Clark To Get 44 Years For Killing Annie Le

Gwyneth K. Shaw PhotoAnimal lab technician Raymond Clark III Thursday pleaded guilty to trying to sexually assault Yale graduate student Annie Le, then strangling her and stuffing her body inside a wall.

Clark appeared in Superior Court on Church Street at 11:30 a.m. As part of a plea bargain, he is to receive a 44-year jail sentence, prosecutor David Strollo announced.

His guilty pleas—to murder and attempted sexual assault—averted what could have been a protracted, grisly and painful process: a court trial in the murder.

It also added a new wrinkle to the case: the attempted sexual assault charge, which the state had not previously disclosed.

The state accused Clark of strangling Annie Le, a 24-year-old pharmacology graduate student, to death. On what would have been her wedding day, her body was found stashed in the walls of a Yale animal research building on Amistad Street. Police arrested Clark, who cleaned mouse cages in that building, on Sept. 17, 2009, and charged him with the murder.

“Guilty,” Clark, who’s 26, quietly said twice Thursday morning in Judge Roland Fasano’s courtroom.

Dressed in a blue button-down shirt and black pants, Clark stood with hands clenched into fists, his knuckles resting on the defense table. His handcuffs had been removed at his lawyer’s request.

As Strollo recited a long narrative detailing the evidence the state was prepared to present to a jury, Clark glanced around the room, occasionally looking over at the prosecutor.  (Click here for a previous story detailing much of the evidence the state collected.)

As Fasano asked a string of questions aimed at ensuring Clark fully understood the consequences of his pleas, Clark answered politely, saying “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir.”

Clark pleaded guilty to the sexual assault charge under the Alford Doctrine. That means that he doesn’t necessarily agree for the record that he tried to sexually assault Annie Le, but that he acknowledges the state has enough evidence to convict him of the charge.

Prosecutor Strollo told the court that Annie Le’s body was found with her bra pushed up and her panties pushed down; her shoes and socks were off. And investigators found semen on her panty liner, Strollo said. He said semen from elsewhere at the scene definitively matched Clark’s DNA.

Le also had a broken jaw and collarbone, and a bruise at the back of her head, Strollo said. The medical examiner concluded those injuries happened while Le was alive, he said.

Annie Le’s family members were not present in the New Haven courtroom Thursday. They plan to attend Clark’s sentencing, Strollo said, now tentatively scheduled for May 20.

Strollo said the family was kept in the loop throughout the plea-deal negotiations. Some members of the family had hoped for a longer sentence, he said.

Joe Tacopina, who is representing Le’s mother and her estate, said the family was grateful to prosecutors and investigators for their work. Nothing can bring Annie Le back, he said, but the guilty pleas were welcome news.

“Justice has been served today. Having this predator admit his guilt in open court is something that was obviously very satisfying,” Tacopina said.

The family is happy to avoid a trial, he said, but was prepared to endure one if necessary.

Tacopina said Clark’s refusal to agree with the details of the charge in the attempted sexual assault makes the plea no less relevant.

“He would’ve been found guilty by a jury,” he said. “He was found guilty by his own words today.”

Tacopina said the family will wait until after the sentencing to decide whether to proceed with any civil lawsuits, against Yale or anyone else.

Clark’s family and fiancee did show up in court.

Afterwards, Clark’s father, Raymond Clark Jr., addressed reporters outside the courthouse.

He expressed condolences to the Le family. The Clark family is “heartbroken” but “proud of Ray for taking responsibility for his actions,” the father said.

He said his son had “expressed extreme remorse from the very beginning” in conversations with the family.

“I can’t tell you how many times he sobbed uncontrollably, telling me how sorry he is, telling me how his heart is tortured by the reality that he caused the death of Annie,” Clark Jr. said.

Check back here for updates during the day.

Previous coverage of the Annie Le case:

