WASHINGTON – Police and forensic experts began to seek a cause of death Thursday after a human skull and other bones found near the Klingle Mansion in Rock Creek Park were identified as the remains of Chandra Levy.
Police said they still had no idea how Levy died.
A man walking his dog and looking for turtles in Rock Creek Park found a skull and other bones, Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said. The medical examiner used dental records to confirm the remains were Levy's.
The 1,754-acre park had been scoured by police before, to no avail.
Levy's parents, Dr. Robert and Susan Levy, had expressed hope throughout the ordeal that their daughter was still alive. "Although the discovery of Chandra's body closes one chapter and brings some resolution to this ordeal, it does not ... solve the mystery of what happened to Chandra," Billy Martin, the family's lawyer said. "This is the worst nightmare that a parent can endure."
Levy's baffling disappearance had gripped the nation for months — until last Sept. 11 — and led to the political demise of her hometown congressman, Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif.
Condit denied having anything to do with the disappearance but he acknowledged to investigators that he had an affair with her, a police source said. Condit lost the Democratic primary in his district and is in his final months as a congressman.
He said Wednesday in a statement issued by his attorney: "Congressman Gary Condit and his family want to express their heartfelt sorrow and condolences to the Levy family. The Levy family will remain in our prayers."
Mark Geragos, Condit's lawyer, also criticized Washington police. "This is not a red-letter day for the D.C. police," Geragos said. "Gary had nothing to do with Chandra's disappearance."
In a late-afternoon news conference, Police Chief Ramsey said simply, "The remains found earlier today are in fact Chandra Levy."
The identification did not end the mystery. Ramsey said the medical examiner was working to determine the manner and cause of Levy's death.
He said the case was now a death investigation but stopped short of calling it a criminal case, pending word about how she died.
Dr. Jonathan Arden, the medical examiner, said he had received all the bones discovered in the park, but declined to describe their condition or say how long it might take to determine when and how Levy died. Arden said a Smithsonian anthropologist would help analyze the bones.
Levy, 24, of Modesto, Calif., disappeared sometime after logging off her computer about 1 p.m. on May 1, 2001. When police searched her apartment they found her wallet, credit card, computer and cell phone. Only her keys were missing.
Police searched intensively as national interest increased but turned up no solid clues. They looked at a variety of theories — murder, suicide or that Levy had gone into hiding or lost her memory.
They questioned Condit several times but repeatedly said the 54-year-old, married lawmaker was not a suspect.
Police had found evidence last year on Levy's laptop computer that she had searched a Web site for the park's Klingle Mansion on the day she vanished.
On Wednesday, bones, a jogging bra, tennis shoes and other items were found about a mile north of the mansion and about four miles away from Levy's apartment. Friends had said she frequented the park, located in northwest Washington.
Levy came to Washington for an internship with the Bureau of Prisons. In late April 2001, her internship was abruptly cut short when supervisors learned she was ineligible to continue because she had finished her college coursework the previous December.
A sociable, earnest student who enjoyed travel abroad with her family and staying fit, Levy was last seen April 30 when she canceled her membership at a health club near her apartment.
She had been preparing to return to California for graduation from the University of Southern California and sent her parents an e-mail on May 1 noting airfares for the trip home.
The Levys called police five days later when they could not reach her, and her father also telephoned Condit asking for his help.
Condit called Levy a good friend and established a reward fund to help find her. In July, he reportedly told police he was having an affair, though publicly he never made such a disclosure, saying only they shared a close relationship.
Condit, abandoned by all but a few Democratic allies, lost the Democratic primary in March to former protege Dennis Cardoza, a state assemblyman.
Within weeks of her arrival in Washington, Levy and a friend visited Condit's office, where they had their photo snapped with the congressman. He also took them to the House gallery to watch him vote. Within months Levy told family members she was having an affair with Condit.
After her disappearance, police searched Condit's apartment with his consent and obtained a DNA sample from him. Condit submitted to a lie detector test arranged by his lawyer, who said the congressman was found to be truthful when denying any knowledge about what happened to Levy.
A grand jury has been reviewing Levy's disappearance and whether Condit or his aides obstructed the investigation. The grand jury subpoenaed documents from Condit last year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.