DNA tests, any tests on fibers, any laboratory tests?

ARDEN: At this time, there are no other tests ongoing. If any such tests become necessary or applicable, then we will deal with that as the need arises.

QUESTION: Doctor, what sort of tests did you do...

ARDEN: One at a time, please.

QUESTION: Doctor, what tests did you do and why was it difficult to come to a cause?

ARDEN: The test that we did really were examination of the skeletonized remains. It was a physical examination, in which I was assisted by the forensic anthropologist from the Smithsonian institutions. As I said, when there is insufficient evidence of a specific disease or injury to arrive at a conclusion, then one has to go with the undetermined cause.


QUESTION: Doctor, what piece of evidence led you to conclude it was a homicide?

ARDEN: Question here was, was there any tests that were being done to determine if she was pregnant?

There is no such evidence that can be derived from the skeleton. I have no comment on that issue any more.

The terms of the issue of how was it concluded her death was a homicide. One synthesizes the investigation of the circumstances, specifically, as I said, in this case, her disappearance, recovery in a remote location. Given the other evidence as determined by the police investigation of her personal items found there, the conclusion really is that she had to come to her death and been placed there by another person.

I will not comment any further on the specifics of her personal belongings or recovery at the scene.

QUESTION: Can you tell whether she died there or whether she was brought there, doctor?

ARDEN: I cannot determine whether she died there or was brought there.

QUESTION: Can you tell how long she was there?

ARDEN: The question is if I can tell how long she was there. Her remains are in a condition consistent with the time frame in which she disappeared. I cannot say any more specifically than that.

Someone here asked about whether we can rule out strangulation. As I said, there is insufficient evidence to arrive at a conclusion as it a specific injury, which caused her death, and therefore, I am not saying that I ruled out or excluded anything specifically.

QUESTION: How much of the skeleton was found, and how would that hinder your investigation?

ARDEN: The majority of the skeleton was recovered and examined.

QUESTION: What was the condition of the...

QUESTION: What did can you tell us about the condition of the skull?

ARDEN: The condition of the bones is that they were skeletonized, and I will not comment further on the condition of the bones.

QUESTION: When do you think you may come up with a cause or will you be able to?

ARDEN: At this point, there is no evidence to lead me further to a specific cause. If any other evidence does arise, we will consider it, and go forward if possible.

QUESTION: Doctor, we may never know?

ARDEN: It is possible we will never know specifically the injury that caused her death.

QUESTION: Doctor, had she had a whole in her skull, you would have said perhaps blunt force injury, but you are not saying that. Does that mean that didn't occur?

ARDEN: What I'm saying is there is no specific injury that leads to a conclusion as to the cause of death.

QUESTION: Was there damage to the skull, would you be saying differently?

ARDEN: Were there evidence of damage to her skull prior to death, then I would take that into account as to whether that represented an injury that is likely to be fatal.

QUESTION: Was it wholly the circumstances of where she was found that leads to the homicide conclusion? Was there anything from the skeleton that lead to that determination?

ARDEN: The circumstances of discovery in fact are the prime factors in arriving at the conclusion of the manner of death being a homicide, yes.

QUESTION: Doctor, will you at any time reconsider determining the cause of death. Can that be reopened if you get other information? Or is this closed, as far as you're concerned?

ARDEN: No, in reality, a medical investigation is never closed, even after issuing a death certificate. If new or different evidence ever arises, we will always consider it. And If there is sufficient evidence to change our conclusion, then we will.

QUESTION: Was there anything found there that was not identified to be part of Chandra's skeleton? Were there other fibers, other hairs, anything outside of Chandra's skeleton that you can address?

ARDEN: There is nothing else that I can comment on, no.

QUESTION: What was missing, when you say majority of the skeleton, what parts of the skeleton?

ARDEN: I'm not going to describe specifically which bones were or were not found. The majority of the skeleton was recovered, though..

QUESTION: Are there any other -- anything that takes a week or two to process or grow?

ARDEN: There is really no other testing ongoing at this time. As I said, if any other tests will become relevant, then we will perform them or have them done. But at this point, there is nothing else to be done.

QUESTION: Will you find out the bones, whether they are damaged or not? Can you scrape anything off of them that you can examine under the microscope other than just the damage to the bones?

