Lab Tech Charged In Annie Le Murder; Bail Set At $3 Million

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeFamilyHotels and AccommodationsJustice SystemNew Haven (New Haven, Connecticut)Hotel and Accommodation Industry

Police arrested Raymond Clark III this morning at a motel in Cromwell and charged him with murdering Yale graduate student Annie Le, whose body was found stuffed into a 2-foot crawl space behind a wall in a Yale laboratory building on Sunday.

Cromwell and New Haven police sat quietly in the Super 8 motel parking lot on Route 372 through Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.

Around 8:25 a.m., Cromwell police blocked traffic around the motel to allow police vehicles to leave the area. A convoy of unmarked police vehicles left the motel parking lot and headed toward Interstate 91 around 8:35 a.m. he arrived at the New Haven police department around 9:10 a.m.

Clark, a Yale lab technician, had been staying at the motel since Wednesday. Late Tuesday night, police took Clark from his Middletown apartment to collect a DNA sample and released him to his attorney.

Andrew Grocki, 49, of Newington, was in the lobby of the motel to meet someone on business when he saw the team of law enforcement officers come in the rear door of the motel and go up the back stairs. An officer prevented anyone from going up the stairs, Grocki said. About 10 minutes later, they brought Clark down in handcuffs. He was wearing a striped white golf shirt.

Clark looked "just somber. Head down," Grocki said.

Four officers surrounded Clark and escorted him out a back door and into an unmarked vehicle with tinted windows.

At a press conference in New Haven, Police Chief James Lewis said an arrest warrant was signed around 8:10 a.m. for Clark. Bail was set at $3 million and the arrest warrant has been sealed, Lewis said.

He was arraigned in Superior Court in New Haven shortly after 10:30 a.m. Clark was brought in to the courtroom wearing leg shackles. He looked pale, and when Judge Jon C. Blue asked if he had been read his rights, Clark said "Yes, sir."

The bail commissioner told the judge that Clark does not have any prior criminal history, and based on that, he recommended Clark's bail be dropped to $1 million. Beth Merkin, Clark's public defender, asked the judge to adopt the bail commissioner's recommendation. She said Clark refused to answer the bail commissioner's questions about his prior criminal history under the advice of his attorney.

But Blue kept Clark's bail at $3 million, citing the serious nature of the case.

Blue then transferred the case to the Part A courtroom in New Haven, where more serious cases are heard. The case was continued to Oct. 6.

It did not appear that there were any family members -- either of Clark or Le -- in the courtroom.

At 10:40 a.m., members of the public and the media watched judicial marshals load Clark onto a prisoner van. Some jeered as the van pulled away.

Nora Stowers of New Haven watched as Clark was taken away. She said her nephew went to high school with Clark and that he was an "all-American boy," or "the boy next door."

Because the arrest warrant is sealed, Lewis said at the press conference, he could not discuss its contents. But he said police interviewed about 150 people and sifted through nearly 300 pieces of evidence.

In his request to seal the arrest warrant affidavit, New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington wrote that the investigation is continuing and that release of the documents "could be adversely affected by disclosure of the affidavit at this time."

Yale University Police Chief James Perrotti, FBI Special Agent Kim Mertz and Public Safety Commissioner John A. Danaher stood by Lewis as he spoke.

Lewis said reports that Le and Clark had a relationship are false. He also declined to answer a reporter's question about whether Clark had complained about Le's treatment of animals, which had been reported in at least one publication. Without discussing details of the warrant, Lewis have a hint about what type of crime it was.

"I think it's important to note: this is not an urban crime. It's not about university crime. It's not about domestic crime, but an issue of workplace violence, which is becoming a growing concern around the country," he said.

He and other law enforcement officials declined to define the role that DNA and a polygraph test may have played in the investigation.

However, Mertz specifically thanked the FBI polygraph unit for their work on the case.

"We will do what is necessary to bring this case to a conclusion. That is our commitment to Annie Le's family," Department of Public Safety Commissioner John A. Danaher said.

Yale President Richard C. Levin sent a statement this morning to the Yale community shortly after Clark's arrest.

"We are relieved and encouraged by this progress in the investigation, but, of course, we must resist the temptation to rush to judgment until a full and fair prosecution of this case brings a just resolution," he wrote. "As with every development in this tragic story, we think first of Annie's family, her fiancé and his family, and her friends, and our hearts go out to them.

Levin wrote that Clark has been a lab technician at Yale since December 2004.

"His supervisor reports 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.

At a press conference just before noon, Levin said he was encouraged by today's arrest, but he urged people not to rush to judgment until the case is concluded.

"It is very disturbing to think that any Yale University employee could have committed this crime," he said.

He also said that this type crime is not unique to Yale University.

"I want to emphasize that both our campus and our city are safe places. What happened here could have happened anywhere," he said.

Laura Smith, President of Local 34, a union for clerical and technical workers, said "it is our sincere hope that the perpetrator is quickly brought to justice."

The fact that the killer appeared to have targeted a woman is significant to Smith.

"It is not just a question of safety at Yale and the city. It is also a question of violence against women that is pervasive in this world," she said.

She noted that many of her union members are women.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times