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Jury shown forensic evidence in Chandra Levy trial

By Paul Courson, CNN
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Testimony begins in Chandra Levy trial
  • NEW: The suspect's landlord describes a history of domestic violence
  • Police show photograph of crime scene; audio played of 911 call
  • Levy's mother avoids looking at images of the young woman's remains
  • Defendant Ingmar Guandique is fighting charges of murder for the intern's death

Washington (CNN) -- Chandra Levy's mother averted her eyes Wednesday as prosecutors showed the jury a photograph of her daughter's skull discovered in woods by a man and his dog, a year after the Washington intern vanished in 2001.

Philip Palmer testified he found the skull while walking his puppy "Paco" in an area away from established paths in Washington's Rock Creek Park. Authorities believe the young woman was attacked while jogging and dragged away from a trail by suspect Ingmar Guandique, who allegedly killed her when she resisted.

Guandique denies killing the woman, who had just turned 24 and was preparing to return to her parents' home in California after a federal internship.

Her mother, Susan Levy, who also is on the government's witness list, has been in the spectator gallery throughout the trial. When prosecutors brought out the 8-by-10 glossy police photograph, she turned her head aside and avoided watching as the picture was placed on an overhead projector for the jury to see on a large screen in the courtroom.

Prosecutors then played an audio recording of a call to 911 Palmer made from a borrowed telephone at a construction site some distance away.

Video: Retracing Chandra Levy's steps
Video: The mystery of Chandra Levy
Video: Chandra Levy trial begins

After explaining he had been walking with his dog in the woods, Palmer was heard telling police, "I came across a human skull." The emergency worker answering the phone asked him if he was sure, and Palmer replied that he was "not sure anything else looks like that, that has (dental) fillings."

The emergency worker seemed to chuckle at the description and said "guess not," as he took down a location. "I've got a dog leash marking the spot," Palmer added.

The jury Wednesday also heard from Guandique's former landlord, who said she twice allowed Guandique to stay at her own apartment after what were said to be fights with his girlfriend.

"She had attacked him," property manager Sheila Phillips quoted Guandique as saying.

Phillips said there were family ties with the suspect that began while "Ingmar was living with my husband's uncle." Eventually he moved in with a woman in the same apartment complex, but the two didn't get along, Phillips testified.

Guandique showed up at her place with cuts and a swollen lip around May 1, 2001, saying he'd had another fight with the girlfriend, Phillips told prosecutor Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez.

The date was at about the same time Chandra Levy is thought to have been attacked and killed.

Prosecutors hope to prove Guandique's injuries are from Levy fighting for her life. "He told people his girlfriend did it," said prosecutor Amanda Haines during opening statements Monday.

"But the girlfriend at four-foot something and 90 pounds, will say no," Haines told the jury.

Defense attorney Santha Sonenberg, during cross-examination of the landlord, challenged the time frame of Guandique's purported May 1 fight, saying Phillips later said she was not sure of the exact date.

Prosecutors prepared to call the former girlfriend to the witness stand later Wednesday. The woman was expected to tell the jury Guandique physically attacked her during the arguments.

On Tuesday the jury heard from Robert Levy, the dead woman's father, who described the family's frantic search for Chandra, who by the first week of May was overdue for a flight home, and missing her graduation ceremony in southern California.

Looking through her cellphone records, Levy testified he called one that rang at the office of then-California Rep. Gary Condit.

The family immediately thought he was linked to her disappearance.

"We were mad at Condit, trying to point him as the villain," Robert Levy testified on cross-examination Tuesday.

"I was suspicious of him. He was the primary suspect," Levy said, reflecting on a transcript of what he earlier had told a grand jury investigating the case.

"We were thinking Condit was the guilty one before we knew about this character here," Levy testified, looking toward the defendant.

Levy's disappearance nine years ago received widespread publicity because of her alleged relationship with the sitting California Democrat.

The revelation contributed to the political downfall of Condit, who will be called to testify during the trial.

Police said Condit was never a suspect in the case, although he was questioned intensively as investigators tried to find Levy.

A police supervisor testified Tuesday he was taken off the case when he told his superiors their pressure to pursue Condit was interfering with the investigation.

Still, when authorities questioned Condit in the weeks after Levy's disappearance, he seemed evasive, according to detective Sgt. Ronald Wyatt of the Metropolitan Police Department.

He testified Condit "was a bit arrogant and not forthright" in a 2001 meeting at the congressman's condominium in Washington. Wyatt said Condit denied having an intimate affair with Levy.

Guandique's public defenders say DNA evidence exonerates him since it does not match the suspect, Levy, or Condit.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines told the jury in opening statements Monday that the "dozen or so skin cells" found on Levy's jogging tights are the result of contamination by poorly-handled evidence.

Prosecutors admit their case is circumstantial, but have presented testimony from two women Guandique has admitted attacking along the same wooded trails of Rock Creek Park where Levy's remains were found.

Both women survived and positively identified the man on trial.

The government plans to call jailhouse associates who claim Guandique described killing Levy, and hope the judge will see the other attacks as something the jury should consider when it deliberates the murder charges.