ARDEN: No. Someone asked why we are not doing DNA. At this point, there is no DNA comparison to yield useful information.

I don't need to do DNA to identify Chandra Levy. I have already done that through dental X-rays. So at this point, the only DNA work would be an identification process. We are already past that point. The question was here, are we going to release the remains. I have spoken with Mr. Martin, representing the family, and we are arranging for the release of the remains, but that's a personal matter between us an the family.

I don't know when.

QUESTION: Was there DNA recovered at the scene apart from Chandra Levy, is that what you're saying?

ARDEN: No, I'm saying that at this point, there is no purpose to doing DNA testing, and therefore, none is being done. If at any time it becomes useful or applicable, then we will investigate that. But at this point, I'm not commenting on anything that was not found.

QUESTION: The police are doing DNA more separate from what would enable you to determine...

ARDEN: To my knowledge, there is no DNA testing going on at this time, but I won't comment further.

QUESTION: Did you find anything unusual at the site that you wouldn't have expected?

ARDEN: As I said no, there was no specific evidence of an injury that could have conclusively have caused her death. I will not comment further on specific injuries. But there was no evidence of which injury caused her death.

QUESTION: ... what exactly you found that made you believe it was a homicide? If we are not seeing evidence of stabbing or...

ARDEN: As I said, the manner of death ruling is a combination of not only the medical examination, but very much the investigation and the circumstances of how, and where and why a person is found.

I can only comment at this time that the circumstances of her disappearance and of her discovery, having been secluded in the park, and taking into account the personal effects that were found at the scene, allows me to conclude that her death was homicidal in nature, but I will not give any further details on that.

QUESTION: Can you talk about other items found there?

ARDEN: No, I can't talk about the other items.

QUESTION: They are circumstantial.


QUESTION: Will the remains be turned over to the Levy family?

ARDEN: Again, we are discussing that with the family, and the timing and the specifics of the release are not for public consumption. That will be between us an the family.

QUESTION: ... in that the bones were -- in the best of circumstances, could you have ruled strangulation, just based on skeleton remains, or do you need skin to make that determination?

ARDEN: Strangulation is a diagnosis that is more readily made with an intact body. On occasions, it can be ascertained from bones alone. In this instance, we could not make such a call.

QUESTION: Did you find anything unusual at this particular site, something you wouldn't have expected to find at a site like this?

ARDEN: Given the unusual nature of the circumstances, I'm not sure that I could really answer that question. The entire circumstance is unusual and tragic.

QUESTION: Do you know how approximately how long the body was there?

ARDEN: As I said, it's consistent with the timeframe of her disappearance, but I can't say anything more specific.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to take two more questions.

ARDEN: There is a less to work with here than I would like, that's true. But certainly enough to come to some conclusions.

QUESTION: Did you determine whether this was a primary or secondary site at which the homicide would have occurred?

ARDEN: I can't comment on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, thank you very much.

ARDEN: Thank you all.

OSBORN: You have been listening to Jonathan Arden of the D.C. medical examiner's office, highlighting a number of aspects in the Levy investigation, one of which was that of course it has been identified using dental X-rays that in fact the remains found in Rock Creek Park were those of Chandra Levy's. Also, while the cause was undetermined, the manner of death was specifically mentioned, that the investigators have determined that in fact it was homicide.

Although, a number of interesting questions, Mr. Arden said specifically, there is no evidence of a specific injury, which caused her death. Let's talk to CNN's Bob Franken, who has been following this for quite some time -- Bob.

FRANKEN: Well, what he concluded in his words is that she died because of the act of another person, which after all is the definition of homicide. That would be the words that he used. But to the investigators, a little bit of a disappointment that there wasn't more of an indication of what might have been the manner of death.

We don't have to get to the specifics, but there were, for instance, was no indication on the skeleton, as there sometimes is, that strangulation was involved. There apparently was no indication on the skeleton of a nick of some sort that might have suggested that a knife was used, or perhaps some sort of a projectile. That type of thing has not yet but borne out.

As for DNA testing, that FBI laboratory does have whatever DNA samples we might have found out there. That is not a process that happens quickly, but the medical examiner says that, at the moment, there is nothing really to compare, no one to compare DNA with.

