Yale lab technician sentenced in killing of graduate student

By John Christoffersen
Associated Press / June 4, 2011

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NEW HAVEN — A former animal research technician was sentenced yesterday to 44 years in prison for killing a Yale University graduate student days before her wedding in 2009.

Before the sentence, anguished relatives described how plans to celebrate her marriage suddenly turned to unimaginable grief as they returned home with her body in a coffin.

Raymond Clark III, 26, apologized in New Haven Superior Court for strangling Annie Le, 24, of Placerville, Calif. Her body was found upside down, stuffed in a wall of a research lab, on Sept. 13, 2009, her wedding day and five days after she was last seen in the Yale medical building.

“Annie was and will always be a wonderful person, by far a better person than I will ever be in my life,’’ Clark said. “I’m sorry I lied. I’m sorry I ruined lives, and I’m sorry for taking Annie Le’s life.’’

Judge Roland Fasano told Clark that he’d killed a promising young woman and virtually destroyed the lives of two families.

Le’s relatives repeatedly sobbed as they described how what was supposed to be a joyous wedding turned suddenly into mourning the loss of a woman whose research included finding new treatments for chronic diseases.

Clark, whose fiancée attended the hearing, wiped away tears as they spoke.

“She was about to start her life as a young bride,’’ said Le’s mother, Vivian. “She told me many times how happy she was to start her family. I will never see her walking down the aisle. I will never hold my grandchildren. I will never see Annie’s dreams come true.’’

“I only see my Annie in my dreams,’’ she added.

Le’s brother, Chris, said his life was going smoothly until his sister was killed.

“I was in school; now I’m not,’’ he said. “I never had a DUI; now I do. I never found solace in experimenting with drugs; I did in my darkest moments. I never had to see a psychologist, but I do that now.’’

Chris Le said questions such as why his sister was killed “have tortured my soul.’’

Clark offered no explanation. His father, Raymond Clark Jr., said the family was shocked.

“I know that we will never understand, as I know Ray does not understand, how this could have happened,’’ Clark’s father said.

One of Le’s relatives said Clark should have received a life sentence. Some spoke of eventual forgiveness if Clark showed genuine remorse.

Clark pleaded guilty in March to murder and attempted sexual assault under an agreement with prosecutors.

The sexual assault plea was entered under Connecticut’s Alford doctrine, where the defendant doesn’t agree to the facts but agrees the state has enough evidence to get a conviction.

A prosecutor said at the time that there was evidence that Clark tried after the killing to generate an alibi, scrub the crime scene, and even fish out evidence from behind the wall. He said Le had broken bones and that her underwear had been disarranged.

He also cited DNA evidence including Clark’s semen and a pen under Le’s body that had her blood and Clark’s DNA. Court papers describe a bloody crime scene and Clark’s efforts to scrub floors.

Le was a doctoral pharmacology student who worked on a team that experimented on mice as part of research into enzymes that could have implications for treatment of cancer, diabetes, and muscular dystrophy.

At her memorial service, family and friends remembered herfor her academic success, sense of humor, ambition, and love for shoe-shopping and for her fiancé, Jonathan Widawsky.