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.

Comments

  • M

    Coming from a city with a the homicide rate is 1 per day, the discovery of a body inside a key-card only access building actually makes me feel more safe than less safe. This is because it suggests that this incident was not a random act of violence (it rarely ever is). In fact, this incident has led me to believe we may have more to fear from the yalies than from the “townies”. The fear that is being directed towards New Haven proper is classicism and racism pure and simple.

  • GRD ’09

    I know it was a story about reactions, but I was struck by the way everyone described this tragedy in terms of how it related to them – “It’s not far from my dorm,” “I feel perfectly safe.” How about, “I’m shocked that such a horrible thing happened,” or “I feel horrible for her family”?

  • correction

    vigil moved to cross campus.

  • Anonymous

    Knowing that she was majoring in pharmacology and doing experiments made me wonder if any of her experiments involved human subjects…and if so, if there are any implications of those experiments on this case.

  • anonymous

    why are all the interviews with undergrads and not med and grad students?

  • AS ’89

    “If it was a privately motivated crime, it’s not really that scary, but if it was a random act of violence, then yeah.”

    I don’t understand this statement. How is it less scary if it a ‘privately motivated’ crime? What if someone unconnected with this ‘private motivation’ had happened upon the crime in progress (or if that’s what happened)?

    My deepest condolences to Le, her family, and her friends.

  • Hieronymus

    @#2. Understand completely – and glad someone else noticed. Even this candlelight vigil: who is this for? You think G-d needs y’all to “see and be seen” in order to hear a prayer? Prolly not.

    Me. Me. Meeeeee.

  • shocked

    I’m shocked by the fact that this crime happened DURING THE DAY while so many security measures are in place. Shocked that it took 5 days to find the body. Shocked that there are no suspects, while such a wealth of information is available to the investigators (i.e. the 75 cameras, swipe card data, eye witnesses). I really hope that the New Haven police who will now be conducting the investigation don’t screw up even more. What is truly scary is that the perpetrator must have had a connection to Yale, be it a student or employee.

  • James C.

    If you are planning to kill Annie L., would you plan to do it in such a controlled, video-taped environment? Or if your some random predator, like all predators, you choose easy victims. You would not commit your random act, and you would not wait for the opportunity to do so, in a such a secured setting.

    Therefore, most likely this was a crime of passion committed in the heat of the moment by somone who knew Annie L. well enough to become obsessed with her in some way. (perhaps professional jealously?, unrequited love?, obsessed aquaintence?

    The murderer knew her and probably from scholl or the lab. If it were a freind or family member from outside the Yale community, they would have shown up as being out of place in the video footage in and around 10 Amistad. Most likely someone who also had access to the lab…..

  • thecaptainslady

    GRD’s comment (#2) about the apparent self-protective reaction of many students raises an important issue. There is a mingling here of grief and fear. And I would guess that for people who are geographically near the epicenter of the crime, fear might well overtake grief. It is a normal human reaction, and probably one that invades not through personal choice.

    Writing from a distance, and with no personal connection to Yale, I feel substantial grief for Annie, Jon, and their families. However, if my son or daughter were a student at Yale, my grief would be mingled with fear. There would be a nagging sense of loss of personal control, angst full-blown.

    It is the responsibility of Yale administrators to help students work their way through this maze of competing and negative emotions. A great start would be to beef up security, and to do it in a visible way. Let students know that you care about their safety. Perhaps new ID cards should be issued to everyone who uses one, with corresponding changes in the entry systems. Maybe the requirement of a password should be added to the swipe, the way a bank card works. I would hope that students are encouraged to report lost or stolen cards.

    My honest feeling, though, is that the murder of Annie Le was an inside job. Time will tell. The whole thing is so sad, not only for the people who knew and loved Annie, but for everybody at Yale. It will take awhile for people to work through this horrible event. Be patient. Don’t hold back feelings. Talk about it, but not all the time. If possible, get off campus, go to a scenic place. Read a good book. Go out with friends. Don’t feel guilty about having a good time.

  • oldyalie

    #6 The vigil is for her family, of course. If it can be even a tiny degree of comfort to her family to know that hundreds, I hope thousands, of people come out to honor Annie, it should be done.

  • MC

    Rumor has it that the LE has a Yale student, as a suspect, who failed a lie detector and appeared to have injuries.

  • @ 2 and 6

    I agree with your observation, but I think this reflects more on the way this particular article was spun than the true feelings of the Yale community.

    I was actually asked to comment for this article, and while my comments were not quoted, I expressed that my heart went out to the family and all who knew Annie. I expect many others said similar things, though the authors must have chosen to placed emphasis more on the personal safety side of things.

    I don’t think it is fair to judge the Yale communities attitude based off of selected comments in one article.

    Finally, as for the vigil, while G-d certainly doesn’t need everyone to “‘see and be seen’ in order to hear a prayer”, there is something pure in a community coming together in solidarity to recognize the loss of one of our own. If nothing else, hopefully it is a sign for the family that this community will support them in whatever way it can…

  • responses

    To #2, I agree – But as long as the article is mostly framed around people’s perception of their safety, quotes were chosen to create a story about that. You can’t blame people who provided these statements.

    #5, I think here again the point is made from the perspective of campus safety. That this is a premeditated, privately motivated act is not less scary in general but it is less scary from the perspective of people being afraid to walk around.