So what he is saying there is, is that they really haven't gotten somebody to the point of being a suspect. But now, the words "suspect" can be used. Although police have said they conducted this as a homicide investigation, or at least have gone through the standards of a homicide investigation from the beginning. Now it officially is one, and that has some significance.

And, in fact, we are expecting, at a time still to be announced, that the chief of police, Charles Ramsey, will be coming where we are right here at police headquarters and will be giving his take on the medical examiner's announcement.

I should point out, Kris, none of this is a surprise. We have been discussing this all morning. The medical examiner's first duty was to just determined that it was a homicide, which he did -- not anybody being surprised among investigators, but now comes the hard part, determining specifics, and of course tougher part looking for a suspect -- Kris.

OSBORN: Thank you very much, Bob.

It certainly was very much along the lines of what you described just a few hours ago earlier this morning.

Bob, mentioning a number of things, including that now of course the word suspect can be used. So for more perspective on this, we are joined by Mike Brooks. He is a former Washington D.C. detective. Thank you so much for being in here with us.


OSBORN: Let me ask you this, on the one hand, there is no specific cause yet. It's now officially labeled a homicide. How do you make sense of that?

BROOKS: Well, they say it's a homicide. The cause, as is undetermined, so we don't know if she was stabbed, if she was choked, if she was shot, but as Bob was saying, apparently there is nothing on the skeletal remains to show any nicks, any cuts, any defensive marks. A lot of times during a stabbing, you will have defensive marks on the hands on the arms, and sometimes that will leave small nicks, small cuts.

There is no tissue, there is no tissue on the skeletal remains to see if there were any bones -- any cartilage or anything broken in the throat to see if she was strangled, so -- but there are other indications. It's not very pleasant to talk about, but there are indications that she had been tied up with her own clothes, and again, these aren't normal, and if she had been out jogging, fallen off of the trail, right along where she was found, there is a trail, a small hill that goes down along, slopes off, and then it drops off down into a ravine-type area where she was found.

So, you know, again, that's why it took so long. It wouldn't be something that someone would notice. The manner definitely was homicide, and also there is other facts in here from sources that would lead them to believe it was homicide, and we will start looking at suspects now.

We move from a missing persons case into a homicide investigation. There is a lot of other things we will go back and start doing. I know they'll reinterviews of people they've already spoken to. They've done over 100 interviews. I know there are some key people they want to go back and talk to at length, and again, now we can get into a different kind of questioning, a different kind of -- into an interrogation, as people would call it, talking, getting way from a missing persons case on why she might be missing, into now she was missing, we know why, let's try to find out if they know anything at all that might lead them to any suspects.

OSBORN: Now what, Mike, if anything at all could be done in terms of the evidence, is there any other additional forensic evidence that now can yield some fruitful aspects as it is now formally a homicide, or a murder investigation? Well, it could. The clothing, the remains or the clothing?

BROOKS: Clothing, they did find some clothing there on the scene. Now, could their be some tissue from a suspect? Once they have a suspect, then that would give them something to compare any remains or any residue, anything at all that's on the clothing, but until they have a suspect, you know, until they have a suspect, then there is nothing to compare it to, but I'm sure, they will talk about returning the remains over, but that evidentiary -- things of evidentiary value will remain with the medical examiners office.

OSBORN: Michael Brooks, a man with much experience on these matters former D.C. police detective, thanks so much for joining us, and we are going to turn it over now to CNN's Carol Lin.

How are you doing?


Very interesting watching that news conference and seeing what develops out of that. It doesn't sound like there is much to work on, but we will figure it out this afternoon.

OSBORN: Yes, absolutely, thank you so much.

LIN: We will pick up the ball here. After months of speculation, just to bring you up to date, one of the mysteries of the high-profiles disappearance of Chandra Levy is solved. The Washington medical examiner says Levy was murdered, but how she dies still remains unknown.

So joining us from Washington with more, CNN national Correspondent Bob Franken.

Bob, a bit of a disappointment. I think people were expecting more out of the coroner's examination. Where does this investigation go now?

FRANKEN: Well, actually, investigators expected exactly this. They expected that the cause of death, would be determined, the manner of death -- those are official terms -- would not, because all that the medical examiners really had time to do is to investigate what amounts to circumstantial evidence. and he decided that the circumstantial evidence indicated homicide.

