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Trial begins for suspect in Washington intern Chandra Levy's death

From Paul Courson, CNN
  • Jury selection under way in trial of Ingmar Guandique
  • Guandique is accused of killing Bureau of Prisons intern Chandra Levy
  • The skull of Levy, 24, was found in 2002, more than a year after she disappeared
  • Affidavit: Guandique told two people that he killed a woman in a park

Washington (CNN) -- The suspect in the 2001 killing of Washington intern Chandra Levy introduced himself to a pool of prospective jurors Monday, saying "buenos dias," before giving his name.

Ingmar Guandique wore a sport coat over a turtleneck shirt, potentially hiding any tattoos -- despite the fact the potential jurors' questionnaire asks citizens for their beliefs regarding tattoos.

Attorneys Monday were in the process of narrowing a pool of 56 potential jurors down to 16, including alternates. Members of the jury pool were introduced to the case of "Chandra Levy, a government intern" when they appeared in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher.

Authorities believe Ingmar Guandique attacked Levy, 24, as she jogged in a park and then killed her. Guandique's public defenders, however, have called the police investigation flawed and cautioned against a rush to judgment.

Potential jurors filled out questionnaires and then were to undergo questioning about their responses, as well as being asked if they know anyone on the prosecution or defense witness lists, which include detectives from Washington's Metropolitan Police Department and others from the U.S. Park Police.

Recognizable names on the witness lists include the dead woman's parents, Robert and Susan Levy, as well as former U.S. Rep. Gary Condit.

The massive publicity surrounding the Levy case was largely a result of her alleged romantic affair with Condit, a California Democrat. Police questioned Condit many times in connection with the slaying, but the congressman was never considered a suspect.

Levy, a California native, was in Washington working as an intern for the Bureau of Prisons. Her skull was found in the park on May 22, 2002, more than a year after she disappeared. A search turned up other remains, as well as clothing later identified as hers strewn down the side of a ravine.

Levy's running shoes were unlaced, and her clothes were turned inside out. Her pants were knotted in tight restraints around her legs.

According to an affidavit filed in the case, Guandique told at least two people that he killed a woman in the park.

The affidavit includes an account from a witness who said Guandique told him that he was sitting with two male teenagers on a bench in a park, smoking marijuana laced with cocaine, when a woman with dark, thick hair jogged by. The witness said Guandique thought she "looked good" and told the two teens that he was going to "get her," the affidavit said.

Guandique told the witness that the three followed the woman along a path, then grabbed her and forced her off the trail.

When she started screaming, Guandique said, he grabbed her by the neck and choked her to death so that others in the park would not hear her screaming, according to the affidavit.

It is not clear from the affidavit whether police believe the two teens who Guandique said were with him actually exist. Police have said they have no other suspects but said last year, when Guandique was arrested, that the investigation was continuing.

The affidavit also said Guandique boasted of his ties to the violent Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and told witnesses that he was known as Chucky -- the name of a demonic doll in a series of horror movies -- because he had a reputation for "killing and chopping up people." He also kept a magazine photo of Levy in his cell, the affidavit said.

Besides asking about tattoos, the questionnaire asks potential jurors about a gang "known as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13."

Presentation of the evidence is expected to take four to five weeks.

CNN's Paul Courson contributed to this report.