Search continues for missing student

Investigators searched the dumpster behind 10 Amistad St., Annie Le’s GRD ’13 last known location, on Thursday afternoon in search of clues regarding the missing graduate student’s whereabouts.
Investigators searched the dumpster behind 10 Amistad St., Annie Le’s GRD ’13 last known location, on Thursday afternoon in search of clues regarding the missing graduate student’s whereabouts. Photo by Grant Smith.

After a full day of work, authorities have no good news to report in the search for Annie Le GRD ’13.

Investigators interviewed Le’s friends and colleagues Thursday and continued to search the research facility at 10 Amistad St. where she was last seen Tuesday morning. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were seen entering her apartment at 188 Lawrence St. at about 1 p.m.; after two hours of searching, they removed a bag of items from the house. Still, University and law enforcement officials said there were no major developments yesterday and that they will continue searching Friday.

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“We are responding to this at this point as if it could be any kind of bad situation,” University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said in an interview. “You don’t just not go home for a couple of days.”

The 24-year-old Le, who is studying for a doctorate in pharmacology and molecular medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, is scheduled to be married Sunday to Jonathan Widawsky, a graduate student at Columbia University who attended the University of Rochester with her. Lorimer said Thursday that Widawsky is cooperating with investigators and that “there’s not a worry about” his possible involvement in the disappearance.

Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said Le’s mother has also been helpful to the investigation, which is being led by the Yale Police Department with assistance from the FBI, Connecticut State Police and New Haven Police Department. Neither Widawsky nor Le’s parents have spoken publicly about Le’s disappearance.

Lorimer said officials continue to examine every frame of security tape footage from the Amistad Street building but have not yet found any evidence that Le left that facility after she entered at about 10 a.m. Tuesday. Cameras cover every exit of the building, Highsmith said.

While police said Le entered the facility wearing a lime green shirt, Highsmith said it is possible that she changed clothes or put on a white lab coat while in the building. If she did, investigators will have an even harder time identifying her in the footage.

A fire alarm that was sounded at 12:40 p.m. Tuesday is not thought to be related to her disappearance, Highsmith said. She added that a malfunctioning smoke detector caused the alarm and that investigators do not believe anyone tampered with the fire system.

Just outside the Amistad Street building on Thursday night, a team of investigators wearing yellow protective suits searched trash dumpsters for evidence related to the disappearance, though the search did not seem to reveal any information. Another team of investigators from the FBI searched inside the building Thursday, following a Wednesday night search by Yale police and security officers.

Bloodhounds from the Connecticut State Police were also on the scene for most of the day, though officers said they will have a more difficult time picking up scents of Le as time passes. One officer added that it may be impossible for the dogs to do their work after 72 hours have passed from the time when Le went missing.

Le’s roommate was the first to notify authorities of Le’s disappearance Tuesday night. Yale Police Chief James Perrotti said in an interview that the YPD began investigating between 9 and 10 p.m., immediately after they learned that Le was missing, and quickly learned that Le had left all her belongings in her Sterling Hall of Medicine office early Tuesday before she walked three blocks to the facility at 10 Amistad St. where she often conducted research. Police began interviewing friends and colleagues of Le late Tuesday and continued that work on Wednesday and Thursday.

The University did not, however, send an e-mail to the entire campus until 10:42 a.m. Thursday, though media outlets were informed of the disappearance on Wednesday afternoon. Perrotti said there was a delay in alerting the media and the community because the police “do get reports of missing persons, and most of the time, through our investigation, we are able to figure out where the person is.”

University President Richard Levin added in a telephone interview Thursday night that while Yale students have gone missing before, “fortunately it has in most cases turned out to be a student simply voluntarily leaving without giving notice to people. Every time it happens, we take it with the utmost seriousness.”

Electronic billboards across Interstates 91 and 95 will display a photo of Le in the coming days and will ask motorists with information to contact the FBI. As of Thursday, police said they still have no suspects and no evidence of foul play in her disappearance.

Anyone with information pertaining to Le’s disappearance is asked to call the FBI tip line at 1-877-503-1950.

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