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Bob Franken: Missing intern's parents search for answers

Bob Franken
Bob Franken  

The disappearance of a Washington intern has put one Congressman under pressure. A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Gary Condit, D-California, says he tried to call the parents of 24- year-old Chandra Levy, but the family refused to talk to him. His call was prompted by pleas from the parents urging him to speak out about the case. CNN anchor Donna Kelley spoke to CNN correspondent Bob Franken about the family's search for answers.

FRANKEN: Well, Donna, it's been seven weeks since Chandra Levy was last seen, and of course, as we know, Congressman Condit has been brought into this because of repeated questions about the relationship that he had with Chandra Levy. His office has repeatedly denied that there was a romantic relationship, although the parents last week in that same interview said that they had been told by a relative that Chandra, the missing former intern, had told that relative that there was something romantic between the two. Again, denied by Congressman Condit.

This story has been going on for seven weeks right now. We are also told by family that when they perused Chandra Levy's telephone records, they saw a number that she called repeatedly, so they tried to call the number and it was a pager. When they punched in their number, the person who called back was Congressman Condit. They had a brief conversation.

Now, when Congressman Condit called them over the weekend on Saturday, they told him that they didn't want to talk to him without the presence of attorney. They told CNN, the Levys did, that in fact they had hired a Washington, D.C. attorney, although they would not identify that attorney. Apparently, they've not identified it to just about anybody who's involved in this case, certainly not Congressman Condit, nor his lawyer.

We are being told that they plan to come to Washington tomorrow, perhaps to meet with police and also to meet with the attorney. Presumably, at that time we'll find out who that lawyer is.

KELLEY: Bob, bring us up to speed, too. Condit's attorney had talked and said that he hasn't spoken out yet -- why?

FRANKEN: He has not spoken out because he does not want to, according to a variety of spokespeople connected with Congressman Condit, do not want to contribute to this media circus, as the way that they describe it. They feel that they have said what they need to say. They continuously say that it is important to them that Chandra Levy is found, hopefully alive, and that making public comment would be counterproductive.

KELLEY: Right, and they say through his office continues to deny any romantic relationship with her. Any other leads at all?

FRANKEN: Well, of course we don't know everything that the police have. I will tell you that the police continue to say this is not a criminal matter, that they're treating this as a missing intern report. Of course, they have the initial inspections of her apartment, where her packed bags were found; where in fact her keys were left, that type of things. There have been the various discussions about the relationship with Congressman Condit. There have been conversations with a large number of people throughout all the various points on this investigation. But thus far, nothing which has served to identify where Chandra Levy may be.

KELLEY: Have police given any other hints about whether or not there was a struggle, if they found any of her other personal belongings outside of her apartment, or any hints at all?

FRANKEN: Police have said nothing to that effect. As a matter of fact, we have been told by sources that there was no sign of a forced entry into her apartment. The way that this is being reconstructed, the last time she was seen was on April 30, when she went to the athletic club where Chandra Levy worked out, and she gave back her membership. She had contacted her parents and said she would soon be heading home to graduate. That was the last time anybody heard of her. She has disappeared, has not been heard from since.

KELLEY: Bob, I don't expect you to have the numbers right off the top of your head, but I've heard some reports say that there are a number of people missing from the D.C. area, and that's been a point taken.

FRANKEN: Well, as a matter of fact, the D.C. police admit themselves that they do not have the most coordinated missing persons investigation set up. It's one of the criticisms of the D.C. police department, that they do not keep particularly great records, that in fact, there are fact 538 people from the last year about whom they've had no accountability and they don't really have a coordinated record- keeping system.

Nationwide, it's interesting. There are a variety of statistics out there. About 100,000 in 1999 were officially listed as missing persons, hundreds of thousands more were reported as missing before they actually went through the missing person process. Eight-thousand of those were 20-somethings. Of course, this one has been set aside by the fact that there's been an intense publicity campaign by organizations supporting Chandra Levy's parents, and of course, quite frankly it's been fueled by all the discussion about the relationship between this missing intern and Congressman Condit.

KELLEY: Bob Franken, thanks very much, and you did have those numbers. Thanks very much.

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