ABC News (NEW YORK) — A part-time television extra claims her intimate discussions and secret recordings she made with the federal prosecution’s star witness in the Chandra Levy case blew the investigation wide open.
20/20 has obtained seven hours of conversations between Babs Proller, who once appeared in Netflix series House of Cards, and Armando “Mouse” Morales, the prison snitch crucial to the Levy investigation, which remains one of the most notorious cold case murders in the country.
“I think my tapes completely showed Morales is a liar and cannot be trusted as a witness,” Proller told 20/20.
Proller told 20/20 she met Morales in July when she and Morales coincidentally were staying at the same Maryland hotel. Proller had just been evicted from her home and was staying at the hotel with her dog Buddy. She said Morales introduced himself as “Phoenix” and “he was very kind, and very friendly.”
Proller claims she never had any romantic interest in Morales but the two became friends and he even watched her dog Buddy for her when she was out of town.
But during one of their conversations, Proller said Morales revealed to her that he was a career criminal and a former gang member who had spent more than 20 years in prison. Not only that, Proller said Morales told her he was also the prosecution’s star witness in one of Washington, D.C.’s biggest murder trials.
Chandra Levy was a 24-year-old federal intern from California who went missing in May of 2001. Her remains were discovered a year later in Rock Creek Park. It was rumored she had an affair with then-Congressman Gary Condit, D-Calif., but Condit was dismissed as a suspect in the case and has long refused to confirm any sexual interactions with Levy.
In November 2010, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador named Ingmar Guandique was convicted of two counts of felony murder for Levy’s death. At the time, Guandique had already pleaded guilty to attacking two other women in the park around the same time Levy was killed.
The prosecution’s star witness was Morales, a five-time convicted felon and a former California gang member. Morales and Guandique shared a federal prison cell for separate crimes in 2006 and he testified that while in prison together, Guandique confessed to him that he had murdered Levy.
Guandique was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
But in 2012, Guandique’s attorneys discovered that during the trial, Morales concealed he had a history of working with law enforcement. The defense argued in a 114-page motion that the prosecution either knew or should have known about Morales’ prior history of working with law enforcement, and that the prosecution was guilty of prosecutorial misconduct for not disclosing Morales’ past interactions with police. In an unusual twist, the U.S. attorney’s office agreed to a retrial for Guandique.
The retrial of Guandique was scheduled to begin Oct. 13 until Proller entered the picture.
Proller said once Morales started talking about paying retribution to someone he had harmed, Proller began recording him for her own protection. She started secretly recording their conversations everywhere they went together, including the car, the hotel and to a storage locker near Annapolis, Maryland, where she had asked him for help organizing her stuff since she was between homes. Once at the storage locker, Proller said she hid a recorder behind a plastic container on a shelf. That’s when she claims Morales told her about Guandique’s confession.
During the conversation, Proller is heard on the recording asking Morales questions about the Chandra Levy case and Guandique.
“The dude that I testified — he committed a homicide,” Morales is heard saying.
“Are you sure?” Proller asks.
“Why wouldn’t I be sure?” Morales says.
“People talk,” Proller tells him. “They just brag about stuff to make sure that they look good.”
“I don’t know. I can’t answer that,” Morales says.
Proller told 20/20 that any time she asked Morales “a really detailed question” he would say to her, “Don’t go there.”
“He’s got other victims,” Morales is heard saying on Proller’s recording.
“That he killed?” Proller asks.
“Don’t go there,” Morales says.
At one point, Proller asks Morales, “You said he didn’t mean to kill her, he robbed her?”
“Well no,” Morales says. “He’s in the cell with me. You think he’s going to tell me he meant to do that? Come on. Hello? Duh.”
Proller told 20/20 that’s when a light bulb went off in her head that maybe Morales hadn’t been telling the truth about Guandique.
“To me, it didn’t make sense,” she said. “I ended up feeling like, ‘You made this up.’”
Proller said she eventually got Morales to admit he had lied about Guandique’s confession.
“I never in my life thought he would be talking about the case or for him to admit at any point that he lied,” she said. “I honestly thought, ‘He’s going to kill me in the storage unit and they’re going to find my body one day.’”
Proller said after Morales confessed to lying, she contacted Chandra Levy’s mother, Susan Levy.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is so weird. Why don’t you send a tape for both the prosecutor and the defense team?’” Susan Levy told 20/20. “And that’s how I saw it as — send it to them!”
Proller did meet with the prosecution and defense. In July, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia issued a stunning announcement asking that all charges would be dropped against Guandique. The statement said in part that there had been “recent unforeseen developments” in the case and concluded that “it can no longer prove the murder case against Mr. Guandique beyond a reasonable doubt.”
But in the seven hours of recordings ABC News obtained, Morale’s admission to Proller that he made up Guandique’s confession isn’t there and, in fact, Morales adamantly sticks to his story.
“I thought everything was in one file but it was three separate files,” Proller told 20/20.
Proller claims there are additional recordings that she’s turned over to authorities and no longer has a copy, but Morales’ attorney told 20/20 that Morales never told Proller he made up the confession.
Proller also has credibility and legal issues of her own. Court records show that Proller received three years’ probation after she was arrested for theft in Pennsylvania in 2012. She said it was for altering prices on toothbrush labels.
“I have never taken anything from anybody,” Proller said. “I have not taken money, what am I trying to scam out of this?”
Nevertheless, the U.S. attorney’s office asked for the charges against Guandique to be dismissed, with little explanation as to why. But Proller is convinced it was because she came forward.
“I think it was absolutely my tapes that blew it out of the water,” Proller said.
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