Animal lab technician Raymond Clark III pleaded guilty Thursday to the 2009 slaying of Yale University student and bride-to-be Annie Le, averting what was expected to be a high-profile trial.
Clark, whose father said he was burdened by a tortured heart, pleaded guilty to murder and criminal attempt to commit sexual assault.
As part of a plea deal, Clark, 26, will be sentenced to 44 years in prison, a prosecutor said. Clark is tentatively scheduled to be sentenced May 20.
Prosecutor David Strollo said Le’s family was notified about plea negotiations throughout the process. Some of them agreed with the sentence, though some wanted more prison time, he said.
The sexual assault plea was entered under the Alford doctrine, meaning Clark does not admit guilt but acknowledges that there is probably enough evidence to convict him.
Clark had pleaded not guilty to murder and felony murder, but this week his lawyers said he would change his plea as part of a deal. Clark told the judge he entered the guilty pleas voluntarily and quietly answered “yes, sir” to a series of questions.
Le, 24, a third-year doctoral student in pharmacology from Placerville, Calif., was reported missing Sept. 8, 2009. For days, local and state investigators and the FBI searched the basement of the Yale Animal Research Center, a building at the Yale School of Medicine complex where Le was last seen alive. Clark worked at the center, and Le did research there.
Police found Le’s body stuffed inside a wall at the center on Sept. 13, 2009, the day she was to be married. Le had been strangled and her jaw and collarbone were broken. Strollo said Clark’s semen was found on Le’s undergarments.
Outside the courthouse, Clark’s father, Raymond Clark Jr., offered his sympathy to the Le family and read from a statement, saying his family was “proud of Ray for taking responsibility for his actions in pleading guilty.”
He added that his son had “expressed extreme remorse from the very beginning. I can’t tell you how many times he sobbed uncontrollably, telling me how sorry he is, telling me how his heart is tortured by the reality that he caused the death of Annie.”
The lawyer for Le’s parents, Joe Tacopina, said justice had been served. He said Le’s mother had not attended the hearing because details of the crime would be recounted. The parents agreed with the deal, he said, and emphasized that it was important that Clark pleaded to sexual assault in addition to murder.