March 17 (Bloomberg) -- Former Yale University laboratory worker Raymond Clark pleaded guilty to murdering 24-year-old graduate student Annie Le days before she was to be married.
Clark entered his plea today before Connecticut Superior Court Judge Roland Fasano in New Haven. He had pleaded not guilty to murder charges in January last year.
Clark, 26, was arrested in September 2009 and has been held on $3 million bail. He was accused of strangling Le, a pharmacology student, five days before her Sept. 13, 2009, wedding. Clark cleaned mouse cages in the Yale lab building where her body was found.
Clark pleaded guilty to one count of murder and one count of attempted sexual assault. Prosecutors said Clark agreed to a plea deal of 44 years in prison. Sentencing was tentatively scheduled for May 20.
Prosecutor David Strollo said that when Le’s body was found, her bra was pushed up toward her head and her panties pushed down to her feet. He also said Clark was found, while in custody after his arrest, with two notes in his sock reaching out to people for an alibi.
The notes “clearly show a consciousness of guilty action,” Strollo told the court today.
Le’s body was discovered hidden behind a wall in the basement of the Yale School of Medicine research lab at 10 Amistad Street in New Haven the day she was to be married. The Office of Connecticut’s Chief Medical Examiner said Le died of “traumatic asphyxiation due to neck compression.”
Clark’s arrest affidavit showed that before his arrest, police had found at the crime scene a green-ink pen and a blood-stained sock with both Clark’s and Le’s DNA on them.
Investigators found Le’s e-mail address in a locker marked “Ray” in the lab building where they both worked, according to search warrants unsealed in December 2009.
Yale University Police Officer Sabrina Wood observed Clark in the lab acting suspiciously two days after Le’s death, attempting to conceal a blood-spattered box of wipes, according to the arrest affidavit by New Haven Detective Scott Branfuhr. The box was on a steel cart in the last room Le logged into with her security card. The spatter matched her DNA, according to the affidavit.
Le, a Vietnamese-American who was studying for a doctorate, was from Placerville, California, according to a September 2009 Yale University statement. She graduated from the University of Rochester in New York, where she met her fiance, Jonathan Widawsky, the university said.
‘Put in Jail’
“The most important thing is that the family see Raymond Clark put in jail for his adult life,” Joe Tacopina, a lawyer for Le’s mother and Le’s estate, said outside the courthouse after the proceeding.
“After the sentencing we may determine who else may be held accountable," he added. He said he hasn’t filed a civil suit yet.
Clark’s father, Raymond Clark II, also spoke today outside the courthouse.
‘‘We are proud of Ray for taking responsibility for his actions and pleading guilty,” he said. “I want you to know that Ray has expressed extreme remorse from the very beginning.”
“My family and I extend our deepest sympathy to the Le family,” the elder Clark said.
Clark was suspended from his job when he was arrested, Yale University President Richard Levin said in a 2009 statement.
The case is State v. Clark, CR09-97102-T, Connecticut Superior Court (New Haven).
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