NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP/WCBS 880) — A former animal research technician pleaded guilty Thursday in the 2009 killing of a Yale University graduate student under an agreement with prosecutors that calls for a 44-year sentence.
Raymond Clark III, 26, was accused of strangling 24-year-old Annie Le, of Placerville, Calif., in a case that drew intense national media attention to the Ivy League university.
WCBS 880’s Fran Schneidau reports the evidence overwhelmingly pointed to guilty
Le’s body was found stuffed behind a research lab wall on Sept. 13, 2009, five days after she was last seen inside the Yale medical building. It would have been her wedding day in New York.
Clark pleaded guilty to murder and attempted sexual assault. His plea on the attempted sexual assault charge came under Connecticut’s Alford doctrine, in which the defendant in a criminal case agrees only that the state has enough evidence against him or her to get a conviction. The plea will be entered into his record as a conviction.
A prosecutor said Thursday that Le had a broken collar bone and jaw, injuries suffered while she was alive, and that her underwear had been disarranged.
He also cited DNA evidence in the case, including a green-ink pen under Le’s body that had her blood and Clark’s DNA. Police have said Clark signed into the secure building with a green pen the day Le disappeared. DNA from Le and Clark also was on a bloody sock found hidden in a ceiling.
Le’s family had suspected all along that the motive for the attack was sexual in nature, said their attorney, Joe Tacopina.
He said the family was satisfied with the plea agreement and that justice had been served. The victim’s mother did not attend the hearing, he said, because it would have been painful to hear details of the crime.
‘Every day has been a tough day,” Tacopina said.
Clark’s father, Raymond Clark Jr., said that his son has repeatedly expressed remorse.
“I can’t tell you how many times he’s 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,” Clark told reporters outside the courthouse.
He said his son is a kind and gentle person who dearly loved his fiancee, who was among the spectators in the courtroom. He said it has been difficult to accept that his son is capable of murder, but he is proud of him for taking responsibility and pleading guilty.
He also extended sympathy to the victim’s family.
“We are truly sorry for their loss and wish them the strength to survive this horrible ordeal,” Clark said.
Clark had been charged with murder and felony murder, each carrying a possible sentence of 25 to 60 years.
Court papers describe a bloody crime scene and Clark’s efforts to scrub floors. Investigators say Clark tried to hide a box of cleaning wipes that later was found to have traces of Le’s blood.
Clark had a scratch on his face and left arm that he said came from a cat, investigators said.
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 for her academic success, sense of humor, ambition, love for shoe-shopping and love for her fiance, Jonathan Widawsky.
A sentencing hearing for Clark was scheduled for May 20.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)