Cops Arrest Lab Tech In Annie Le Murder

TM_091709_028.jpg(Updated 10:58 a.m.) Cops charged a 24-year-old Yale lab technician Thursday with strangling a Yale grad student to death and stashing her body in a basement wall — what the police chief called a “workplace crime,” not a “romantic” one.

Raymond J. Clark III (center in photo), 24, of Middletown, was charged with murder and held on a $3 million bond, said New Haven Police Chief James Lewis. Clark cleaned mouse cages in a Yale medical school building where Le, a 24-year-old Yale pharmacology student, did experiments.

The announcement came at police headquarters at an 8:30 a.m. press conference orchestrated to start at the moment of the suspect’s capture.

“I feel good for the family,” Chief Lewis said in an interview in his office following the press conference. “It doesn’t make it OK for them. I think it takes away some of the pain that someone is being held accountable.”

He said Annie Le’s family, which has been staying in New Haven, plans to leave town Thursday afternoon or Friday morning.

Clark was arrested Thursday morning in Cromwell by New Haven Police Detective Scott Branfuhr. Less than two hours after his arrest, suspect Clark was transported to Connecticut Superior Court in downtown New Haven to be arraigned before Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue.

A prisoner transport van pulled up to the rear of the courthouse on Church Street at 10:02 a.m. Five marshals accompanied Clark out of the van (pictured) and inside to the courthouse. Right before that, another van pulled up with 15 prisoners from the Whalley jail, chained together; some held their shirts and jackets over their heads as marshals escorted them past the row of press cameramen perched above. “Wrong van guys,” a marshal called out.

“Ah man, you wildin’!” one of the defendants called out to the cameramen, while other defendants declared their innocence.

Inside Courtroom B, marshals cleared out all other defendants to make way for Clark’s last-minute arraignment before Judge Blue.

Clark walked in with ankle chains, a striped shirt and khaki pants. The lab tech, who’s 5 foot 9 inches and 190 pounds, hung his head as a TV camera at the front of the court tracked his movements. He was accompanied by two public defenders, Beth Merkin and Joe Lopez, who are representing him. He made no statements and entered no plea. Instead, the discussion was about his bond.

Bail commissioner Sharon Moye-Johnson told the judge that Clark refused to be interviewed. The bail commissioner conducts a pre-arraignment interview to assess a defendant’s flight risk.

Still, Moye-Johnson recommended that Judge Blue lower to $1 million the $3 million bond set by Judge Brian Fisher when he signed the arrest warrant earlier Thursday morning. One of the public defenders asked the judge to accept that recommendation.

Prosecutor Joseph LaMotta asked the judge to keep the bond at $3 million. “It’s a serious case,” he said.

Blue saw it his way.

“It’s obviously a very serious case,” Blue said, keeping the bond at $3 million. He then transferred the case across Church Street to Part A, the normal procedure for major crimes. Clark’s next court date is set for Oct. 6.

Clark’s arrest warrant affidavit has been sealed for 14 days at the order of Judge Brian T. Fischer, who signed the warrant. State’s attorney Michael Dearington requested the document be sealed because “the arrest is part of a continuing investigation which could be adversely affected by disclosure of the affidavit at this time.”

Not “Romantic”

The motive in the Annie Le killing remains unclear.

“This is not a street crime. This is not a domestic crime,” Chief Lewis said. “This is a workplace crime.” He noted that such crime is on the rise nationally and called for greater “awareness” in spotting the signs. In answer to a reporter’s questions, he said he had no reason to conclude that Yale gave a “pass” to Clark in hiring him. Click on the play arrow to watch.

“It is frightening that a member of our own community might have committed
this terrible crime,” said Yale President Rick Levin in an email statement Thursday morning. “But we must not let this incident shatter our trust in one another.”

Clark’s arrest capped an overnight stakeout at a Super 8 motel in Cromwell, the latest chapter in a week-long drama that has transfixed the nation. The drama began last Wednesday when Yale reported Annie Le missing. By Sunday, a possible missing persons case had turned into a brutal murder mystery, when state cops discovered her body inside a basement wall at a Yale medical school building at 10 Amistad St.

clark%3Ale%206.pngPolice quickly zeroed in on Clark (left photo) as a “serious” suspect in her killing, but did not release his name until Tuesday night, when they called him a “person of interest.” Clark recently moved to Middletown with his fiancee. He grew up in Branford and graduated from Branford High School in 2004. He had a run-in with police in high school when his then-girlfriend called the cops on him, but she declined to press charges. (Right photo: Annie Le.)

Clark has no prior criminal history, except for a speeding ticket. His record at Yale was clean, too, President Levin said. Clark has worked as a Yale lab tech for nearly five years, starting in December 2004, according to Levin. His supervisor reported that “nothing in the history of his employment at the University gave an indication that his involvement in such a crime might be possible,” Levin wrote.