Just a few minutes ago, as you saw on CNN, he came out with an announcement that really was not a surprise to the investigators.


DR. JONATHAN ARDEN, D.C. MEDICAL EXAMINER: The remains recovered last week in Rock Creek Park were positively identified by the office of the chief medical examiner as those of Chandra Ann Levy, and that was done by comparison of dental X-rays. Her death has been certified today by this office. The cause of death has been certified as undetermined, and the manner of death has been certified as homicide.


FRANKEN: The reason, said the medical examiner, Dr. Jonathan Arden, is because she, quote, "... died because of the act of another person, which is, after all, the definition of homicide." But he was not able to determine, as investigators suspected he would not be able to do, not be able to determine how she died. Was she strangled, was she stabbed, was there some other circumstance?

The remains, at least thus far, have not yielded that information. Is this important? Yes, it's important.

Although police say that they've conducted this with the possibility that it would end up being a criminal investigation, now it officially is. That gives them certain precautions they're going to have to take. It gives them, of course, certain aggressiveness that they'll be able to take in other ways.

And we're going to hear more about that in a little while, when the chief of police comes out and discusses that all with us. Charles Ramsey, who has become such a public face on this investigation, an investigation, Carol, that is now very clearly, very officially a criminal homicide investigation -- Carol.

LIN: So, Bob, from working your sources, what do you think police are waiting for to happen next? I mean, this is an open investigation. What sort of evidence do they think might come to light in the days, weeks or even the years to come?

FRANKEN: Well one of the interesting points that was brought up by Dr. Arden was the use of a Smithsonian forensic expert. The Smithsonian, of course, usually is involved in remains that are sometimes years, centuries old, that type of thing. it's a particular expertise that you would find in the city that has the Smithsonian Institution.

Perhaps that kind of exotic detective work might yield some results. Perhaps some of the more sophisticated tests that the FBI lab is taken, though they're somewhat more time consuming, might yield some results. But the next thing now is to look for possible suspects.

That's a word that would not have applied until this became a criminal investigation. They're going to trace steps, they're going to retrace steps. They're going to re-interview any number of people. Perhaps at some point, the DNA that was found at the scene might have a comparison, somebody to compare it with.

At the moment, says the medical examiner, there is nobody -- Carol.

LIN: All right, we'll be waiting on Chief Charles Ramsey to clarify what, if any, suspects are in mind. Thank you very much. Bob Franken reporting live there.

Let's turn to CNN's legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, now in New York for some insight on this investigation or what's left of it. Jeffrey, thanks for joining us. I would think that the trail is getting pretty cold here and that whoever did this might be breathing a sigh of relief right now.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, my reaction to this press conference is this is really the cost of failing to discover a body for 13 months. I mean, there was just not much information disclosed today, and it seems like there was not much information discovered in the course of this autopsy.

Tragically, we now know that Chandra Levy died at the hands of another. That is a homicide. But beyond that, it seems like we know almost nothing.

LIN: So what did you hear that you found interesting or at least conclusive as far as what the medical examiner had to offer?

TOOBIN: Well, one thing Dr. Arden said, in a kind of glancing way he said that the body was in a condition that suggested -- he didn't say this definitively -- that suggested a time of death around the time that she disappeared, 13 months ago. So that means -- that suggests, anyway -- that she probably was not moved. That she died more or less where she was found. Which, again, raises the question of why, when the police supposedly searched this area, which is near the Klingle Mansion, the place she was looking at on her Web browser shortly before she died, why her body wasn't found for all these many months.

LIN: Bob Franken mentioned that some high-tech devices might be used now to examine the evidence and some people might be re- interviewed. Police hoping to get some suspects out of this. But, frankly, how reliable are those re-interviews a year later?

TOOBIN: It doesn't seem like you're going to get a lot more out of people who obviously know they're suspects. I mean, we can play games about who is technically a suspect and we can, you know, use all these euphemisms.

But, obviously, the police have been looking at Gary Condit since day one. He's going to be interviewed again. It seems highly unlikely to me that the discovery of the body is going to change anything in terms of what he says.

