The murder of a DC intern echoes two other murders.
The disappearance of Capitol Hill intern Chandra Levy caught the attention of the entire country in the summer of 2001. As pictures and home videos of the young brunette flooded the airwaves, the sense of tragedy only deepened. Thirteen months after Chandra vanished, police were called to a remote section of Rock Creek Park, four miles from her apartment. A hiker’s dog had uncovered a human skull halfway down a wooded incline, far away from well-used paths. Dental records confirmed that the search for Chandra Levy was over. Her death was ruled a homicide, but what exactly happened to Chandra remains a mystery.
Few people know that another Washington intern, Joyce Chiang, mysteriously disappeared two years before Chandra. Although there was no national media coverage, the similarities between the two cases are disturbing. The two women lived in the same neighborhood and had worked for the same government agency. They were young, brunette, and petite. Could there be a connection between the murders of Joyce and Chandra? For Investigative Reporter Timothy Maier, the similarities were alarming:
Joyce was the only daughter in a close-knit Taiwanese-American family. While in college, she served as an intern for Representative Howard Berman of California. Gene Smith was the Chief of Staff for Representative Berman at the time of Joyce’s disappearance:
After her internship, Joyce took a job as a lawyer at the INS. She lived with her brother, Roger, in the Dupont circle area of Washington, D.C. Chandra Levy would later move to the same neighborhood. A favorite hangout for both was the nearby Starbucks. It was there that on the night of January 9, 1999, Joyce Chiang was last seen. According to her brother Roger, earlier in the evening Joyce met up with several friends for a movie and dinner:
Joyce told her friend she would walk the four blocks home from the coffee shop but she never made it to her apartment. When she failed to return home, Roger called the police. Because Joyce was a federal employee, the FBI became involved. At first, the investigation turned up nothing.
Then, spurred by local media coverage, a couple came forward with the first clue in the case. The couple was walking through Anacostia Park and had found a billfold with Joyce’s government credit card. They turned the card in to park police. But the credit card remained in the lost and found for four days until the couple saw Joyce’s picture in a news broadcast. They then contacted the FBI. Fearing valuable time had been lost, a 57 member search-and-rescue team scoured the area where the card was found. Other personal items belonging to Joyce soon turned up on the banks of the Anacostia River, including her apartment keys, video rental card and the jacket she was last seen wearing. Police also searched the river, but found nothing.
Then, three months later, a canoeist was paddling more than eight miles downstream from where Joyce’s personal items were discovered. The spring rains had forced a body to the shore. After three months under water, DNA tests were needed to identify the body. It was Joyce Chiang. Roger Chiang was the first to receive the news:
The condition of her body made it impossible to determine how Joyce died. As a result, the cause of death was listed as undetermined. Without evidence of foul play, investigators felt there was nothing more to be done. Despite being unresolved, the case was closed.
Then, two years later in May of 2001, Chandra Levy’s disappearance drew renewed media interest to Joyce. To many, similarities between the two were chilling. But the police suggested publicly that Joyce might have committed suicide. Joyce’s friend Amy was immediately critical:
But if Joyce did commit suicide, why was her jacket ripped? Why were her belongings left on the bank of the Anacostia River? And how did she get to the riverbank, almost five miles from where she was last seen? According to Gene Smith, Joyce never owned a vehicle:
Then, another mysterious clue surfaced. Just three days after Joyce was last seen at the coffee shop, a bizarre statement appeared on a nearby wall. It read, “Good day, J.C. may I never miss the thrill of being near you.” Roger Chiang believed this cryptic message was yet another foreboding clue that his sister was murdered:
If a serial killer is responsible for these murders, there are those who believe that he has taken not two, but three lives. Five months before Joyce’s disappearance, 28-year-old Christine Mirzayan was raped and murdered while walking home from a barbecue. According to Roger Chiang, Christine fit the same description as Joyce and Chandra, and had also been an intern:
To date, the deaths of Joyce Chiang, Chandra Levy, and Christine Mirzayan remain a mystery.
Nearly seven years after the remains of Chandra Levy were found, police charged Ingmar Guandique with her murder. Guandique was sentenced to 60 years for Chandra’s murder. In 2016, there were new developments that caused the case against Guandique to be dropped.
In the case of Joyce Chiang, the case was closed because police have identified her killers as two D.C. area males who abducted Joyce and took her to the Anacostia River where they intended to rob her. Police believe that Joyce attempted to run from her captors but slipped on the ice, fell into the river and drowned. One of the two men is currently in federal prison serving a life sentence. The other is believed to be in Guyana, which has no extradition treaty with the United States.