July 14, 2008

Who Killed Chandra Levy?

A new DNA technique has exonerated the father, but the passage of time makes the mystery of who killed JonBenet Ramsey in 1996 unlikely to be solved. Likewise for the 2001 murder of Chandra Levy, Washington's most famous unsolved crime. In both cases, premature certainty about one suspect (in the latter case a congressman) led police to ignore critical leads and commit a chain of errors that spiraled out of control.

The Levy case became overshadowed by September 11. But now, six years later, Washington Post reporters Sari Horwitz and Scott Higham have conducted an in-depth exploration of the case. The 12-part reconstruction illustrates how far off track a police investigation can go when it is overwhelmed by "white-hot media coverage," in this case fueled by the possible involvement of California congressman Gary Condit. (As part of their extensive interviews, the reporters got Condit to talk for the first time about the case.)
The Post series provides a rare look at an unsolved homicide case from the inside, following the twists and turns of an investigation that was filled with false hopes, false leads and false suspects. It would tarnish a police department and wreck a reputation. It would move with tremendous energy and purpose in one direction and end up in another. It would be marked by an enormous effort by police - and a chain of mistakes that got longer and longer.
The 12-part series starts here.

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