Murder of Annie Le

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Murder of Annie Le
Le missing person flier crop.jpg
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
Location10 Amistad Street
New Haven, Connecticut
DateSeptember 8, 2009
Attack type
Strangulation homicide
VictimAnnie Le
PerpetratorRaymond J. Clark III[1]

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 doctoral student at the Yale School of Medicine's Department of Pharmacology. She 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.[2]

On September 17, police arrested a suspect, Raymond J. Clark III, a Yale laboratory technician who worked in the building.[1][3] Clark pleaded guilty to the murder on March 17, 2011.[4] Clark was sentenced to 44 years imprisonment on June 3.[5] The case generated frenetic media coverage, with a news producer trampled in a rush to a briefing.[6]

Disappearance and death[edit]

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 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 a.m., as documented on footage from the building's security cameras. Le was never seen leaving the building. At approximately 9 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 the security 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 in a cable chase inside the wall of a basement laboratory in the Amistad Street building.[7] Bloody clothes had previously been found above a ceiling tile in the same building.[8] 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 identification cards to be opened and accessed. The basement where Le's body was found houses animals 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 ID card to enter the basement laboratory where Le's body was discovered, leading them to focus their investigation on Yale employees and students.[9]

The Connecticut medical examiner's autopsy found that Le's death was due to "traumatic asphyxia due to neck compression".[3] On September 17 police arrested Raymond Clark, a 24-year-old laboratory technician who had been working in the building when Le disappeared.[3] The previous day he was taken into custody after police obtained a warrant to collect DNA samples from him; he was released after providing a sample.[3]

Memorials were held in Huntington, New York and California, and the funeral was broadcast live 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 the 9/11 attacks.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Annie Le
Annie Marie Le

(1985-07-03)July 3, 1985
DiedSeptember 8, 2009(2009-09-08) (aged 24)
Cause of deathTraumatic asphyxia due to neck compression
Body discoveredSeptember 13, 2009
ResidenceNew Haven, Connecticut
CitizenshipUnited States
EducationYale University (Ph.D. student in Pharmacology)
Alma materUnion Mine High School
University of Rochester
Known forMurder victim
Home townPlacerville, California[citation needed]
Height4 ft 11 in (1.50 m)
Weight90 lb (41 kg)[11]

Le was born in San Jose, California, to a Vietnamese-American family. She spent her childhood with her aunt and uncle.[12] 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 the University of Rochester in New York.[13] Her major was cell developmental biology, with a minor in medical anthropology.[14] 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 cancer. 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.[15][16]

Le had previously written an article for Yale Medical School's B Magazine titled "Crime and Safety in New Haven," published in February 2009.[17][18]

Media coverage[edit]

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 heartbreaking, 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.[19] 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."[20] 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."[21]


After his arrest, Clark was held on $3 million bail at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in Suffield, Connecticut. He appeared in Connecticut State Superior Court on October 6, 2009, but did not then enter a plea to the charges.[22] His hearing was delayed until January 26, 2010, since not all of the materials in the case had been made available to lawyers.[23] Clark initially pleaded not guilty on January 26.[24] His pretrial hearing was scheduled for March 3, 2010, in New Haven,[25] and pretrial evidence processing was scheduled for July 26.[26] In October 2010, Clark's case was continued, and another hearing was scheduled for February 9, 2011.[27] 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.[28][29] Clark officially entered the pleas on March 17, and he was formally sentenced to 44 years' imprisonment on June 3.[5] While Clark expressed great remorse at his sentencing, he offered no explanation for the attack and no motive was given.

