Before the infamous murder of Chandra Levy, another intern disappeared from the same area. Are they linked? Authorities don’t think so, but both cases are eerily similar. Read more to find out what happened to Joyce Chiang.
It had been a great evening as several girlfriends working in Washington, D.C. enjoyed a night on the town. On January 9, 1999, the group of young women watched a movie before eating dinner at a nearby restaurant.
One of the women, 28-year-old Joyce Chiang, did not have a car, so her friend Kathy offered to give her a ride home. En route, Joyce asked Kathy to stop at a Starbucks. Despite the cold weather, Joyce told Kathy she would walk the remaining four blocks from the coffee shop to her apartment. Kathy tried to persuade Joyce to let her drive her home, insisting it was no problem. Joyce assured her she would be fine. Kathy relented and went on her way as Joyce entered the coffee shop. Twenty-one years later, Kathy still wishes she had been more assertive. A chilling crime was about to occur on that evening in the nation’s capital.
While attending college, Joyce Chiang had worked as an intern for Howard Berman, who, from 1983-2003, was the representative of California’s 28th congressional district, which encompassed parts of central Los Angeles. After college and the internship, Joyce graduated from Georgetown Law School and became a lawyer for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
Joyce lived with her brother Roger in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, D.C., a popular residential neighborhood noted for its nightlife. Soon, however, the area would be known for a more sinister reason. Joyce never arrived at her apartment after Kathy dropped her at the Starbucks.
Roger reported her missing the following day, January 10. On that day, a couple walking through Anacostia Park, approximately five miles southeast of the Starbucks, found a billfold containing Joyce’s government credit card along a riverbank. They gave it to the Park Police.
Four days later, the couple saw TV news reports of Joyce’s disappearance and realized she was the person on the government credit card they had found. This time, they contacted the Washington, D.C. police. Because Joyce was a federal employee, the FBI assumed jurisdiction in the investigation into her disappearance.
Along the Anacostia River, a search and rescue team found Joyce’s apartment keys, video store rental, and grocery cards, as well as her gloves and the jacket she was last seen wearing. Investigators were unable to determine what had caused a tear running down the back of the coat.
Three months later, a canoeist paddling more than eight miles downstream from where Joyce’s items had been found saw a body along the shore. DNA tests confirmed it was Joyce Chiang. Due to the pronounced decomposition of her body, the cause of death was listed as undetermined.
The case stalled for two years until an eerily similar but much more profiled murder brought the death of Joyce Chiang back into the limelight.
On May 1, 2001, another congressional intern, Chandra Levy, was reported missing. Chandra was an intern in the office of California Congressman Gary Condit, and it was learned that she and the Congressman were having an affair.
In June of 2002, a hiker’s dog in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, found a human skull far from the commonly used paths. When police arrived on the scene, they found additional bones, a jogger’s bra, and a cassette player in the foliage. Dental records confirmed the remains were those of Chandra. Her death was ruled a homicide, but an autopsy was unable to determine the cause.
Chandra’s disappearance and murder brought renewed interest in the death of Joyce Chiang because of several similarities in the women’s cases:
• Joyce and Chandra had both served as interns for Democratic Congressmen from California
• The two Congressmen’s offices were adjacent to each other
• Both were petite brunettes
• They lived within a few blocks from one another
• Both frequented the Starbucks coffee shop
• Both had the same types of friends involved in the political arena
Despite the numerous similarities, police were unable to find any evidence that the women knew each other or had any common friends in common.
In March of 2009, nearly seven years after Chandra Levy’s remains were found, Ingmar Guandique, an illegal immigrant and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) member from El Salvador, were charged with her murder.
Guandique had been convicted of assaulting two other women in Rock Creek Park, the area where Chandra’s body was found. Those assaults occurred in March and April of 2001, only 3-4 weeks after Chandra’s disappearance.
A jail informant told police Guandique had confessed to killing Chandra. Investigators determined Guandique had not gone to work on the day Chandra vanished. Evidence found with Chandra’s remains suggested she was attacked in a virtually identical way to Guandique’s assault victims. Investigators also found a photograph of Chandra among his belongings.
Police believe Guandique attacked and tied up Chandra in the park’s remote area and left her to die of dehydration and exposure. In November of 2010, Guandique was convicted of the murder of Chandra Levy and was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
In 2015, however, Guandique’s conviction was overturned after evidence surfaced that the jail informant was lying. In July of 2016, prosecutors announced they would not re-try Guandique for Chandra’s murder after a woman came forward with an audiotape on which the jail informant is heard saying he lied about Guandique’s confession.
Guandique was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and has since been deported to his native El Salvador. Police say nothing connects him to the death of Joyce Chiang.
Congressman Gary Condit was considered a person of interest in Chandra Levy’s disappearance and subsequent murder after authorities discovered he was having an affair with his intern. He was eventually cleared of any involvement.
Nevertheless, the overturning of Ingmar Guandique’s conviction brought renewed suspicion on the now-former Congressman. However, investigators say no new evidence has surfaced, suggesting his involvement and that they still do not consider him a suspect.
In January of 2011, police stated they believe two men, Steve Allen and Neil Joaquin, abducted Joyce Chiang while she was walking home from the Starbucks. They took her to the banks of the Anacostia River to rob her. Once there, investigators believe, Joyce tried to flee, only to slip on the ice and fall into the river, where she succumbed to the frigid temperature.
Allen is serving a life sentence in federal prison for an unrelated crime, while Joaquin was deported to Guyana in 2006. Police believe a third man was also involved, but they do not have enough evidence to arrest him.
Joyce Chiang’s death has now officially been ruled a murder. But neither Allen nor Joaquin have been charged in connection with the crime, and her case is formally closed. If the men were to be charged, it is unlikely Joaquin would be returned to the United States because Guyana does not have an extradition treaty with the United States. I could not find a picture of either man.
Police have also officially determined there is no connection between the murders of Chandra Levy and Joyce Chiang.
The murder of another petite brunette in Washington, D.C., was also, for a time, thought to be connected to the murders of Joyce Chiang and Chandra Levy.
In August of 1998, five months before the murder of Joyce Chiang, 28-year-old Christine Mirzayan, a Fellow in the second year of the Policy Fellowship Program with the Center of Education in Washington, D.C., was raped and murdered while walking home from a barbecue in the Georgetown neighborhood. However, just as Joyce and Chandra’s cases are unrelated, Christine’s murder has been shown another separate act.
DNA testing connected Christine’s murder to eight other rapes committed in the Georgetown area from 1991 to 1998. The perpetrator was dubbed the “Potomac River Rapist.”
In November of 2019, 60-year-old Giles Warrick was arrested and charged with the rapes and murder committed in the Georgetown area. Parabon Nabalos, a Reston, Virginia, company that provides DNA phenotyping services for law enforcement, used DNA from the crime scenes to create a family tree for the perpetrator. The profile led to five possible suspects and detective work led to the Warrick’s arrest.
Warrick was working as a landscaper in Maryland at the time of the rapes and murder. At the time of his arrest, he was living in Conway, South Carolina.
So far, Warrick has been charged with ten rapes and one murder, that of Christine Mirzayan. Authorities believe he has committed more rapes and possibly more murders. However, they do not think he committed the murders of Joyce Chiang and Chandra Levy.
The legal procedures are just beginning in Warwick’s case, and a trial date has yet to be set.
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More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:
Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)
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