The Washington Post leads today with the first of a 12-part-plus-epilogue series about the district’s most explosive pre-9/11 media sensation: the unsolved murder of 24-year-old intern Chandra Levy. The series is the culmination of a year-long investigation by the staff that promises ground-breaking work on the case—with the revelation of undisclosed details, conversations, and events, including, “a DNA swab in a dark parking lot, Chandra's last computer search, [and] a conversation with a jailhouse informant who said he had the key to the case.” The series will also include the paper’s first interview with former Representative Gary Condit in the seven years since Chandra’s murder. The first installment is meticulous, if brief. This detail, recounted after the police searched Chandra’s apartment, struck me as important:
Her telephone answering machine was full, with 25 messages. Several were from her mother and godparents. Two were from Condit; they were left on May 3, two days after Chandra disappeared. The congressman seemed concerned that he hadn't heard from her.
This seems like exculpatory evidence for Condit, who was never officially a suspect but was condemned in the court of popular opinion for his evasive behavior as the investigation unfolded. Speaking hypothetically, for a moment: if the reason for killing your paramour is to keep the affair quiet, then leaving messages on her answering machine that investigators will inevitably hear later seems like an incredibly bad idea. Then again, this would presume both that the killer’s motive was to keep an affair from becoming public, and that he would have considered the act rationally, which is probably pretty unlikely. Killing your illicit lover is a surefire way to expose an affair in the most public way possible, and killing your lover in any circumstance is a crime for which you’re very likely to be caught. Of course, that doesn’t stop men from murdering their partners with such alarming frequency that homicide is a leading cause of death for young women. But it’s one of the many sides of this story to consider. I’ll be curious to see whether any mention is made of Joyce Chiang.