The murder of a DC intern echoes two other murders.

Joyce had worked on Capitol Hill

Joyce’s credit card was found by the road

CASE DETAILS

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.

Her body was found on the shore

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:

“I strongly believe that these particular incidents involving these two women may have been committed by the same perpetrator simply because there are just too many similarities in this case to ignore.”

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:

“She had a wonderful personality. She was just very cheerful. She’d light up a room, that kind of a person. I mean, she was just adorable.”

Who wrote this mysterious message?

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:

“At about 8:15, my sister was with her friend, Kathy. Kathy had generously offered to give her a ride home, but Joyce asked to make one quick stop at the Starbucks to grab a cup of tea.”

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.

Joyce was last seen at a coffee shop

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:

“That’s when all hope just dashed that Joyce was alive. And I quickly called my mother—one of the most difficult phone calls I’ve ever had to make—to tell my mother that her daughter was dead. And that’s a moment that I’ll never forget.”

Chandra Levy

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:

“This is a woman without a history of depression. This is a woman who worked very hard in life and had everything to live for.  And to lose who she is by saying she was someone who committed suicide I think is—is another injustice to her.”

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:

“No public transportation goes there.  And on an extremely freezing cold day in January commit suicide by wading into the Anacostia River and putting her head under the water. It is patently absurd on its face.”

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:

“The initials J.C., which are the same initials as my sister’s name, and the content of the message, ‘May I never miss the thrill of being near you,’ is all just a little too weird, a little peculiar.”

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:

“All three women lived in the Dupont area. All three women had dark hair. All three women were about the same height.  And they were all here as interns at one point in their careers.”

To date, the deaths of Joyce Chiang, Chandra Levy, and Christine Mirzayan remain a mystery.

UPDATE:

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.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eleven with Robert Stack and in season two with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

 

11 Comments

  1. Jordan

    For the Christine Mirzayan case, her murder was later linked to the Potomac River Rapist, who attacked multiple women during the 90’s. However, the rapist himself remains unidentified.

    https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/seeking-potomac-river-rapist/potomac-river-rapist-cold-case

    Reply

  2. Anonymous

    No random killer, someone hated her. Jilted boyfriend or something. I wish they catch the real killer.

    Reply

  3. Anonymous

    I am from Guyana, my mother still lives there but is there more information about this possible suspect? who knows.. everyone in Guyana knows everyone…

    Reply

  4. FAy

    So sad and creepy. I feel so bad for Joyce Chiang. She was obviously being stalked by the person who killed her. I don’t think it was some random thug lying in wait in sub-zero weather looking for a few dollars.

    Reply

  5. Viewer

    May I never miss the thrill of being near you is a lyric from the Paul McCartney song “No more lonely nights”.

    Reply

    • Felicia

      Soo sad. Joyce chiang seemed like such a nice person. What a horrible end for such a hardworking promising life. I don’t believe this was a random thug lying in wait in sub zero weather.

      Reply

  6. Dave

    Wished I knew who the one in Guyana was

    Reply

  7. Joseph D'Onofrio

    All 3 women frequented the same coffee shop, Starbucks. A serial killer was responsible for their deaths. The so called suspect serving a life sentence for attacking a woman in Georgetown is probably Ingmar Guandique whose case was recently overturned. The real killer remains at large.

    Reply

  8. Anonymous

    There is yet another woman hating psychopath on the loose. He has changed his mode of operation to throw cops of his trail.

    Reply

  9. Anonymous

    I’ve watched that case file over the years on Unsolved Mysteries because I remember Joyce Chiang because she used to work for the Federal Government too & she later disappeared & her family or friends knew where she went until that body found in the river was later identified as hers & now I really discovered that some one’s been convicted of her murder because these people were then living in the country illegally but justice has been served.

    Reply

  10. stephen e. hansen

    it is a shame that justice cannot reach out and terminate the Guyanese killer.

    Reply