Jewish World Review August 6, 2001 /17 Menachem-Av, 5761

Thomas Sowell

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Consumer Reports

Chandra Levy clues -- ONE of the clues in the Chandra Levy case that may have been dismissed too quickly was a call to the police on the morning of her disappearance, reporting a woman's scream heard in the building where she lived. This seems to have been disregarded as an unrelated event because it occurred hours before the time when Chandra Levy was supposed to have used her computer in her apartment.

But nobody actually saw her using the computer. All that is known is that the computer was used. If Chandra Levy was abducted hours earlier, whoever had her also had access to her keys. Why would such a person, or an accomplice, come back to that apartment and use a computer? Only to throw off the police.

Obviously, no ordinary street criminal would do that. Only someone with a vested interest in misleading the police would do it. But then, nothing else about the Chandra Levy case suggests that her disappearance was the work of a random street criminal.

Ordinary rapists, muggers and robbers do not go to such trouble to dispose of a body that a massive police dragnet fails to find it. Street criminals get what they want and then leave the scene before they are either caught by cops or recognized by witnesses.

Everything about the way Chandra Levy left her apartment suggests that she was going to meet someone she knew. Ordinarily she was very security conscious and took precautions, such as having her cell phone with her. Yet on this occasion she left everything behind in her apartment and took only her keys with her.

This does not necessarily mean that she knew the person who abducted her or killed her. She could have been lured to where that person was waiting by a message from someone she did know and trust, and who said that he or she would be at that place. Chandra might well have screamed when she was ambushed by somebody else.

All this suggests premeditation. Sometimes people have an argument that escalates out of control and leads to violence or death. But at such an emotional moment, one is not very likely to come up with a scheme for disposing of the body so cleverly that an army of cops cannot find it.

Murders are all too common. But murders in which the body cannot be found are much rarer. There has to be some compelling reason why a killer does not just flee the scene of the crime.

Obviously, if the crime occurred in the killer's home or on his job, then the body must be moved. But, if it happened somewhere else, then the dangers of hanging around or carting a body around would have to be weighed against whatever advantage could be gotten by hiding the body.

What do you gain by hiding the body? In some cases, it may be possible to hide the fact that any crime was committed. If a globe-trotting reporter were murdered in London and the body never found, then that reporter might just be regarded as missing in action anywhere around the world. But that was impossible in the case of Chandra Levy.

As an intern whose term was up at a particular time, and whose parents were expecting her back in California shortly afterwards, Chandra Levy's disappearance was bound to be noticed, whether a body turned up or not. With the passage of time, the likelihood of an accident would have to decline to the vanishing point and foul play left as the only reasonable conclusion.

If her death was caused by someone who knew her, then that person would also know this. Thus there would be no point in trying to conceal the very existence of a crime. All that could be concealed would be the identity of whoever was responsible. Misleading the police about the time at which her abduction happened might be worth spending some time at her computer or having someone else spend time there.

In any event, someone obviously thought it was very important that her body not be found. But why? If her body were found in a park or on the street with a fatal gunshot wound, for example, how much of a clue would that be? Enough to take the risks of spending time finding a secure place to dispose of her remains?

What would make her body a bigger clue would be if she were pregnant. That could point the police toward whoever was responsible for her death. Moreover, pregnancy could have set in motion a chain of events that led someone to feel a need to get rid of her permanently. Pregnant young women can cause big trouble, especially if they feel betrayed by whoever was responsible.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.


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© 2001, Creators Syndicate