Clark was taken into custody Tuesday night for a DNA search, then released Wednesday morning after giving DNA samples from his fingernails and hair. Cops also served three search warrants on his home and car.

The DNA evidence was believed to be central to the case. Lewis said Wednesday that police would promptly arrest Clark if cops found a DNA match among 250 pieces of evidence in his home, car and at the crime scene. They found that match on Wednesday, the Reg‘s Bill Kaempffer reported, citing law-enforcement sources.

3chiefs.JPGChief Lewis declined Thursday to say whether a DNA match was made or what the motive of the killing was. (He’s pictured at right at the Thursday morning press conference alongside Assistant Chief Pete Reichard and Yale Chief James Perrotti.)

The Courant reported that computer records tracked Clark’s movements through laboratory rooms — and placed him at the scene of the crime. Clark was the last one to see Annie Le alive, the newspaper reported. When Annie Le swiped her electronic key card into a basement room that day, he followed her into the room and she never came out, according to the story.

Past Independent coverage of the Annie Le murder:

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”
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
City Cops Join Search For Annie Le; $10,000 Reward Posted

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Comments

posted by: Ed on September 17, 2009  8:14am

I hope justice is served and that Annie’s family eventually finds peace.

posted by: alberta tlapalcoyoac on September 17, 2009  8:39am

I hope people and media pay the same attention when someone in New Haven get also killed. A yale student life is not more important than the life of a non yale student.

posted by: streever on September 17, 2009  9:42am

Right on, Ed. Thanks to the NHI for covering this in a restrained and sober fashion.

posted by: Our Town on September 17, 2009  9:46am

Right now, I hope this doesn’t go the ‘insanity’ route. I hope there is a swift trial (in six months, not two years) and the killer gets the maximum.

posted by: in chains? on September 17, 2009  10:34am

are prisoners from whalley avenue typically transported “chained together”?

posted by: concrenedwestvilleres on September 17, 2009  10:36am

There are problems with this case and a good attorney could probably exploit them and maybe get this guy off (kind of like the OJ case).

First, why did it take from Tuesday until Sunday to find the body?  If the swipe cards show she entered a room and then don’t show her leaving the room, they could have narrowed down where she was last seen much earlier.  Yale security could have provided the records once she was reported missing and shown she didn’t leave the basement.  They could have searched the basement right away.

Second, as Dr. Lee pointed out in an interview this week, the crime scene is contaminated because it wasn’t completely shut off right away.  The attorneys could argue contamination of DNA as well as the opportunity for a framing of this guy.  How many people were in the basement afterwards?

Third, just because he was the last person to scan in the basement at the time she did and she didn’t scan out, doesn’t convince of guilt. He could say she left with him and didn’t scan out.  Someone else could have committed the crime and stashed her body down there.  Who went in the basement in the time between Tuesday and when the building was sealed off.

Fourth- the publicity makes it harder to receive a fair trial.  How can they guarantee an impartial jury when every part of his life has been plastered over TV, Internet, Radio, and newspapers.  The guy should ask for and receive a change of venue to a larger, maybe less biased, jury pool (doubt it will happen).

Fifth - the death could have resulted from an argument that got out of hand.  If he did it, the two of them could have had an argument and maybe she demeaned him in some manner.  He lost his temper and grabbed her by the neck in anger. After she was dead, he panicked and hid the body.  If this is the case, he could get off with manslaughter and a lesser sentence than murder.

That said, I believe he did it.  I’m just saying there were errors that could cause problems.  I will be surprised if this guy serves a life sentence for Murder.  I’d think he’ll get a manslaughter conviction and the max on the charge.  While Yale and law enforcement are giving each other pats on the back today, they may contribute to this guy ending up like OJ- getting off because of contamination and other sloppiness.

posted by: Curious on September 17, 2009  11:11am

Can you get scratches on your chest if your shirt is on?  I guess maybe with a v-neck shirt? 

Alberta - This story is more fascinating than others not because this is a Yale student, but because of the upcoming wedding and the sudden disappearance of the bride.  Of course, she was a well-educated woman with a bright future and that too adds to the story.  It catches an audience, it has substance.

posted by: LIfer on September 17, 2009  11:53am

Local news is reporting that he texted her that day to come to the animal facility to deal with some “dirty mice.”  If so, this murder may have been premeditated in which case he’s in even bigger trouble.

posted by: mia on September 17, 2009  11:56am

concrenedwestvilleres, you made some semi-good points. But the if it turns out that Annie was sexually assaulted (which I am expecting to be the case) then everything you just said won’t matter. I think this was a woman that Clark was obsessing about and when the opportunity came to sexually assault her, he did and killed her to hide his ultimate motive. Also, wouldn’t be surprised if he strangled her as he was raping her. I just don’t see this 4-11, 90 lb woman be the aggressive demeaning, stuck up Yale student that SOME people are trying to portray her as.

