Chandra Levy: New Audio Recordings Tell Why Murder Charges Were Dropped Against Ingmar Guandique

New audio recordings reveal why Chandra Levy murder suspect, Ingmar Guandique, will be released from prison with all charges dropped. News circulated on Thursday that prosecutors decided not to proceed with the murder case against Guandique, and instead deport the illegal immigrant back to El Salvador. Guandique has been in police custody for over seven years, and was even convicted in 2010 for murdering Washington intern Chandra Levy back in 2001. Levy’s still-grieving family and friends, as well as the curious public, are all wondering why Guandique will now go free after so long, and with no other murder suspect in mind. According to Washington, D.C., district prosecutors, newly recovered audio recordings tell why Ingmar Guandique is no longer the prime suspect in the murder of Chandra Levy.

As a paid intern for the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the bureau headquarters in Washington, D.C., Chandra Levy began having an affair with Democratic Congressman Gary Condit out of California’s 18th congressional district. Levy, also a California native, moved to Washington, D.C., in October 2000 to begin her federal law enforcement internship and was only 23-years-old at the time, with a nearly 30-year age difference between herself and the married congressman. The extramarital affair between Chandra Levy and Gary Condit was exposed shortly after Levy disappeared in May 2001, but Condit was never considered a suspect in Levy’s disappearance or murder after her remains were found in the large urban Rock Creek Park, located in the northwestern quadrant of Washington, D.C.

After two unsuccessful searches for Chandra Levy at Rock Creek Park, a third search in May 2002 finally turned up all of Levy’s skeletal remains. Police only originally thought to search the 2,000-acre wooded park because Levy had reportedly searched for the Pierce-Klingle Mansion, located in the park, before she disappeared. That was apparently the last search Levy made on her laptop the morning of May 1, 2001. Chandra Levy’s parents, who still lived in Modesto, California, in the same congressional district that Gary Condit represented, called police in Washington, D.C., on May 6 to report that they hadn’t heard from their daughter in five days. One day later, Chandra Levy’s father told police that she had been having an affair with Condit.

According to reports, Chandra Levy had first confided in an aunt that she had been seeing Condit, and even though Condit confessed to the affair during a police interview, he was never considered a suspect in Levy’s disappearance. Levy’s family even thought that Condit was being evasive and possibly hiding information about the case. Condit didn’t help his case much when he refused to take a polygraph test and stopped answering questions about Levy. Condit even told Anne Marie Smith — a flight attendant he was also having an affair with — not to speak to the FBI about his personal life. When Ingmar Guandique was arrested in 2009 for Chandra Levy’s murder, an informant even told police that Condit had paid Guandique thousands of dollars to kill Levy.

District of Columbia police found Chandra Levy’s remains scattered in a remote area of Rock Creek Park after a man walking his dog stumbled across them in May 2002. A homicide investigation was announced on May 22, after autopsy results suggested possible strangulation. Levy’s shin bone had also been found wrapped in wire, suggesting that she may have also been tied up. Ingmar Guandique, a 20-year-old illegal immigrant, was already in jail for assaulting two other women at Rock Creek Park. Guandique also allegedly missed work on the day Chandra Levy disappeared, and his landlady told police that his face was scratched and bruised around that same time, but Guandique wasn’t actually arrested for Levy’s murder until March 2009.

Ingmar Guandique had reportedly saved a magazine photo of Chandra Levy that police found in his federal prison jail cell in 2008, which prompted police to make the arrest, even though a polygraph test taken by Guandique in 2002 showed no deception. The informant, Armando Morales, also tied Condit to Levy’s murder, but police never pursued charges against him because Guandique already had a history of assaulting women at Rock Creek Park. According to Morales, Guandique “had killed Levy while trying to rob her.” DNA evidence never connected Guandique to Chandra Levy’s murder, and he was never called to the stand during his trial in 2010, but was found guilty of two counts of first degree murder and sentenced to 60 years in prison, according to Radar Online.

“After the trial, a juror said the testimony of Morales was decisive in reaching the verdict. The conviction was called a ‘miracle’ for having been reached with only circumstantial evidence.”

But now, thanks to newly released audio recordings between Armando Morales and an acquaintance of his, Babs Proller, Ingmar Guandique will be released from prison and all murder charges will be dropped. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the recordings revealed that Morales had lied about Guandique confessing to killing Levy. Proller and Morales were friendly neighbors in a Maryland hotel, and Proller reportedly became suspicious of Morales after learning he was a convicted felon, former gang member, and key witness in Chandra Levy’s murder trial. Proller’s suspicions prompted her to record conversations with Morales over the course of several days.

Content of the recordings have not been verified and details have not been discussed, but prosecutors said that new information from the audio recordings make Morales a questionable witness. Attorneys for Ingmar Guandique have said all along that Morales had been making up his testimony.

“It is now clear that the jailhouse informant, who was central to the government’s case, was a perjurer who too easily manipulated the prosecutors.”

Guandique’s release comes only three months before he was set to begin a retrial, and now leaves the Chandra Levy murder case unsolved. Levy’s mother, Susan Levy, said in a new interview with CBS News that she’s not doing very well physically and emotionally.

“I have to say, I’m in a state of shock, totally in a state of shock. It kind of like puts you back to the level of grief that you originally had.”

Gary Condit’s lawyer also released a statement on Thursday, saying that “this in no way alters the fact that Mr. Condit was long ago completely exonerated by authorities in connection with Ms. Levy’s death.”

[Photo by Jason Kirk/Getty Images]