The Chandra Levy cold case may be the most famous – or infamous – in the nation, depending upon one’s views of the Jon Benet Ramsey case. But Chandra Levy’s disappearance in April 2001 became the stuff of tabloid and media headlines in a way that the Jon Benet Ramsey cold case could not. It involved adults, power, politics, and – most important for the media – sex. The sexual nature of the story would revolve around a secret affair between Chandra Levy and her married district Congressman, Gary Condit (D-CA), and that would be enough for the media to begin an onslaught of speculation that would end Condit’s political career.
It became an affair to remember.
According to the Washington Post, Chandra Levy met the Congressman after she had moved to Washington, D.C., for a USC graduate internship for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She thought the charming Condit looked like the actor Harrison Ford. Within weeks, the 23-year-old intern and the conservative Gary Condit would be involved in an affair that had the young intern spending the night at his Washington residence two or three times a week.
But then, on April 30, 2001, Chandra Levy went to D.C.’s Rock Creek Park and never returned. The story made national headlines quickly. A young, beautiful intern had disappeared in Washington, D.C. The media smelled scandal.
Robert Kurkjian, a friend of Chandra Levy’s, would later tell the police that he last saw Chandra Levy the night of April 27. She was a little disappointed to be headed home, but she was to receive her graduate degree from USC on May 11. That evening, she told Kurkjian about her affair with Gary Condit. The affair had been kept confidential at Condit’s insistence, she told her friend. But everything was going to soon change, she said. Condit was going to divorce his wife, become a lobbyist, marry her, and they would start their own family.
Three days later, Chandra Levy was killed.
Washington police would begin questioning Representative Condit, but they would never accuse or charge him with involvement in Chandra Levy’s disappearance, nor with the killing of the young intern after her remains were found in Rock Creek Park on May 22, 2002.
But the tabloids would speculate to their heart’s content. Gary Condit’s secret affair would become the pulp of fictitious and factually twisted innuendo stories, gossip-driven and protected by the First Amendment. A secret May-December romance between a naïve California girl and a blue dog Democrat? A married Congressman and an impressionable college graduate student? A 52-year-old Washington insider and a 23-year-old USC coed? That Gary Condit was the son of preacher only added fuel to the media fire. The stories were endless, splashed across the headlines of papers, the internet, and the evening news.
But Gary Condit maintained his innocence in the face of allegations and insinuations that Chandra Levy disappeared because of her connection to him. His original denial of the affair between himself and Levy, the testimony of people like Kurkjian and Levy’s aunt (who would inform police of Chandra Levy’s disclosure of the affair to her), and an evasive interview with CBS’ Connie Chung would do nothing but sully his reputation further as the investigation began to grow cold. A tremendously popular Congressman in his home district (California’s 15th district – later 18th through redistricting in 1990), Condit would run for reelection. But a former aide would defeat him in the Democratic Primary in March 2002.
It was the first election Gary Condit ever lost.
Condit finished out his term as Congressman in 2003. He has spent the last few years involved in various litigations, suing columnist Dominic Dunne and others for defamation of character and libel for printing accusatory stories of him.
Recent developments indicate that Chandra Levy’s cold case may have been solved. According to CNN, Washington police informed her parents Friday that an arrest in her cold case homicide was imminent. CBS News reported that evidence was presented to the U.S. Attorney’s office requesting an arrest warrant for one Ingmar Grandique, a man already serving time in the Washington prison system for assaulting women in D.C.’s Rock Creek Park. It is being reported that Ingmar Grandique admitted to another inmate that he killed Chandra Levy in Rock Creek Park back in 2001.
Washington police have refused to confirm or deny the stories circulating that they are pursuing an arrest warrant.
Of course the news — if the reports are authentic and Ingmar Grandique is indeed the killer of Chandra Levy — comes years late for Gary Condit. Whether Condit’s innocence is proof positive of the power of the media to destroy a person’s career without real evidence or whether his fate was sealed by karma by his secretive actions are matters of debate.
But one thing is not open to debate: the relationship between Gary Condit and Chandra Levy, at least for the former Congressman, is an affair that will not be forgotten. The affair, the death of his mistress Chandra Levy, and the subsequent reactions of both himself and the media completely altered a promising political career.
It was indeed an affair to remember.