Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sentencing set in killing of Yale grad student

NEW HAVEN, CONN. Raymond Clark III, the lab technician who pleaded guilty to killing Yale University graduate student Annie Le in September 2009, is expected to be sentenced to 44 years in prison in Superior Court on Friday.

Several members of Le's family are scheduled to travel from Le's home state of California for the sentencing, Senior Assistant State's Attorney David Strollo said Wednesday. It was unclear which family members planned to speak at the hearing.
Le was beaten, strangled and stuffed into a wall of a Yale University research center. In March, Clark pleaded guilty to Le's murder and a charge presented for the first time at the plea hearing - criminal attempt to commit first-degree sexual assault - suggesting for the first time a possible motive for the crime.

The guilty plea to the charge of criminal attempt to commit sexual assault was entered under the Alford doctrine, meaning that Clark did not admit guilt but conceded that there was probably enough evidence to convict him at trial. Clark previously faced charges of murder and felony murder.

The plea deal averted what was expected to be a dramatic and widely publicized trial.
Prosecutors have said the evidence against Clark was voluminous, including thousands of pages of police reports, hundreds of pieces of evidence, and more than 1,000 photographs. Documents show police linked Clark to the killing through DNA, fingerprints, key card tracking of Clark's movements in the Yale building, video, other physical evidence, and statements that Clark made to police.

Le was last seen alive the morning of Sept. 8, 2009, entering the Yale Animal Research Center, a state-of-the-art secure research building at the Yale School of Medicine complex. Le, 24, a third-year doctoral student in pharmacology from Placerville, Calif., did research at the center. Clark took care of the lab animals there.

After Le's roommate reported her missing, authorities searched for Le for five days, mostly focusing their search on the research building. At one point, authorities suspected Le might be a runaway bride because she disappeared days before she was to be married.

Police found Le's partly decomposed body on Sept. 13, 2009, inside a building wall, covered in insulation. Her bra was pushed up toward her head. Her panties were pulled down to her feet. Surgical gloves covered her hands, although her left thumb was exposed. Her jaw and collarbone were broken while she was still alive, prosecutors said.

Evidence found above a hallway drop ceiling outside the lab helped police link Clark to Le's murder. There, they found a bloodstained rubber glove and a sock. That evidence was collected along with blood-covered work boots labeled "Ray-C," a blue hospital scrub similar to a shirt that Clark was seen wearing in video surveillance, and other items.
Detectives also found three key items inside the space where Clark hid Le's body: a green-ink pen, a bloodstained lab coat, and a sock similar to the one found in the hallway drop ceiling.

Police later searched Clark's Middletown apartment and took samples from him in an effort to obtain his DNA.

According to Clark's arrest warrant affidavit, police got the DNA match they needed to make an arrest. On the green-ink pen, investigators found a bloodstain that contained Le's DNA, and they found Clark's DNA on the pen's cap.

The affidavit says a stain on the sock found above the ceiling tile contained "a mixture of both Raymond Clark's DNA and the victim's DNA."

On a wall in a room where Le did research, stains that matched Clark's DNA were from seminal fluid. "Seminal fluid protein" was found in a panty liner on Le's underwear but "there was not enough of a sample" to do any further DNA testing, prosecutors said.
Scrub pants found on a loading dock contained DNA from both Le and Clark and "also contained the defendant's spermatozoa," Strollo said at the plea hearing.

But at that hearing, as prosecutors outlined their case against Clark, both Clark and his defense attorneys shook their heads in apparent disagreement with some of what was said by the prosecution.

Later, Beth A. Merkin, senior assistant public defender ,said the facts read by the prosecutor were "for the most part" accurate.

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