WASHINGTON — Ingmar A. Guandique snuck into the United States and landed in federal prison, having pleaded guilty to attacking two women in Washington's Rock Creek Park.
Now, the 27-year-old illegal immigrant from El Salvador appears to stand on the edge of one of the capital's most enduring murder mysteries. Washington police have indicated they are about to arrest a suspect in the 2001 murder of former intern Chandra Levy, and Guandique is reportedly their target.
"I hope this is really the man," Levy's mother, Susan, said in an interview Saturday.
Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier called Susan and her husband, Bob Levy, in Modesto on Friday to tell them that an arrest was imminent. Neither Lanier nor Lt. Michael Farish, who placed a separate call to the Levys, identified a suspect by name.
Police officials would not confirm the suspect's identity on Saturday, and Lanier said in a statement only that "this case generated numerous bits of information, which we continue to follow up on."
Guandique apparently came to investigators' attention in 2002, about the time he was facing charges of assaulting the two women in the same park where Levy's remains were found.
Guandique is currently serving a 10-year sentence in California, having ended up at the high-security U.S. Penitentiary in Victorville after passing through lower-security federal prisons. He's currently scheduled for release on Oct. 5, 2011, although he would then face deportation to his native country as a criminal alien.
"(Guandique) may act out impulsively, and may have trouble controlling his anger," a 2002 sentencing memo filed with D.C. Superior Court stated, adding that Guandique "has significant drug issues."
One of Guandique's known victims was Halle R. Shilling, a writer who was jogging in Rock Creek Park on May 15, 2001. Shilling reported that Guandique brandished a knife, grabbed her around the neck and pulled her to the ground. He bit her when she pushed at his face, but she was able to pull away and flee.
"I know in my gut that, given the chance, he would not hesitate to repeat his crime on some other woman," Shilling stated in the sentencing memo.
Six weeks later, on July1, 2001, attorney Christie Wiegand was likewise jogging in the rugged D.C. park when Guandique grabbed her from behind. She reported that he held a knife to her chin, covered her mouth and told her to be quiet.
"My attacker was extremely strong, and (with) his hand cutting off my air and the knife at my throat I didn't feel I could struggle for very long," Wiegand declared in the sentencing memo.
One of the earlier attacks occurred one-half mile from the location where Levy's remains were found in May 2002, and the other occurred about two miles away.
Guandique, whose name is also spelled Guandigue in federal Bureau of Prisons records, pleaded guilty in a plea bargain to assault and attempted robbery in the two attacks.
Guandique's attorneys have previously denied that he had any involvement with Levy's murder, declaring in 2002 that he "passed a lie detector test, both requested by and administered" by federal prosecutors.
"Mr. Ingmar Guandique is not linked to the Chandra Levy case by a single shred of evidence," public defender Ronald Sullivan Jr. declared in an Oct. 1, 2002 statement.
Guandique told prosecutors at the time that his attacks on Wiegand and Shilling were motivated by his interest in stealing their Walkman radios. He later modified that claim, to say he needed money to pay his rent. Prosecutors doubted his tale even at the time.
"(He) appears to have used Rock Creek Park as a hunting ground, waiting beside popular running trails, selecting victims and stalking them," the 2002 sentencing memo states.
Previous Washington Post reports have indicated that at least one fellow inmate who served time with Guandique told authorities he had confided that he killed Levy. This inmate failed a polygraph exam, earlier news reports indicated.
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