June 16, 2010
Family Stands By Annie Le Murder Suspect
March 15, 2010
Warrant: Why Cops Sought Saliva Sample From Annie Le’s Alleged Killer’s Fiancee
March 9, 2010
Final Annie Le Warrant To Be Unsealed On Monday
March 3, 2010
Judge Plans To Unseal Final Annie Le Warrant
Tuesday, Jan. 26
Annie Le’s Alleged Killer Pleads Not Guilty
Wednesday, Dec. 2
Annie Le Warrants: Blood Found In Kitchen, Car
Tuesday, Nov. 17
Seal Extended On Annie Le Warrants
Friday, Nov. 13
Annie Le Warrant: Bloody Boots Read “Ray-C”
Friday, Nov. 6
Annie Le Documents To Be Unsealed
Tuesday, Nov. 3
Hearing Continued For Annie Le Suspect; Judge Will Rule By Week’s End On Warrants: Live Blog
Tuesday, Oct. 20
Annie Le Suspect Enters No Plea; Warrants Remain Sealed
Tuesday, Oct. 6
Live Blog: Lawyer For Annie Le Murder Suspect Wants To See The Evidence
Friday, Sept. 25
Warrant In Annie Le Murder To Stay Sealed
Thursday, Sept. 24
Cops Back At Annie Le’s Lab Building
Monday, Sept. 21
What Annie Le Story?
Public Defender: I Don’t Want Annie Le Reporters Investigated
Thursday, Sept. 17
After Annie Le Murder, Union Chief Sends Rallying Call
Annie Le Suspect Knew Cops Were On His Tail
Cops Arrest Lab Tech In Annie Le Murder
Suspect Arraigned (live blog)
Wednesday, Sept. 16:
Ex-Girlfriend “Shocked” About Annie Le Target
Cops Stake Out Annie Le Target’s Motel
Annie Le Case: It’s Coming Down To The DNA
Annie Le Was Strangled
Tuesday, Sept. 15:
City, Yale Learned From Jovin In Annie Le Case
Suspect In Annie Le Case Has Fiancee
NBC Producer Trampled At Annie Le “Briefing”
Cops Take DNA From Annie Le Target
Was That Annie Le’s Killer?
Monday, Sept. 14:
Body Identified As Annie Le
“Serious” Suspect In Annie Le Case
You Can Get In The Wall With A “Butter Knife”
Lab Building Shuts Down
Sunday, Sept. 13:
Remains Of Annie Le Believed Found; “A Time For Compassion,” Levin Says
Annie Le Hunt Extends To Hartford
Saturday, Sept. 12
Focus In Annie Le Probe Less On “State Lines”
Friday, Sept. 11, 2009
City Cops Join Search For Annie Le; $10,000 Reward Posted

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posted by: ignoranceisbliss on March 17, 2011  12:08pm

If the “grisly aspect” is made public (which I hope it won’t) I trust you will refrain from publishing it.  No useful purpose would be served, only prurient.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on March 17, 2011  12:10pm

The affidavit should remain sealed and Clark should have gotten life without parole.

posted by: Write Responsibly on March 17, 2011  12:11pm

The last paragraph of the article is absolutely unnecessary.  Uncovering sensational details of the murder will not help anybody.  It is the right time to stop spreading rumors and speculations, let Annie rest in peace and let Annie’s family enter the long healing process.

posted by: streever on March 17, 2011  1:23pm

I agree with Hopkins.

I don’t like the idea of plea bargains in general—it gives the criminal something. In this case, it gave him a “bargaining” point after he selfishly, cruelly, and inhumanely ended the life of a promising and hard-working young person.

I will also second the call of Ignoranceisbliss: even if other outlets do publish the information, please do not sink to that level. Frankly, I read the NHI because I trust you to make smart decisions about that level of detail, and I have been grateful to see you uphold that trust time & time again.

I deliberately avoided reading other media outlets coverage of this trial and crime—the NHI has been my sole source of information. Thank you for providing information without sharing grisly or gory details that no one really needs.

posted by: CommonSense on March 17, 2011  1:42pm

Wow.  I can’t believe that her family is considering a suit against the University.  What happened to Le was a horrible, senseless crime, but how could the university have prevented it, when even those closest to him didn’t know what Clark was capable of?

posted by: anon on March 17, 2011  2:37pm

I agree with Streever. 

The grusome, inhumane, factually incorrect, and borderline depraved conduct of New Haven’s corporate media outlets, both in covering this case as well as others, has led me to entirely avoid them when at all possible.

posted by: robn on March 17, 2011  3:10pm

life w/o parole

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on March 17, 2011  4:06pm

I agree with anon.

Now we all agree with each other.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on March 17, 2011  6:13pm

Only 44 years????  For (attempted?) sexual assault—OK, apparently not actual rape, but obviously, he didn’t just “attempt” to sexually assault her but did so—and cold-blooded violent brutal murder?

Geez. The guy is 26.  With parole and good behavior and all that, he’s likely to get out while he’s still quite capable of hurting other women.

This is justice?

I’m surprised that the family is apparently satisfied with this outcome.

posted by: New Haven resident on March 17, 2011  9:18pm

In response to the quotes from Raymond Clark’s father:

You know, somehow I don’t feel bad for Raymond Clark for being “heartbroken” or feeling remorse or feeling “tortured”. He didn’t just “cause the death of Annie”—he MURDERED her. This wasn’t an accidental death, and Raymond Clark was not some innocent bystander. He assaulted and killed her of his own free will, and he should be put away for life for what he did.

