Reporting Fran Schneidau
NEW HAVEN, CT (CBSNewYork/AP) - A former animal research technician was sentenced Friday to 44 years in prison for killing a Yale graduate student whose body was found stuffed in a wall of a research lab on what was to be her wedding day in 2009.
Raymond Clark III, 26, apologized in New Haven Superior Court for the killing of 24-year-old Annie Le. He was accused of strangling Le, of Placerville, Calif., whose body was found upside down behind the wall on Sept. 13, 2009, five days after she was last seen inside the Yale medical building.
“Annie was and will always be a wonderful person, by far a better person that I will ever be in my life,” Clark said. “I am sorry I lied. I am sorry I ruined lives and I am sorry for taking Annie Le’s life.”
The apparent understatement of it all left mother Vivian Le speechless outside court.
“While he continued appearing remorseful, he didn’t provide an answer to why he did what he did,” Le family lawyer Joseph Tacopina said.
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Judge Roland Fasano told Clark that he’d snuffed out the life of a promising young woman and destroyed the lives of two families.
Le’s mother, Vivian Le, tearfully described her loss in a statement to the court.
“She was about to start her life as a young bride. 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,” she said. “I always see my Annie in my dreams.”
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Clark had 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.
“The family probably could not have endured a long trial, with the details that would have come out,” family friend Mary Nguyen told CBS 2′s Lou Young. “I think, for the most part, the family is satisfied it doesn’t have to be exposed more than it is.”
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 noted that the victim was 4 feet 9 inches tall and weighed 89 pounds, while Clark was 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds.
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. Investigators say Clark tried to hide a box of cleaning wipes that later was found to have traces of Le’s blood.
Clark previously had been charged with murder and felony murder, each carrying a possible sentence of 25 to 60 years.
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.
“Society has lost a brilliant woman,” Vivian Le said. “My family has lost a beautiful soul.”
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.
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