I mean, obviously one thing you would ask him now is, Have you ever been to that spot? Do you know -- you know, whether he can have any connection to it. But it does not seem that although this is obviously a major break in the case and offers, you know, at least -- I don't want to say satisfaction or -- it offers the family the sense of knowing what happened to their daughter.

Other than that, as a law enforcement matter, it certainly doesn't seem to advance the law enforcement investigation much at all.

LIN: No, it doesn't seem that way, at least at this point. If you were the Levys, if you were Chandra Levy's parents, would you be exercising any legal options right now?

TOOBIN: Boy, I think mostly what they're doing is grieving, I suppose. As much as I hope never to be in a position like that, I don't think they really have many legal options. Obviously, the police are investigating. In terms of filing a civil lawsuit, I don't know who you would sue. Would you sue the D.C. police for failing to find the body? I mean, that's not a lawsuit that would ever go anywhere.

I think they have to live with the fact that their daughter has died, which is, of course, the most important thing. And I think legally there is really not much for them to do.

LIN: Yeah, very tough road. Thank you very much, Jeffrey Toobin, for that legal analysis. We'll be checking in with you, especially after we hear from Chief Ramsey of the D.C. Police Department.

But right now we want to go to one of our experts. He's a former D.C. Detective, Mike Brooks, right here in Atlanta with more on this case and some of the difficulties investigators now face in solving this killing.

Mike, do you ever expect, given what you heard initially from the medical examiner, do you think this case is going to be solved?

MIKE BROOKS, FMR. D.C. DETECTIVE: I think eventually it will be solved. I have to disagree a little bit with what Mr. Toobin said. I think finding a body does mean a lot more than he was alluding to.

And, number one, when they were initially searching for the body in Rock Creek Park, it's a large area. Just to put it in perspective, it's about four or five times larger than Central Park. You had a large number of police officers and police cadets out there searching for the body.

This particular area was a little bit north of where they were searching around Klingle Mansion. Knowing the area pretty well, it's a fairly rugged area. And if they had been searching the normal search grids that they do, about 100 yards off of the path, it was even back further into the woods in a very steep ravine area, very rocky, very rugged terrain. And that's a good possibility why they didn't find her initially.

Now, a scene like this, even with just the skeletal remains, always leads to something. Whatever happened, there might have been something there on the scene investigators are not talking about that may lead them to suspects.

LIN: For example? Mike, let me stop you on that point there. For example, if you were investigating this crime now, what would you do with this medical examiner's report, and what do you think is left at that scene that's going to help you?

BROOKS: Well there might be a lot of things there that we don't know about. You look at what was found. There were personal effects that were there. We know the motive was not robbery. It's not pleasant to talk about, as I said earlier, but apparently her body had been tied up with her own clothing.

Are there any other crimes that have been committed in Washington where these kinds of methods were used? They're going to go back. D.C. police detectives, along with the assistance of the FBI, are going to go back and they're going to look at the history of every crime against females in the city going way back.

They already have. I think they're going to go back now that they have a little bit more. You know, go back to the initial -- her apartment, when she was first reported missing. What was in that apartment, or what kinds of things were left in that apartment that could lead them to a possible suspect?

LIN: But, Mike, let me ask you this: without any physical evidence tying the murder to whoever a suspect might come out of that sorting through the apartment or re-interviewing people, how is a prosecutor ever able to get a conviction then? The physical evidence is still what ties that person to the crime.

BROOKS: That's true, but we don't know what physical evidence was left at that scene. We do have clothes. Was there physical evidence on that clothes? They're not going to tell us that right now.

Was there any DNA on those clothes that were left at the scene in the park? There's a possibility. There could be some DNA left on the clothes that belong to the suspect.

LIN: Even a year later?

BROOKS: Even a year later, absolutely. You have a Walkman that was found. Are there any fingerprints? Very simple things like fingerprints. Were there any fingerprints left on that particular Walkman during a struggle?

Now a lot of times, people will touch -- you know, the suspect will touch things that he or she does not realized that they touched. You know, could they have left a slight fingerprint on there? Absolutely. And depending -- even a year later, depending on if the Walkman and anything else of evidentiary value was covered with leaves, it could still -- fingerprints, blood, you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), anything else could be still left on the clothes. There's a lot more to talk about.

LIN: Well, clearly, investigators need a break at this point. Thanks so much, Mike Brooks, the former D.C. detective.




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