And saying that he is “proud” of his son? Really, proud? Proud because a murderer decided to plea guilty when that turned into his best option? Even if this is Raymond Clark trying to take responsibility due to some sense of remorse, that doesn’t redeem him or his actions in any way. It just doesn’t.

posted by: Am I The Only One Who Noticed? on March 17, 2011  9:25pm

That’s not your average family lawyer, that’s JOE TACOPINA.  I think it’s a good bet that someone’s going to be sued.

posted by: Attorney on March 18, 2011  9:45am

Gretchen—44 years may not be long enough, but it is worth noting that there is no parole or any other form of early release in Connecticut for a murder conviction. He will have to serve 100% of that sentence. Counting the 18 months he has already served, that would mean he’ll be about 69 years old when released.

For violent crimes other than murder, a person must serve at least 85% of the sentence in order to be eligible (although eligibility does not automatically translate into release). For non-violent crimes, a person must serve at least 50% of the sentence to become eligible for parole.

For what it’s worth.

posted by: s on March 18, 2011  10:47am

Furious. Death penalty or life w/o parole, period. This is a travesty on top of tragedy. Great job, lawyers.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on March 18, 2011  10:49am

Thanks for the clarification, Attorney.  I’m glad to know that in this case 44 years apparently does mean 44 years.

posted by: New Haven Resident on March 18, 2011  12:21pm

I can’t refrain from posting one other comment, directed toward the writers and editors at this paper. It is an insult to journalistic ethics that this paper decided to end this article with the quotes from Raymond Clark’s father, in which he tries to paint his son as a victim who deserves sympathy. By giving his father the last word, the paper implies that there is some value in his quotes. On the contrary, his father’s statement is incredibly offensive, both to those who knew and loved Annie Le and to the entire Yale community, which remains haunted by this gruesome crime.

It’s one thing to include quotes from him as an attempt to convey the complete story of what happened yesterday, but it’s another to place them in such a prominent place with absolutely no subsequent counterquote from someone who thinks the statement is offensive to the extreme.

Finally, including the autopsy details is exactly what the Le family was trying to avoid. Shame on this paper for including them for the sake of sensationalism.

posted by: Selam on March 18, 2011  12:39pm

Now that’s what I call getting away with murder.

posted by: Mister Jones on March 18, 2011  1:22pm

44 years might as well be life.  I can’t believe some of the comments I’ve read suggesting that this is a light sentence.  This is a very good result for everyone, including the family and the public.  A quick disposition and a long, long prison sentence.  It shows what can be accomplished without the blood lust for the death penalty.

posted by: Mr. D on March 18, 2011  2:37pm

Mister Jones has it right.  What is the point of seeking the death penalty if it never gets done in CT?  More importantly, an eye for eye is wrong.  The murderer and rapist is accepting responsibility and as the Attorney said, will do the 44 years because of Le’s murder.  I feel very sad for Annie Le and her family/friends.  It sounds like she suffered terribly at this evil man’s hands. 

Thanks, Raymond for saving CT several million dollars in drawn out legal fees.  Thanks, Dr. Petit for costing us several million dollars in legal fees.  Those two murderers and rapists are willing to do life without parole and this is still not enough for the doctor?

posted by: JB on March 20, 2011  3:55pm

Thanks, Raymond for saving CT several million dollars in drawn out legal fees.  Thanks, Dr. Petit for costing us several million dollars in legal fees.  Those two murderers and rapists are willing to do life without parole and this is still not enough for the doctor?

^^This is an unhinged statement.  Raymond assaulted and murdered someone and then covered it up.  Millions were spent (along with a tremendous amount of labor) uncovering and investigating his crime.  Raymond’s motivation for taking a plea had nothing to do with saving the state money and is merely a direct reflection of how much evidence had been collected and what the possible penalty could be if it went to a trial.

Dr. Petit is a victim, not a murderer, and therefore I do not understand the comparison with Raymond Clark at all.  Dr. Petit does not control the prosecution, although assuming he is in favor of seeking the death penalty, it is not his responsibility to think about how much it will cost.  The entire burden of the cost of the investigation and trial rest on the men who tortured and killed his family. 

As for the question, what will be enough for Dr. Petit?  The full measure of the law brought down on the perpetrators is the strongest legal remedy he can advocate for.  Negatively comparing him with a murderer for doing so is crazy talk.

posted by: chris on March 22, 2011  2:50pm

44 years might as well be life.  I can’t believe some of the comments I’ve read suggesting that this is a light sentence.  This is a very good result for everyone, including the family and the public.  A quick disposition and a long, long prison sentence.  It shows what can be accomplished without the blood lust for the death penalty.


It might as well be life, accept of course that it isnt. Hell get out when hes mid sixties. He could have another 30 years after that. He could father a child. He could play baseball and eats hotdogs. In 40 years what do you imagine our life expectancy will be?  60 may be considered middle aged. Annie meanwhile will still be denied the life she could have had, gone and never to be recovered after this man twice her size, and I use the term loosely, beat her, shamed her, sexually abused her, violently strangled her,  and then desecrated her all 5 days before her wedding. Please excuse my blood lust when I question if justice was served with that sentence.