The man previously convicted of killing D.C. intern Chandra Levy in a case that shocked the nation will be released after prosecutors dropped all charges against him on Thursday.
Ingmar Guandique was convicted in 2010 in Levy's death but later was granted a new trial, which was expected to begin this fall. But the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia said in a statement Thursday that prosecutors have moved to dismiss the case charging Guandique with Levy's 2001 murder. Those charges were formally dropped later in the day.
The move to throw out the charges was based on "recent unforeseen developments that were investigated over the past week," a statement released Thursday afternoon said.
Prosecutors did not elaborate on the developments immediately, but said they concluded they could no longer prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
A spokeswoman for Guandique's lawyers said Thursday that the informant who reported that Guandique confessed to the crime was found to have lied.
"It is now clear that the jailhouse informant, who was central to the government’s case, was a perjurer who too easily manipulated the prosecutors," Laura E. Hankins said in a statement.
Levy, a 24-year-old California native, was living in Northwest D.C. when she vanished on May 1, 2001. Her disappearance made national headlines after she was romantically linked to then-U.S. Rep. Gary Condit, also from California.
Her remains were found in Rock Creek Park a year after her disappearance.
Condit, a California Democrat, was ruled out as a suspect, and authorities turned their focus to Guandique, who was accused of attacking Levy while she jogged in the park.
Levy's mother, Susan Levy, attended Guandique's initial murder trial every day. She said at her home in California on Thursday that she was upset to hear Guandique would be released.
"I hope that we find the right person, that if it was Guandique, that he doesn't go on and do anything else to other people," she said.
Prosecutors argued Levy's death fit a pattern of attacks Guandique committed on female joggers. At the time, he was serving 10 years in prison for attacking two other women in Rock Creek Park.
But prosecutors lacked hard evidence against him, presenting neither eyewitnesses nor DNA evidence. The prosecution admitted evidence was mishandled as the early investigation focused on Condit.
A jury found Guandique guilty in November 2010 on two charges of felony murder in Levy's death.
Guandique was sentenced to 60 years, when he was 29.
"I only have one thing to say," he said at his sentencing, through an interpreter. "I feel sorry for what happened to Chandra Levy, but I had nothing to do with it." He had his head bowed and was crying.
He was granted a new trial in 2015 after his attorneys argued a key witness gave false or misleading testimony.
Guandique's conviction was based primarily on the testimony of Guandique's former cellmate Armando Morales, who said Guandique told him he was responsible for Levy's death. Guandique's defense lawyers argued Morales' testimony was unreliable and that there was no physical evidence linking Guandique to the the murder.
The retrial had been scheduled to begin in October.
Guandique's lawyers said on Thursday that prosecutors should have been required to provide "critical documents" to the defense, plus Morales' identity.
"Justice would have been better and more timely served had the government provided open file discovery to the defense before the trial and if the government had fully investigated its own witnesses," Hankins' statement said.
Former prosecutor Glenn Ivy called the developments on Thursday a major setback to efforts to close the case with a conviction.
"I don't know that this case will ever be resolved in court," said Ivy, who is now a criminal defense lawyer in private practice.
Guandique will be released into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where he faces deportation, the statement from prosecutors said. Guandique, who is from El Salvador, was in United States illegally.
Levy's brother, Adam Levy, said Thursday afternoon that his family was not ready to comment on the case.
Levy's parents spoke on NBC's "TODAY" show in May, 15 years after their daughter was killed.
"No matter what, we don't get our daughter back," Susan Levy said.
Check back for more on this developing story.