Murder of Annie Le
|Murder of Annie Le|
Images from missing person flier released by New Haven police. Right: 8 September 2009 surveillance image taken upon Le's entrance of research facility where she worked. Left: Undated and uncredited closeup of Le also on flier
|Location||10 Amistad Street
New Haven, Connecticut
|Date||Tuesday, September 8, 2009|
|Attack type||Strangulation homicide|
|Perpetrator||Raymond J. Clark III|
The murder of Annie Le occurred September 8, 2009, on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Annie Marie Le (July 3, 1985 – September 8, 2009), was a 24-year-old Vietnamese American doctoral student at the Yale School of Medicine's Department of Pharmacology, was last seen in a research building on the New Haven campus on September 8. On September 13, the day she was to be married, she was found dead inside the building. While the details of the condition of Le's body were initially suppressed by law enforcement, it was eventually revealed that she was found inside a wall cavity in the basement of the Yale laboratory; she was placed into the wall upside down and her bra was pushed upwards towards her head, and her panties were pulled down around her ankles. It was also determined that among other injuries, her jaw and one collar bone had been broken before her death. On September 17, police arrested a suspect, Raymond J. Clark, III, a Yale lab technician who worked in the building. Clark pleaded guilty to the murder on March 17, 2011. Clark was sentenced to 44 years imprisonment on June 3. The case generated frenetic media coverage, with a news producer trampled in a rush to a briefing.
Disappearance and death
On the morning of September 8, Le left her apartment and took Yale Transit to the Sterling Hall of Medicine on the Yale campus. At about 10:00 a.m., she walked from Sterling Hall to another campus building at 10 Amistad Street, where her research laboratory was located. Le had left her purse, cell phone, credit cards, and cash in her office at Sterling Hall. She entered the Amistad Street building just after 10:00 a.m., as documented on footage from the building's security cameras. Le was never seen leaving the building. At approximately 9:00 p.m. on the evening of September 8, when Le had still not returned to her home, one of her five housemates called police to report her missing.
Because they were puzzled that security camera footage did not show Le exiting the building at Amistad Street, police closed the whole building for investigation. Police also searched through refuse at the Hartford dump, where Yale's garbage is incinerated, looking for clues as to Le's whereabouts. The FBI, the New Haven Police Department and the Connecticut State Police were all involved in the search. On Sunday, September 13, her planned wedding date, authorities discovered Le's body inside the wall of a basement laboratory in the Amistad Street building. Bloody clothes had previously been found above a ceiling tile in the same building. The building and the area are monitored by about 75 security cameras and the entrance to the building and the rooms inside the building require Yale ID cards in order to be opened and accessed. The basement where Le's body was found houses animals (mostly mice) that are used for experiments and research. Due to the high security measures in the building, authorities and Yale officials maintained that it would be extremely difficult for someone without a Yale identification card to enter the basement laboratory where Le's body was discovered, leading them to focus their investigation on Yale employees and students.
The Connecticut medical examiner's autopsy found that Le's death was due to "traumatic asphyxia due to neck compression". On September 17 police arrested Raymond Clark, a 26-year-old lab technician who had been working in the building when Le disappeared. The previous day he had been taken into custody after police had obtained a warrant to collect DNA samples from him; he had been released after providing a sample.
News of the tragedy went worldwide, and expressions of sympathy were common, culminating in memorials held in New York and California, and the live broadcast of Annie Le's funeral on the internet. The Yale community also publicly mourned Le's death. The Yale Daily News reported that professor and Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis called September 14 the "saddest day to open class" since the day after September 11, 2001.
|Born||Annie Marie Le
July 3, 1985
San Jose, California
|Died||September 8, 2009
New Haven, Connecticut
|Cause of death||Traumatic asphyxia due to neck compression|
|Body discovered||September 13, 2009|
|Residence||New Haven, Connecticut|
|Education||Yale University (Ph.D. student in Pharmacology)|
|Alma mater||Union Mine High School
University of Rochester
|Known for||Murder victim|
|Home town||Placerville, California|
|Height||4 ft 11 in (1.50 m)|
|Weight||90 lb (41 kg)|
Le was born in San Jose, California, to a Vietnamese American family. She spent her childhood with her aunt and uncle. Le was valedictorian of her graduating class at Union Mine High School, and voted one of two students to be "the next Einstein." After earning approximately $160,000 in scholarship money, she attended and graduated from University of Rochester. Her major was cell developmental biology, with a minor in medical anthropology. Le was then accepted into a graduate program at Yale that would have led to her earning a doctorate in pharmacology. Her research had applications in the treatment of diabetes and certain forms of cancers. She was due to be married on September 13, 2009, in Syosset, New York, to Jonathan Widawsky, a graduate student in applied physics and mathematics at Columbia University.
In the wake of Le's disappearance and the discovery of her body, and the sympathy and outrage over the crime going worldwide, there was a backlash in some circles to the extensive media coverage, and while most acknowledged the crime was especially heart breaking, some questioned whether the level of interest was warranted.
Some commentators have suggested that the attention given by the media was inappropriately disproportionate to that given to other murder victims. Slate contributor Jack Shafer opined that "Journalists almost everywhere observe this rough rule of thumb: Three murders at a Midwestern college equal one murder at Harvard or Yale." The non-profit organization change.org criticized the media for providing so much coverage of the Le murder while nearly ignoring a murder of a college student in Dallas. Connecticut Post columnist MariAn Gail Brown argued that there is a "pecking order" in the investigation of crimes, and that Le's murder attracted media attention because she was "an Ivy Leaguer. Translation: Someone who might earn beaucoup bucks. Someone who possesses sky's-the-limit potential. Vivacious and attractive, too."
After his arrest, Clark was held at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, a maximum security prison, on $3 million bail. He appeared in Connecticut State Superior Court on October 6, 2009, but did not then enter a plea to the charges. His hearing was delayed until January 26, 2010, since not all of the materials in the case had been made available to lawyers. Clark initially pleaded not guilty on January 26. His pretrial hearing was scheduled for March 3, 2010, in New Haven. and pretrial evidence processing was scheduled for July 26. In October 2010, Clark's case was continued, and another hearing was scheduled for February 9, 2011. In March 2011, Clark entered a guilty plea in Le's murder, in exchange for a 44-year prison term. On an additional charge of an attempted sexual assault of Le, he entered an Alford plea, a guilty plea that does not admit the facts but concedes the sufficiency of the evidence against him. Clark officially entered the pleas on March 17, and he was formally sentenced to 44 years' imprisonment on June 3. While Clark expressed great remorse at his sentencing, he offered no explanation for the attack and no motive was ever given.
Clark is currently serving his sentence at the Cheshire Correctional Institution as inmate #371189, and is scheduled for release on September 16, 2053.
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