Post Watch: We Did It! We Did It! Well, Maybe Not

By: Harry Jaffe

Former Washington Post executive editor Len Downie gave himself and the Post credit for finally cracking the Chandra Levy case. He said that the paper’s 2008 series on police missteps in the original investigation prodded cops to make an arrest.

“I think it did cause the police to redouble their efforts,” Downie told Editor & Publisher magazine when police arrested a suspect in Levy’s 2001 murder.

But top-level police and prosecutors said that the Post’s series was irrelevant. DC police chief Cathy Lanier reviewed the case in the spring of 2007 and reassigned it to a team of detectives that June. The Post series ran a year later, in July 2008.

Police sources said that three detectives and two prosecutors started following leads that resulted in the arrest of Salvadoran immigrant Ingmar Guandique a year before the Post focused on him.

The journalist who deserves some credit for fingering Guandique is Amy Keller. Her 2002 stories in Roll Call detailed his attacks on women in Rock Creek Park in 2001.

Downie talked up the Post’s Levy series as judges were reviewing stories entered in the Pulitzer competition. The 2008 prizes will be announced April 20.

This article first appeared in the April 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.

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