Students express shock after grisly discovery

Police set up a one-block perimeter around 10 Amistad St. late Sunday night.  Human remains were discovered inside the laboratory building around 5 p.m. Sunday.
Police set up a one-block perimeter around 10 Amistad St. late Sunday night. Human remains were discovered inside the laboratory building around 5 p.m. Sunday. Photo by Vivian Yee.

As news spread Sunday night that a body had been found at 10 Amistad St., the Yale building where Annie Le GRD ’13 was last seen, students across campus expressed fear and uncertainty about their safety.

“It’s really sad, and it’s also really terrifying for campus mentality because it was in a Yale building,” Laura Vrana ’11 said, standing in a small group of students in the lower courtyard of Davenport College.

Grad students place flowers outside Amistad Park in honor of Annie Le GRD '13.
Grad students place flowers outside Amistad Park in honor of Annie Le GRD '13.

Le, a doctoral candidate in pharmacology, has been missing since Tuesday, when she was captured on security cameras entering the red-brick medical school building where she regularly conducted experiments. In an e-mail Sunday night to the Yale community, University President Richard Levin announced that the body of a female had been found in the building’s basement.

While the medical school campus was quiet as police established a one-block perimeter around 10 Amistad St., Levin’s message elicited shock from many students walking around central campus.

“I’m kind of creeped out because it happened probably less than half a mile from my dorm,” Zach Dean ’13 said as he left the Branford College library for his Old Campus suite.

Other undergraduates said Le’s disappearance seemed remote from central campus because it occurred at the medical school, where undergraduates rarely venture, but all students interviewed said they felt uneasy about the news that a body had been recovered.

“The med school feels distant,” Sarah Mich ’11 said. “It’s a different crowd, but if it were anywhere else on campus, it would feel different.” But, she went on, “If they don’t find anyone who did it, that will be really frightening.”

Added Kasey Garcia ’11, sitting beside Mich on a wall in one of Saybrook College’s courtyards: “It was in a Yale building. That’s what confused me the most, and that really kind of freaks me out.”

Like Garcia, Casey Blue James ’12 was most unnerved by the knowledge that the medical school building was protected by the same security swipe system used in all Yale-owned buildings — including the residential colleges, where students must use their University-issued ID cards to gain entry.

“It’s pretty terrifying knowing that in a keycard-accessed building, in broad daylight, this could happen,” James said. “It kind of makes me not want to go anywhere by myself.”

Despite the atmosphere of worry created by Levin’s e-mail, some students said they still felt safe within the confines of central campus and would not change their habits in the future — especially if the potential homicide was a premeditated act.

“I was mostly surprised because I’ve always felt perfectly safe on campus,” Christopher Ell ’12 said. “If it was a privately motivated crime, it’s not really that scary, but if it was a random act of violence, then yeah.”

The incident does not reflect the general safety of Yale’s central campus, Ell continued, though it did serve as a reminder of the hazards of a large city.

“It doesn’t make me feel less safe as a Yalie,” agreed Guillermo Peralta ’12 as he returned to his Branford College room around 10:15 p.m. alone. “This could happen on any campus.”

Meanwhile, on the otherwise quiet medical school campus, four graduate students left bouquets of carnations, roses and daisies and two burning candles by the entrance to Amistad Park, across the street from Le’s laboratory.

A prayer vigil for Le will take place in the Davenport courtyard today at 8 p.m.

Zeke Miller contributed reporting.

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