b. April 15, 1977
Twenty-four years old at the time of her disappearance, Chandra Ann Levy is the only daughter of Dr. Robert and Susan Levy. Born in Cleveland, Chandra and her family moved to Modesto, California, where her father founded a very successful oncology practice. Had Chandra not vanished, she would have most likely gone on to lead an intelligent, productive life - a top 5% child of top 5% parents. When she disappeared, had her parents not mounted a brilliant, david-and-goliath guerrilla media campaign to raise awareness and goad the authorities into an all-out search, she would have silently faded out. Instead she has been catapulted into our collective memory, intensely present in her absence, the icon of the moment for the lost and missing.
She was last seen in public on April 30th, 2001. On May 1st, she engaged in a burst of activity on the Internet, sending out emails to friends and family, surfing various websites, including the homepage of central California Representive Gary A. Condit. Friends of Levy's let themselves into her Dupont Circle apartment, they found her luggage packed for her planned trip home to Modesto, cellphone and wallet on top. Levy's mother contacted DC Metropolitan police a few days later, and a Missing Persons investigation was opened. As the case progressed, police have stated repeatedly that the investigation is not a criminal one, as there is no overt evidence of foul play. However, the FBI "cold case" unit has been attached to the investigation, an elite unit only assigned to "unsolvable" kidnapping and abduction cases.
Her background has become public record. Chandra was a smart, middle-class girl with loving parents and a completely ordinary childhood. Her past opened by the glaring lights of the media, as a nation we heard from her high school friends and teachers. We learned about her hobbies, and were confronted daily with the very public anguish and anger of her parents. As the situation evolved, we began to learn other things about Chandra, about how this seemingly ordinary girl had a taste for the affections of older men, powerful and worldly, policemen and congressmen. All those facts seemed to give us insight into Chandra, but seemed to do nothing to solve her disappearance.
A minor perturbation in the news cycle exploded into the main story when a link was alleged between Levy and United States Congressman Gary A. Condit, the congressional representative from Chandra's hometown in California. According to Levy's aunt, with whom she was close, Chandra had a long-term sexual affair with Condit, hoping that he would eventually abandon his wife and marry her. With Chandra's disappearance, the aunt shared this information with the police. Condit called Levy a "good friend" but repeatedly denied any sexual affair. He refused to speak with police. Eventually, retaining the services of a lawyer and a seasoned DC public relations firm, Condit admitted to an affair with Levy, and allowed police to search his apartment and take a DNA sample. The story became the dark sequel to the Monica Lewinsky story, a jewish California girl loose in DC, entangled with a powerful politician. It was the reverse of the old adage, this time history repeated itself as a tragedy, following the farce. Of particular irony was Condit's outspoken condemnation of Clinton, playing up his role as a moralizing "blue dog democrat" with gusto. It throws the entire impeachment into even sharper relief as a kind of comic operetta staged onto of the tattered remnants of the US constitution.
What do we know about Chandra? By all accounts, she was vivacious, bright, outspoken, a joyous person with an appetite for life.She was never the beautiful one - she wasn't the prom queen, or the drama queen. She wasn't the overachiever - her grades were A's and B's. Over and over, her teachers have made comments along the lines of "she wasn't concerned with grades, it was the learning she was interested in."
She was the child of a doctor, a scientist. From seeing the microscopes in her father's lab, she became fascinated with observing microscopic life. Her father cultivated this interest, and bought Chandra her own microscope, and a telescope as well. They would drive up to Yosemite together, into the clear mountain air, stargazing. This was who she was, the clever girl, looking in on things from one remove, through a microscope, through a telescope, wanting to know and see things that her peers couldn't be bothered with. Wanting a privileged access to the universe.
She became interested in criminology, and journalism. She joined Law Enforcement Explorers, helping the local police track down the owners of unlicensed dogs. Hebrew classes, microbiology, astronomy, style guides, this was a girl that wanted to understand the underlying order of things, and wanted things to conform to that order. She wanted to become an FBI agent, and it was no idle dream - she was working towards it, minoring in Criminology at San Francisco State University, and then pursuing a Masters in Public Administration at USC. The internship at the Bureau of Prisons was another step towards the FBI Academy at Quantico. Condit's influence would be an asset in gaining entrance to the Academy.
Her secret life, the quietly guarded privacy so many of her friends noted, is no surprise. She supposedly dated several policemen, whom she met during her time working as a police clerk in the summer in Modesto. Condit, the police, they are all an extension of her desire for special access, the feeling that she should be granted this fast-track access because she's capable of appreciating it.
There has been some speculation, particularly inside the beltway, that she was the victim of a serial killer operating in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, D.C.. While this is outré enough to make good cocktail party conversation, and is certainly within the realm of the possible, we're talking about a special kind of girl here. Friends say she was never without her mace. This was a person grooming herself for the FBI, who had worked at police departments and the Bureau of Prisons. She was trained in self-protection. She was educated about criminal behavior and high-risk situations. At night, or in any situation that seemed "off" friends said Levy would walk Mace in hand, thumb under the safety and over the trigger, just like the manual says. If she was called to the door by a stranger and attacked, mace at the ready, wouldn't there be flourescent dye at the doorway of the apartment? Much of the evidence points to her running down to meet with someone she knew well
According to some friends of mine in Washington, other Capitol Hill interns, Condit had a quirk about wallets and ID cards. Whenever he would meet for a tryst, Condit would insist that the woman leave behind her wallet, so that if police stopped him, there would be no official record of the woman, creating plausible deniability. I don't know what to think of this. Whatever happened that day in May, she walked out of her apartment to meet someone she knew. Wherever she is now, someone she knows isn't talking.
Los Angeles Times, CNN, The Modesto Bee, The Economist, America's Most Wanted