MODESTO, Calif. – After months of hope that their daughter still might be alive, Chandra Levy's parents were left to cope with the tragic news: The long search for the intern had ended with her skull and bones found strewn in a park in the nation's capital.
Levy's skeletal remains were discovered Wednesday, nearly 13 months after the disappearance that riveted a nation and helped end the career of her hometown congressman, Rep. Gary Condit.
"Two parents have just received the most horrifying news that any parent could ever get," family spokeswoman Judy Smith said outside Robert and Susan Levy's home. "Certainly no parent ever thinks that they would bury their child."
Police said they had no idea how the 24-year-old Levy died. That will be among the first questions they ask now that the case has been transformed from a missing person to a death investigation.
The Levys grieved in private with their son, Adam, and a few friends who arrived to console them in their one-story brick ranch house. Sheriff's deputies provided security.
Only a short distance from the front door, scores of reporters lined the sidewalk of the shady cul-de-sac. Ribbons that lined neighborhood trees and lamp posts a year ago were tattered and faded.
Neighbor Joanne Tittle's eyes were red and puffy from crying.
"My gut instinct was hopeful," she said. "I hoped she was in a foreign country or something."
Meanwhile, the man whose political career was ruined by his connection to Levy issued a statement through 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."
Condit has denied having anything to do with the disappearance, but he acknowledged to investigators that he had an affair with Levy, a police source said. He lost the Democratic primary in his district and is in his final months as a congressman.
Levy disappeared sometime after logging off her computer on May 1, 2001. When police searched her apartment they found her wallet, credit card, computer and cell phone. Only her keys were missing.
As national interest increased, police searched intensively. They considered a variety of theories -- murder, suicide, even the possibility that Levy had gone into hiding or lost her memory.
Then, on Wednesday, a man walking his dog found bones, a jogging bra, tennis shoes and other items 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 not far from her apartment.
Washington Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said he told a family lawyer that dental records confirmed the identity of the skeletal remains.
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's laptop computer showed evidence that she had searched a Web site for a mansion in Rock Creek Park on the day she vanished. Scores of police cadets had searched the 1,754-acre park last summer.
Mark Geragos, Condit's lawyer, said Levy's death seems to parallel the cases of two other missing girls in Washington and supports Condit's belief that a serial killer may be responsible.
"It's certainly not a red-letter day for the D.C police," the lawyer said. "If, as reported, she left with only her tennis shoes and her keys, and was going jogging, wouldn't you look on the jogging trails? How do you miss somebody? It's mind-boggling."
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.
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.
But the publicity cost him dearly. Abandoned by all but a few Democratic allies and running in a redrawn district, Condit lost the Democratic primary in March to former protege Dennis Cardoza, a state assemblyman.
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.