October 22nd, 2010
10:23 PM ET

Retracing Chandra Levy's steps

Editor's note: For more on this story, watch "Murder in the Capital: The death of Chandra Levy" Saturday at 10 p.m. ET on CNN.

It was creepy to think I was retracing what may have been the last steps taken by a beautiful, ambitious young woman, who became a murder victim on this very trail. The leaves were crunching under my feet as they hit the dirt jogging path, I tried to hold the small POV cam steady in my hand - I wanted to show viewers what Chandra Levy saw on her last day alive.

On May 1, 2001, investigators say, Chandra went for a run in this same section of the 1,700-plus-acre Rock Creek Park - it’s like the Central Park of Washington. I couldn’t help but notice, the trail is one of the most beautiful, yet most isolated, parts of Rock Creek.

As I jogged, I tried to imagine what Chandra looked like that day, her last. Confident, energetic, her unruly black hair bobbing in the wind, a Walkman strapped to her arm as she moved deeper and deeper into the woods. Chandra’s thoughts probably were absorbed in the end of her relationship with the man friends say she loved - the powerful congressman she believed would eventually leave his wife and career to be with her. She may have also been thinking about her move back to California, or maybe about that “surprise” she told her aunt she needed to tell her about in an answering machine message - a surprise that would never be revealed. I bet the last thing on Chandra’s mind was some killer hiding on the side of the trail, waiting for her.

I stopped jogging and stood still, examining the woods around me - Did the killer hide behind that tree trunk? Or that one? Ugh, I was creeping myself out! Then, I realized how quiet it was... Strangely quiet, considering how close the park is to such a major city. All I could hear was the leaves and branches rustling as they hit each other while swaying in the wind. It was so beautiful, so peaceful, so eerily quiet. That got me thinking ...

When I finished grabbing the shot I met back up with my crew to conduct an experiment to see how easy it was for Chandra to disappear on that trail. We placed a photographer near the start of the path, by the main road - the most likely place anyone would have been, had they been around the day Chandra was killed.

I followed the trail 200 yards into the woods. Then, the photographer at the entrance started rolling his camera.

From my position, I screamed "Help! Help!" at the top of my lungs several times, then jogged back to the photographer.

"Did you hear me, Did you hear me?” I asked.

He looked at me, surprised. "It didn’t sound anything like screaming. You sounded like a bird off in the distance.”

He put his headphones over my ears and replayed the tape. I heard two faint cries, my desperate screams had blended in with the sounds of nature. Immediately, I got chills on my arms. If no one could hear me, how would anyone have heard Chandra ... ?

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Filed under: Chandra Levy • Crime
soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. Jeff

    If you write an article about something that happened almost 10 years ago and there is absolutely no new information, it should offer some kind of insight or thought-provoking ideas. Usually if you do this, it is at least on the anniversary. Here we have a 9-year old "story" that sounds like a sophmore journalism exercise with no new information in a section called, of all things, "THIS JUST IN". Nice touch on all the glowing compliments of the girl immediately followed up by "she was hoping he would leave his wife and career for". I am officially through with CNN.

    October 23, 2010 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  2. Guest2391

    This "article" is terrible!

    October 23, 2010 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. David

    I hate to rain on the writers parade but this reads like a class assignment. Normally that wouldnt bug me but this is a unsolved murder.

    October 23, 2010 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  4. Criminy

    You should have used "were" in the sentence about the leaves and branches, not was. It is plural. Is this meant to be an article or a thriller short story? When you get out of junior high school, you might consider writing, but I think you would do much better at McDonalds greeting customers at the drive-thu window.

    "All I could hear was the leaves and branches rustling as they hit each other while swaying in the wind."

    October 23, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      A linking verb such as is and were agrees with its subject, not its complement. So in this case, I do not believe that "were" would be correct. The leaves and branches were not performing an action.

      October 23, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Miriam

      Eric was right and the the main subject on the sentence you've quoted from the author was "I" which is singular.

      October 23, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Criminy

      What the author was hearing was plural. Leaves and branches. "All" is the subject referring to leaves and branches. It is plural. I stand by my comment.

      October 24, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. jaymoka

    Seriously? Who wrote this article? Why is it news worthy? People are dying every day, why is Chandra Levy more newsworthy than others? I feel sorry for her, and may she rest in peace, but this is becoming ridiculous

    October 23, 2010 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  6. thekingofmontana

    I liked it.. 3 paragraphs in I was hooked. I actually clicked to something else but eventually read it through and loved it until it ended mid sentence I felt like I was right there in the woods for a second.

    October 23, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  7. Worldnews

    What's in the editor's mind? More and more pathetic articles appear on CNN, and this one is "the state-of-the-art".

    October 23, 2010 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. Sagebrush Shorty

    Slow news day?

    October 23, 2010 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  9. Durham

    Dear "article" writer: I suggest you change " Ugh, I was creeping myself out!" to " OMG, I was creeping myself out!". That way your adolescent style will be more consistent and perhaps even justifiable!

    October 23, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  10. Funny

    "Did the killer hide behind that tree trunk? Or that one? Ugh, I was creeping myself out!"

    Was this written by a 12 year old? Seriously.

    October 23, 2010 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  11. Johnson Thomas

    This is ridiculous. CNN out to be embarrassed for posting such a piece of junk on its website– let alone on the front page. Your editorial staff should be fired. This is just ridiculous.

    October 23, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  12. pdikeman

    I can't believe CNN allowed this to be posted......

    October 23, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ryan Lambert

    This story was hot and then completly dropped off the end of the earth when 9/11 happened. I always that it was weird that they never talked about this story after 9/11.

    October 23, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  14. alumette

    The article is romance novel material...ignoring that fact, it seems like Chandra's death could have been a hit. Her body is recovered one year later in places they had already searched. By then, there are no evidences to find. The guy they have in jail is denying killing her. Bizarre or what.? Coincidences she was going to reveal a secret? sounds like Marilyn Monroe's death. She was going to make a statement to the press. Some women get shut up and take their secrets to their graves. Looks like murder for hire to me. She went jogging in that desolate place...the perfect spot for a hit. How naive she was.

    October 23, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. msimian

    This has to be the most poorly-written piece of junk I've ever read on CNN.com. Doesn't CNN hire journalists anymore? Don't they have editors? Other commenters have said it already but it's true: this reads like something done for a high school paper. Please, no more content-free filler like this.

    October 23, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
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