What made Chandra Levy tick?
With little physical evidence to go on, answering that question might be the only thing that helps authorities find out what happened to the 24-year-old federal intern. And answering that question is the job of the FBI profiler who has been called into the investigation.
A profiler usually starts with a crime scene and a victim. By examining the circumstances of the death and the injuries that caused it, the investigator can begin to establish a psychological or physical sketch of the criminal.
But in Levy's case, it's not going to be easy. There is neither a crime scene to be examined nor injuries to be analyzed. There may not even have been a crime.
So to find the missing former intern, the profiler will turn to victimology, piecing together all the parts of her life to try and establish the probable cause of her disappearance.
"What a profiler would be looking to do would be to reconstruct her life from the time she got to Washington to the last time she was on the Internet on May 1," said Clint Van Zandt, who was an FBI profiler for 25 years. "Now that's a long time to reconstruct. But what you are trying to find out is who would she have had contact with that might have identified her as a victim."
The first step, according to profilers, is to evaluate whether Levy was at high risk or low risk for random violence. Someone at high risk might be a prostitute or drug dealer who regularly meets dozens of strangers. A person at low risk would be someone like a suburban middle-class housewife who lives in a safe neighborhood.
Profilers say Levy fell into the low-risk category. Even though she was a young, single woman living in a big city, an internship is considered predictable and safe. And there is no indication Levy was abusing drugs or involved in gambling.
Profilers also point out that the young woman seemed careful. She belonged to a gym because she reportedly thought it would be safer than running in the city, and carried her cell phone almost everywhere.
That’s why it’s curious that when Levy disappeared, her cell phone and wallet were left behind. And police dogs lost Levy's scent outside her building, suggesting that Levy got in a car with somebody she knew and didn't plan on being gone for long.
But it doesn’t end with learning about Levy herself. Victimology also involves nailing down the details of the missing woman's friends and acquaintances.
A profiler will try and determine if Levy was very trusting, how she handled the men who wanted to date her, whether anybody at her internship or the gym sought a relationship, who she confided in.
Of course, a big part of her life appears to be her lover, Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif.
With the congressman, profilers say they would seek to develop his knowledge of her interests and activities, what he knows about what she did just before she disappeared, what they talked about, who she’d been spending time with.
A secondary purpose of this interview, according to profilers, would be to evaluate the congressman as a possible suspect. And part of this evaluation would involve Condit's body language.
"She may have said, 'You know, I have had a series of hang-up phone calls,'" Van Zandt said. "She may have said, 'Somebody within my work place asked me out but I said no, I can't really go out with you I am dating somebody else and he was a bit miffed about it.' There is a lot of information that the congressman picked up in the course of their conversations that would be very pertinent to the FBI profiler."
But the interview could be most revealing if he were to flub one vital question, the last one investigators will ask: Is there anything else you can tell us to shed light on what happened to Chandra?
"'Anything whatsoever, please tell me now,'" Van Zandt said. "If he says 'no,' that's fine. But if he blows that question in the polygraph, then we are right back with the congressman and we have to resolve that issue."
Van Zandt is convinced Levy did not commit suicide. If she killed herself because of Condit, she would have likely wanted her body to be found as a way of punishing her lover.
Profilers also say the idea that Levy would run away and stay hidden seems implausible, given that she had a good relationship with her parents.
And since her body hasn’t been found in parks nearby, it’s not likely Levy was the victim of a random street crime.
"That type of person leaves the body very nearby," Van Zandt said. "The crime scene is usually where the attack took place."
And as far as a serial killer, Van Zandt points out there is no evidence of one in Washington. Crime statistics show that 75 percent of women are murdered by someone they know. And that leads right back to Condit.
But Van Zandt said that while Condit's actions have frustrated investigators, he’s probably not a murderer. Levy was not his first extramarital affair that could have exposed a double life, and Condit's girlfriends say he has no history of violence or intimidation.
"Right now, I don't see the behavioral indicators to suggest the congressman is any more right now than a good source of information and a suspect that has to be eliminated and he just won't let law enforcement eliminate him," Van Zandt said.
The former FBI profiler suspects that Levy was the victim of an acquaintance who wanted a relationship and didn't get one. But first, investigators will have to get beyond Gary Condit.