WASHINGTON -- The man accused of killing Chandra Levy told a prison pen pal that he was responsible for a "muchacha muerta" -- a dead girl -- according to testimony Tuesday afternoon.
The would-be pen pal, Miami resident Maria Mendez, said Ingmar Guandique wrote her out of the blue in 2003. At the time, Guandique was in prison on charges unrelated to Levy's 2001 death.
Mendez said she had taken to writing letters to prisoners, on condition that they tell her all about their crimes. A fellow inmate told Guandique about her, and when he wrote, Mendez asked him for more background.
"He told me his down and outs, his life, his deeds, his predicaments, his behavior," Mendez said.
Included in Guandique's two-and-a-half page letter, Mendez said, was a listing of bad things he had done. The list included "muchacha muerta," though without any further explanation. He subsequently called Mendez collect, but he didn't explain any more detail, and she decided she wanted nothing more to do with him.
"I knew I wasn't going to correspond with him," Mendez said. "I didn't feel safe."
Prosecutors played five clips of the taped conversation between Mendez and Guandique. It was the first time Guandique's voice had been definitely heard by the jurors and other courtroom spectators.
The conversation was in Spanish, and no translation was immediately provided. At times, though, it could be understood that Mendez, now 48, was telling Guandique that she was nearly old enough to be his mother, and she asked him not to call her again.
Earlier Tuesday, an FBI scientist testified that he found no hair or fiber evidence connecting Guandique to Chandra Levy.
Though called as a prosecution witness, FBI senior scientist Cary Oien acknowledged under cross-examination that he couldn't forensically link Guandique to Levy. Oien said "there were no fibers" tying the two together.
Defense attorneys seized on this to challenge prosecutors' claims that Guandique grappled with Levy on the day of her 2001 murder.
"When there is no transfer of material, one possibility is that the two individuals never came into contact," defense attorney Maria Hawilo noted.
Prosecutors, though, insisted that the absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of innocence.
"If somebody comes up to you and grabs you by the neck, it's possible no fibers will be left," Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines said.
Oien agreed that was possible.
Haines further noted that the blue baseball cap, shorts and "El Salvador" T-shirt that police seized from Guandique for testing were taken on July 1, and were not necessarily what Guandique was wearing on the day Levy died.
Prosecutors say that Guandique killed Levy during an attempted sexual assault in Washington's Rock Creek Park on May 1, 2001. They already have acknowledged that neither DNA nor other physical evidence connects the Salvadoran immigrant to the crime.
The scientific testimony by Oien and Smithsonian Institution forensic anthropologist David Hunt on Tuesday morning lacked the explicit drama of Monday's testimony by former California congressman Gary Condit. Still, it carried a certain emotional wallop.
During two hours on the stand Monday, Condit denied having anything to do with Levy's murder but repeatedly refused to answer questions about the exact nature of his relationship with the much younger former intern. Haines has already told jurors that Condit "had an affair" with Levy, which is something the 62-year-old Condit was unwilling to acknowledge in court.
Chandra's mother, Susan Levy, sat in the courtroom Monday throughout Condit's testimony. On Tuesday, though, she largely stayed out of the courtroom while Oien and Hunt described their analysis of her daughter's skeletal remains.
"Animals had been feeding and chewing on some of the bones," Hunt said at one point.
At other times, Hunt used a laser pointer to identify specific parts of Chandra Levy's skull, pelvis and other bones. He said he was able to determine that Levy had apparently undergone a rhinoplasty procedure to correct a deviated septum, and her bones showed evidence of exercise.
Police recovered Levy's black panties, tights, red sports bra and gray T-shirt, among other items, in Rock Creek Park. Oien testified he was able to match some of the hair found on the clothes to hair, some of it artificially treated, taken from one of Levy's combs.
Lab technicians identified about a dozen human cells on the tights, but they have not been able to identify their source. Prosecutors suggest the cells represent contamination after the tights were collected for evidence, while defense attorneys want to suggest the cells are evidence of the real killer.
Prosecutors have stated previously that DNA found on Levy's bra actually came from a private lab technician who allowed the evidence to become contaminated.
Levy's tights, like her underwear, were found inside out. The legs were tied in two overhand knots, which Oien demonstrated using a spare pair of tights and Haines' right arm.
"I am not a knot expert," Oien cautioned.
Prosecutors have not yet specifically described how they believe the knots were using during the alleged assault on the 24-year-old Levy. One of their later witnesses, though, is scheduled to be a prison inmate who says Guandique raped him after first tying up his legs.
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