WASHINGTON — A jury on Monday convicted Salvadoran immigrant Ingmar Guandique of killing Chandra Levy in 2001.
The jury of three men and nine women deliberated for a little more than three days before announcing its verdict, which caps one of the nation's longest-running and most relentlessly chronicled murder mysteries.
Levy's disappearance made headlines when she was romantically linked to then-Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif. Condit was once a suspect, but police no longer think he was involved in her disappearance.
The two first-degree felony murder convictions subject Guandique to a potential sentence of 30 years to life in prison, as the District of Columbia does not have the death penalty.
Guandique's sentencing will come later, following additional court proceedings. The fearsomely tattooed 29-year-old is already serving a prison sentence for attacking two other women in Washington's Rock Creek Park.
Rock Creek Park is where, jurors agreed, Guandique killed Levy on May 1, 2001, during an attempted robbery and kidnapping. Two women who survived their own 2001 attacks by Guandique helped convict him, with their compelling testimony during the trial that began Oct. 25.
"He grabbed me from behind and held a knife to my face," recounted Christy Wiegand, now a 35-year-old attorney with two children. "He brutally attacked me, and dragged me to an isolated area."
Guandique's other known surviving victim, Halle Shilling, likewise recounted how she "felt an incredible thud" when Guandique jumped her from behind while she was jogging. Shilling, now a mother of three living in Southern California, and Wiegand were both able to fight Guandique off.
Wiegand and Shilling were both also considerably bigger than the 24-year-old Levy.
In addition to the testimony by Wiegand and Shilling, prosecutors benefited from the firmly spoken recollections of prison inmate Armando Morales. A former gang member, who is still serving time on drug charges, Morales testified that Guandique confessed to him in 2006 that he had killed Levy.
"He told me he spotted her over there at the park," recounted Morales, who shared a prison cell with Guandique for six weeks. "She was alone, and she had on one of those waist pouches. He decided to rob her. He said he hid in the bushes... he ran up behind her and grabbed her from behind. He said he dragged her into the bushes.
"He said by the time he had dragged her into the bushes, she had stopped struggling," Morales added. "He said he never meant to kill her."
Of the 40 prosecution witnesses, only Morales directly connected Guandique to Levy. Prosecutors did not call other prison snitches previously cited by investigators as having heard Guandique confess.
Prosecutors lacked any DNA, fingerprint, fiber or other physical evidence connecting Guandique to Levy or the wooded Rock Creek Park hillside where her skeletal remains were found in May 2002. There were no eyewitnesses.
Prosecutors also didn't get a chance to cross-examine Guandique, who listened to the translated trial proceedings through a headset. His attorneys from the D.C. Public Defenders Service, Santha Sonenberg and Maria Hawilo, did not put him on the stand.