Clark is serving his sentence at the Cheshire Correctional Institution as inmate #371189, and is scheduled for release on September 16, 2053.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Arnsdorf, Issac; Korn, Harrison; Miller, Zeke; Needham, Paul (September 17, 2009). "Clark Charged in Le Grd '13 Murder". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
  2. ^ "Clues point to inside job in Yale killing". MSNBC. September 14, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-14.
  3. ^ a b c d "Yale lab worker arrested in student's killing, police say". CNN. September 17, 2009. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  4. ^ News, A. B. C. (2011-03-17). "Clark Pleads Guilty to Murder of Yale Student". ABC News. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  5. ^ a b "Former Yale Lab Technician Gets 44 Years for Killing Student". Fox News. June 3, 2011.
  6. ^ Bass, Paul (15 September 2009). "NBC Producer Trampled At Annie Le "Briefing"". New Haven Independent. Retrieved 17 September 2009.
  7. ^ Amy Herman, Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), p. 118. Herman noted that the FBI discovered the body not through visual clues but from the smell of Le's decomposing body which had been detected not at the supposed crime scene but in the men's bathroom.
  8. ^ "Yale student's killing 'completely senseless,' roommate says". CNN. September 14, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
  9. ^ Korn, Harrison; Needham, Paul (September 14, 2009). "Body Identified as Annie Le Grd '13". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
  10. ^ Arnsdorf, Isaac (September 14, 2009). "Gaddis: Saddest day to hold class since day after 9/11". Yale Daily News. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  11. ^ Dethy, Florence; Korn, Harrison; Needham, Paul; Ross, Colin (September 10, 2009). "GRADUATE STUDENT GOES MISSING". Yale Daily News. Archived from the original on September 22, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-21. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  12. ^ Cô gái gốc Việt thông minh và hài hước trong mắt bạn bè. VnExpress (2009-09-15). Retrieved on 2010-12-27.
  13. ^ "University Community Mourns Alumna's Death". 2009-09-15.
  14. ^ "Yale Student Vanishes Days Before Wedding". WFSB. September 10, 2009. Archived from the original on September 14, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-21. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  15. ^ Latha Venkataraman. (1999-02-22). Retrieved on 2010-12-27.
  16. ^ Hamill, Kristen; McLaughlin, Eliott C. (2009-09-10). "Police: Yale student, reportedly bride-to-be, disappears". CNN. Retrieved 2009-09-14.
  17. ^ Crapanzano, Christina; Leinwand, Donna (September 14, 2009). "Official: Person of interest identified in Yale homicide". USA Today.
  18. ^ Le, Annie (February 2009). "Crime and Safety in New Haven" (PDF). B Magazine. Yale University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-09-15. Retrieved 2009-09-15.
  19. ^ Chick, Kristen (2009-09-18). "Media frenzy over Yale murder draws criticism". Christian Science Monitor Global News Blog. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  20. ^ Shafer, Jack (2009-09-17). "Murder Draped in Ivy: Why the press can't get enough of Harvard or Yale murders". Slate. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  21. ^ Brown, MariAn Gail (2009-09-14). "On the edge of Yale, murder's not a new story". Connecticut Post. Retrieved 2010-09-13.
  22. ^ Kovaleski, Serge (2009-10-06). "Yale Killing Suspect Appears in Court". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-22.
  23. ^ Zuckerman, Esther (2009-12-21). "Clark hearing put off until January". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2009-12-22.
  24. ^ "Suspect in Yale killing pleads not guilty". CNN. January 26, 2010. Retrieved January 26, 2010.
  25. ^ Pending Criminal / Motor Vehicle – Search by Defendant, State of Connecticut Judicial Branch
  26. ^ "Family Stands By Annie Le Murder Suspect". New Haven Independent. June 16, 2010. Retrieved June 18, 2010.
  27. ^ "Yale killing suspect due back in court". Hartford Courant. February 6, 2011. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  28. ^ "Yale lab tech faces sentencing for killing student". New Haven, Conn. Associated Press. June 3, 2011. Retrieved June 3, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  29. ^ Raymond Clark expected to plead guilty in slaying of Yale's Annie Le -
  30. ^ Department of Correction Inmate Information Search

External links[edit]