posted by: chick_tabu on September 17, 2009  12:58pm

@Ed_Justice will be served. It just doesn’t always come by way of the courts. All life is, is a cycle. What we put out eventually comes around back to us. Ppl would realize that if they’d pay attention. No disrespect but hopefully neither were cocky to the other or “gave a false impression” of being above those w/ lesser education. Like Lewis stated, I’ve seen that & a lot of violence in the work environment also.
For those who never experienced living on both sides of the tracks…I’ve heard many say, ppl in the street life are much easier to trust than st8 ppl in the work force. Their inconsistant in character, lack sincere compassion & will do anything to advance, which is y I adjusted my attitude & started communicating more w/ employees. My condolences to the Le family & thank u to the police dept for their hard work!

posted by: daniel on September 17, 2009  1:19pm

Mia-

He is charged with 53a 54a murder.  With that charge there is no chance of a sexual assault.  That would be a capital murder charge 53a 54b. 

Thankfully… it doesn’t appear she was raped or tortured before her life was taken. 

May she rest in peace.

posted by: nfjanette on September 17, 2009  1:22pm

The legacy of a nation largely addicted to television programming is evident in some of the comments for the various NHI articles on this story, but this is not an episode of CSI or whatever is the law enforcement favorite series du jour.  What’s the point of speculation or trying this case in the media - or the comments?

posted by: Kim on September 17, 2009  1:39pm

My sincere condolences to Le’s fiance and her family.

...

If this were a premeditated, he would have tried to enter the basement without leaving any traces (swiping his badge, for example).

I feel sorry for Clark’s girlfriend and his parents.  My God, who could imagine to have a murderer lover and son!

posted by: maybe maybe not on September 17, 2009  2:24pm

READ WAS THAT ANNIE LE’S KILLER? IN THE NEW HAVEN INDEPENDENT SEPT 15TH.
There is an article that mentioned a guy with red hair and glasses whom a tech entering never saw there before who blood on his shirt as of last week on the day of the dissapearance. My issue is if there was bloody lab clothing in the ceiling of the lab and then they found the body in the basement how is it no one saw anything, where did the blood come from if she was strangled it just seems like he’s getting the short end of the stick and there might be someone else involved or just someone else who did it completely and in that case it’s a conviction by media which rarely works in the favor of the suspect.

posted by: WilburCrossGrad on September 17, 2009  4:12pm

“If he did it, the two of them could have had an argument and maybe she demeaned him in some manner. He lost his temper and grabbed her by the neck in anger. After she was dead, he panicked and hid the body. If this is the case, he could get off with manslaughter and a lesser sentence than murder.”

You don’t just put you hands on someone’s neck, and they die. In order to strangle someone, you have to actively be cutting off their air supply for a WHILE, and apply a LOT of pressure. This can only be done intentionally, knowing you are causing them severe harm, and likely death.

posted by: anon on September 17, 2009  5:11pm

“I hope people and media pay the same attention when someone in New Haven get also killed. A yale student life is not more important than the life of a non yale student.”

I disagree with this oft-repeated line of criticism. If you want other stories covered in more depth, why not go out and do the reporting yourself? If you can’t, why not raise money in your community to hire someone to do it?

You might be surprised how much demand there is for stories about social issues involving “the people who also get killed” (including death, prostitution, crashes, domestic violence, disease, discrimination, drug dealing, etc.) that simply isn’t being met, primarily because people spend hours a day watching TV these days instead of talking to their neighbors like they did 50 years ago.

Others may follow in your steps and you can start a revolution.

The news media is not a government utility or a newsletter about road construction, it is just a reflection of our collective social values.

Working to change the values of your society, which is exactly what the NHI is trying to do by redistributing social goods in order to cover issues of true local concern, is much more productive than just complaining again about an issue that has been around since the invention of the Indus Script in 4000BC.

posted by: free speech on September 17, 2009  5:32pm

Chains???
If one prisoner attempts to flee he/she will not be able to. would you prefer any different? Who cares if they are in chains, they need to be so that they wont run off in order for justice to be served.

posted by: Det. Fish on September 18, 2009  1:37pm

This appears very much to be a case of an argument gone bad, rather than premeditation. If he wanted to kill her in a premeditated way, a “street” crime would have been much easier to cover. Ask the Jovin killer about that.

Leaving all sorts of traces in a lab? not smart.

The cover up? not smart either.

A tragedy for both families, as most homicides are…

posted by: Louise on September 19, 2009  12:21am

This makes me think Annie Le was abusive to animals! You don’t keep animals in dirty surroundings…... they shouldn’t even be caged and experimented on!