Friends had been telling Chandra Levy for years: Quit falling in love with older men.
But for Levy, affairs with older men in positions of authority provided security and excitement — two things friends and psychologists believe were important to the 25-year-old intern, who has been missing for 103 days.
"She certainly wasn't into college guys, that's for sure," university friend Jakub Mosur, 25, told The New York Post.
"She was very mature for her age, and didn't date college guys. She was ambitious in a quiet, but very serious, way."
Well before married California Rep. Gary Condit, 53, stole her heart, Levy had developed a taste for older men — dating a cop 10 years her senior in her hometown of Modesto, Calif., and a married doctor in Sacramento.
She also desired long-term love — despite her lovers' marital bonds.
Mosur, who was Levy's classmate in government classes at San Francisco State University in 1997, remembers then-21-year-old Levy racing back to Modesto every second weekend to hang out with her cop boyfriend, Mark Steele.
"She wouldn't say too much about it — she kept a lot of things to herself — just that he was a police officer and the relationship was important to her," said Mosur, now a free-lance photographer.
Steele, who has left the Police Department and lives outside Modesto in Salida, Calif., remembers Levy as a strong-minded, individualistic young woman who knew what she wanted.
"The Chandra I knew was street-smart as well as book-smart, and she had her feet firmly planted and was very independent," he said.
But she was crushed when he broke off their relationship in 1999, and Steele said she continued pursuing him, bombarding him with telephone calls, before moving on.
Gail Smith, a Modesto police clerk, said Steele did not talk about the relationship and married the year after the split.
A friend in Los Angeles, who requested anonymity, said Chandra was shattered by the breakup when she started studying at the University of Southern California in August 1999.
"It was like she was searching for love in all the wrong places — she was so level-headed in most ways but seemed to have a blind spot when it came to her own relationships," the friend said.
"She didn't seem to really understand, no matter what you said, that if you get involved with married men, chances are you're going to end up disappointed."
The pattern appears to have been repeated the following year, when Levy moved to Sacramento to intern on the legal staff of California Gov. Gray Davis between February and June.
Colleagues believe she was briefly involved with a married doctor.
When she landed a $27,000-a-year internship with the federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C., she was looking forward to a clean break. But she soon fell head over heels for Condit, her local congressman — a relationship Levy gradually revealed over several weeks to Sven Jones, who exercised at the same gym and also worked at the bureau.
Jones refuses to comment now about Levy's state of mind in the days before she disappeared, saying he "can't help the situation."
But he told Talk magazine that Levy confided that she was determined to bring her relationship with Condit to a head, even if it meant triggering a "confrontation."
While she initially enjoyed the cloak-and-dagger preparations Condit insisted upon for their trysts, Chandra was becoming frustrated, wanting him to leave his wife, Carolyn. She rationalized that Condit wasn't happy in his marriage; he deserved true love.
"I tried to tell her that if you push a man like that too hard, he's going to feel as if he's lost some self-control," Jones said.
While it is not clear whether the days before Levy's disappearance were marked by Condit ending the affair, Levy reportedly phoned his pager number eight or nine times in the 24 hours before she vanished.