WASHINGTON, May 23 (UPI) -- Forensics experts Thursday worked to determine what caused the death of Chandra Levy, whose remains were found in a park more than a year after she disappeared, and police considered re-interviewing a congressman with whom the Washington intern was having an affair.
District of Columbia Police Chief Charles Ramsey said Rep. Gary Condit, a California Democrat whose district includes Levy's hometown of Modesto, could be interviewed again but that decision would be at the discretion of police investigators.
Although the nature of the relationship between Condit, 53, and Levy, 24, had provoked intense speculation among investigators -- particularly after it was revealed the two had a romantic relationship despite repeated denials by Condit's political handlers -- police have not named him a suspect.
The Washington medical examiner Thursday continued efforts to establish what killed Levy, despite working with skeletal remains that had been exposed to the elements. Investigators hope to find a sign of what killed Levy, as well as any physical evidence of any possible crime.
A man hunting for turtles with his dog in a remote section of Rock Creek Park made the discovery Wednesday morning and investigators later found remains that apparently had been 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 police recovered most of a skeleton, articles of clothing and some personal effects, including size a 8 running shoe, a sports bra and T-shirt, that led them to believe the body was that of a woman and could be Levy's.
Investigators had believed 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 Thursday. The ring was found in a shallow grave with some of the remains, the Times quoted a law enforcement source as saying.
"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 the family clearly thought 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 to the northwest Washington scene 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.
Medical experts said 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 and any traces of poison absorbed into the bone.
Murray Marks of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville told the Times 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 who had canvassed the area last summer and fall could have missed it, 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 initially was handled as a missing person's case.
Levy had been preparing to return to California after completion of an internship at the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
In denying any affair, the married Condit initially said the two were merely friends but reportedly admitted to authorities after further questioning the two had been having an affair.
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.
D.C. police have said the congressman was not considered a suspect because they had no indication a crime had been committed before the discovery of her remains Wednesday.
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.