WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- Human remains found in a Washington, D.C., park Wednesday morning were positively identified through dental records as those of missing intern Chandra Levy, according to Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey.
There was no obvious cause of death investigators said. A man hunting for turtles with his dog in a remote section of Rock Creek Park made the discovery around 9:30 a.m. and investigators later found remains apparently scattered by animals that had dug up a shallow grave. Police said the remains were found across a steep incline in a heavily wooded area far removed from any jogging or walking path.
Ramsey said earlier that police recovered most of a skeleton, articles of clothing and some personal effects that led them to believe the body was that of a woman and could be Levy's. Police sources said size 8 running shoes, a sport bra and T-shirt were recovered at the scene.
Investigators had believed that the remains were those of Levy, even before the dental match, because one of the items found near the skeleton was a gold ring engraved with the initials "C.L.," The Washington Times reported in its Thursday edition. This ring was found in a shallow grave with some of the remains, said the Times, quoting a law enforcement source.
"Her death has been ruled pending by the medical examiner," Ramsey told reporters. "This is now being handled as a death investigation."
Chandra's parents -- Dr. Bob and Susan Levy -- released a statement through family spokesman Judy Smith said that while the family understood that finding her alive was unlikely, "up until they received the news, they remained always hopeful."
The Levy family's statement drew a distinction between finding her body and finding her killer.
"While certainly today's news provides some resolution, it certainly doesn't provide an answer to what happened to Chandra," Smith said, adding that the family thought that clearly Chandra Levy had been killed.
"Our view is this case is no longer a missing persons case, but a homicide case," she added.
The news might provide the family some closure in the future, but the immediate reaction was to the "most horrifying news that a parent can receive."
The family has not considered the timing of any memorial services or funeral for their daughter, Smith added.
Lights were initially brought for a night search to continue gathering clues, but the remote location and unstable footing persuaded investigators to wait until Thursday to continue the search.
What clues can be found at the scene remains unclear at this time as the body appeared to have been outdoors for a long period and evidence could be scattered over a large area.
Medical experts say that the condition of a skeleton may provide clues about how the death occurred. For example, a forensic examination would search for any knife marks on bone, bullet holes, unhealed fractures, any traces of poison absorbed into the bone.
Murray Marks of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville told the Times that a body loses flesh at varying rates, and as early as two weeks after death occurs.
Investigators said it was unclear exactly how long the body had been in Rock Creek Park, and had no theories how searchers that had canvassed the area last summer and fall could have missed the body if it had been there at the time.
Ramsey said a total of 1,700 acres of the park -- including the general area that the body was found -- had been searched at various times last year.
Levy disappeared on or around April 30, 2001, and the matter was initially handled as a missing person's case. It later was classified as a criminal investigation.
The 21-year-old woman had been preparing to return to California after the completion of an internship at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. U.S. Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., 53, was linked to Levy shortly after her disappearance.
He initially said the two were friends, as Levy was from Modesto, part of his California district. He reportedly admitted to authorities after further questioning that he and Levy had been having an affair. But he repeatedly denied any involvement with her disappearance.
Condit faced criticism from Levy's parents and others for failing to come forward sooner with information about his involvement with the intern. But he consistently denied any connection to the disappearance, and at one point, passed an independently administered polygraph test.
District of Columbia police have said that the congressman was not considered a suspect in Levy's disappearance because they had no indication that a crime had been committed before the discovery of her remains Wednesday.
Condit has said that he has fully cooperated with the investigation, but police sources often complained last summer about difficulty getting access to him. Condit released a statement on Wednesday through a spokesman that expressed his and his family's heartfelt sorrow for the Levy family and said, "They remain in our prayers."
Smith said the family was "focusing on their feelings right now," and would not respond to Condit.
Condit's political career fell victim to the scandal when he finished second, for the first time in his life, behind a former aide and protégé in a spring race for the Democratic nomination to run for re-election in his congressional district.