  • arg

    “Coming from a city with a the homicide rate is 1 per day, the discovery of a body inside a key-card only access building actually makes me feel more safe than less safe.”
    Well, it doesn’t make me feel more safe AT ALL. I have always been disgusted by the hate and fear that is directed against the citizens of New Haven from Yalies… and also always figured that if anyone was going to hurt me, it’s more likely to be someone Yale affiliated than a random stranger. So I don’t feel more “safe” per se, but instead more creeped out by my own late hours alone in academic buildings, which are REQUIRED by my department.

    “This is because it suggests that this incident was not a random act of violence (it rarely ever is). In fact, this incident has led me to believe we may have more to fear from the yalies than from the “townies”. The fear that is being directed towards New Haven proper is classicism and racism pure and simple.”

    But, THIS. Exactly.

    We should be sending condolences to her family and friends, and grieving for our fellow student. There is no reason to use our grief/fear/etc. as an excuse to demonize the people of New Haven. To do so dishonors the memory of this poor girl. Some of the racist, classist comments I have read on other news articles make me ill.

  • Just Me

    I read earlier in a different story on National News that there was a suspect who had been interviewed by police, and this person had “defensive wounds” and had failed a polygraph? Is this correct? Why isn’t there more coverage on this person, if so? For the sake of Ms. Le’s family and friends I pray that there is closure to this horrible crime very quickly. They are all in my prayers.

  • Alum

    In response to one of the above comments, the candlelight vigil IS of great value if it (in part) addresses what is really fundamental here – that this is another horrible example of on-campus violence specifically committed against women. The perpetrator (most likely a male) almost surely did not attack Ms. Le randomly. Once the facts are known, there needs to be renewed attention at Yale and on other campuses about how women can better protect themselves against such terror. Specific issues would be to recognize when one is being “stalked,” pathologically possessive behavior demonstrated by male classmates or coworkers, escalation of problematic content in emails and text messages, etc., and who to alert when these things are happening. This may be an isolated incident at Yale, but it sadly happens every day in this country, and too many women do not know where to turn when the warning signs of such a tragedy like this are there.

  • alum

    I agree with #1 and #14.

    New Haven is actually one of the safest cities in the entire United States (and therefore the world), if you use standard Census Bureau definitions of what a city is (i.e., a metro area within a certain radius and population density, rather than a political jurisdiction, as the latter is not comparable from city to city).

  • Response

    I think the murderer took advantage of her small physical size (4 feet 11 inches). The basement is obviously a creepy place. I think the murderer intentionally created enough steam to trigger the fire alarm and then moved the body from one place to the walls in the basement during fire evacuation. The murderer might think that no one would be accessing the basement for around 10 minutes or so until the fire department cleared the alarm. So from the time the fire alarm went off to the time the fire department crews came, the murderer might have transported her body to the walls. Maybe the murderer is a sexual predator.

    Annie was wearing skirts that day. It’s just not safe to walk around in a creepy and quiet basement with skirts.

    It’s good that the basement has card key access. The police can identify who was in the basement when Annie entered the basement.

    And finally, the murderer should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!!! Destroying the life of an innocent Ph.D student deserves no parole whatsoever!!!

  • A girl from AZ

    #19 has the same thought as i. I figured her death occured during the fire alarm, what better way to rid witnesses than by an alarm. Its depressing to know someones hard work, time, and money is all to waste. Dont they have key logs on doors to tell a computer data base so-n-so’s swiped card here here n here? I wish her family well. And her husband to be, i cant imagine his loss, i hope he can cope. Cause i know id go crazy.

  • Lufthansa

    What a sad story… But comment # 18 puzzles me, “New Haven is actually one of the safest cities in the entire United States (and therefore the world)”. What do you mean by this? Have you ever been outside your town/village? There are a lot of safer countries in the world than the US. For instance, most European cities have no “no go” areas.

  • M.A.G.

    I believe the reason this case is getting so much attention is that universities, especially private, elite, super-famous universities, are largely considered to be safe, insulated enclaves full of quiet academics–not sites of shocking anonymous violence.

    As a graduate of Duke University, I am all too familiar with an antagonistic college vs. city environment (New Haven is to Yale what Durham is to Duke. I agree that this event should not be used as an excuse to demonize the non-affiliated city residents as newly threatening to the college community. It very much appears to be an “inside job” and I imagine it will reveal itself as such. Still, I understand that the bursting of that safety bubble that seems to surround a college campus must be traumatic to the the students, in and of itself. I’m surprised so many students were quoted as feeling no change in their relative safety.

    I do have a major issue with one posting:

    From #19:

    “Annie was wearing skirts that day. It’s just not safe to walk around in a creepy and quiet basement with skirts.”

    A small observation: unless you’ve actually been in that specific building, how do you know whether it can be classified as “creepy and quiet”? A finished basement can be as welcoming as a space on any floor and I think tossing this away as some spooky scene is a little too crime-drama facile.

    And the larger issue, from your off-handed remark: it’s not safe to wear “skirts”???!!! Open-toed shoes or maybe highly flammable clothing in a lab environment–I could see that as unsafe, since students are working with chemicals and animals. But “skirts”?? What the hell? If this is a jab at the supposed work-inappropriate “sexiness” that is associated with some women’s clothing (and I imagine it is), then your logic comes from the same vein as “she deserved it–look at what she was wearing” for rape victims. Next you’ll be saying that a petite woman should not be allowed to work in a co-ed environment, as it’s surely an unsafe breeding ground for male advances and/or murder. In your view, the only women who would be safe in this building are burka-wearing Amazonians with Uzis. I guess we’ve regressed…how many decades? in the women’s movement.

    I am almost as shocked by this disgusting, unevolved, sexist comment as I am by this entire tragedy.