Lab Tech Charged with Yale Grad Student's Murder

Published September 17, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A Yale lab technician appeared in court and was charged with murder Thursday hours after his arrest in the killing of a graduate student whose body was found stuffed in the wall of the research building where they both worked.

Raymond Clark III, 24, kept his head bowed during the three-minute appearance in the suffocation death of Annie Le, also 24. He didn't enter a plea and said, "Yes, your honor," when asked whether he understood his rights. The judge then set bail at $3 million and sent him to a holding cell.

New Haven Police Chief James Lewis said Le's death was a case of workplace violence and elaborated little except to say reports that the two had a romantic relationship were untrue "to my knowledge."

"It is important to note that this is not about urban crime, university crime, domestic crime but an issue of workplace violence, which is becoming a growing concern around the country," Lewis said, adding he wasn't ruling out additional charges.

Clark appeared in court with two public defenders. One of the attorneys, Joseph Lopez, said they would be handling Clark's case, which had previously been handled by a different lawyer. Lopez said he was still reviewing the case and declined to comment.

Clark was arrested earlier Thursday at a Super 8 hotel in Cromwell, about 25 miles north of the Ivy League campus, where he got a room shortly after being released from police questioning in Le's death.

Le was found dead on Sunday, her body hidden in the basement wall of a building where she worked as a medical researcher, on the day she was to marry her college sweetheart, Columbia University graduate student Jonathan Widawsky. The Connecticut medical examiner said Wednesday that Le died of "traumatic asphyxiation."

Authorities released no details on how she died, but traumatic asphyxiation could be consistent with a choke hold or some other form of pressure-induced asphyxiation caused by a hand or an object, such as a pipe.

Clark was under constant surveillance after he was released, and police spent Wednesday night and Thursday morning staking out the Super 8 hotel where Clark was staying.

Shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday, police moved closer, shutting down the highway outside the hotel and blocking the road leading into the hotel as they made the arrest. Clark was wearing a white shirt with tan stripes and tan pants as police ushered him into the back of a dark sedan with tinted windows. The car then sped off toward the highway, and arrived at the New Haven police department about an hour later.

Richard Levin, the president of Yale, released a statement shortly after the arrest, saying Clark's employment history gave no indication he was capable of such a crime.

"This incident could have happened in any city, in any university, or in any workplace. It says more about the dark side of the human soul than it does about the extent of security measures," Levin said in a message sent to the Yale community.

The family of Le's finace, Jonathan Widawsky, issued a statment on Thursday, thanking people who were involved in preparations for "a wedding that was not to be."

Clark's next court date is Oct. 6.

Written by Associated Press

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