In high school, Raymond Clark III pitched for the baseball team, made the honor roll and joined the Asian Awareness Club. Friends and acquaintances from high school described him as personable — certainly not likely to be a killer.
But DNA tests linking Clark, 24, to the murder of Annie Le GRD ’13 place him at the center of a brutal homicide investigation. Clark’s arrest is expected this morning — ten days after Le was last seen entering the research facility where her body was found last Sunday, stuffed behind a wall in the basement.
Law enforcement officials named Clark a “person of interest” in the case Tuesday night, when police served one warrant to search his Middletown, Conn., residence and another warrant to take DNA samples from his body. A neighbor at Clark’s Middletown apartment complex, who declined to give her name but said she was a high school student, said Clark had lived on the first floor of 40 Ferry St. for five months with his fiancée, Jennifer Hromadka, who is also an animal lab technician at Yale.
“I once bummed a cigarette off of him,” the neighbor said. “He didn’t look like the kind of guy who would [kill someone].”
Another neighbor, Sana Cotten, said Clark was not well-known in the apartment complex but that neighbors were surprised to see him under police surveillance Monday and Tuesday.
“He was a nice guy,” Cotten said. “Nothing alarming, nothing that would make you say, ‘He’s kind of weird.’ ”
Cheryl Preneta, who lived on the same street as Clark and took the bus to school with him when the two were children, said she dropped the television remote in her hand when she heard the name of a fellow Branford High School graduate on television Tuesday night. Preneta and other Branford High friends then took to Facebook to discuss the news.
“All of us can’t believe that he was questioned,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday. “But we’re just waiting to see if the evidence points to him or not, and we’re all just hoping it doesn’t.”
Another Branford High graduate, Conor Reardon, who played on the school’s baseball team with Clark, said Clark was generally personable — he always greeted acquaintances on campus — and that he had a good sense of humor. Preneta added that Clark was “good-looking” and had a number of friends.
“There’s nothing bad about him that I could think of at all,” she said.
But Reardon acknowledged that Clark may have seemed distant and aloof to those who did not know him well. That was the opinion of Colleen Murphy, who said she was not very close with Clark and described him as quiet.
“When I would see him walking through the halls, he would look at the ground, wouldn’t really look at anyone,” she said.
All three high school acquaintances interviewed said they do not know what happened to Clark after he graduated. Even elements of Clark’s time in high school are confusing. Clark left Branford High for at least one year to attend Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford, Conn., where he also played baseball, Lyman Hall’s coach, Chuck Burghardt, said.
According to reports published in the New Haven Independent on Wednesday, Clark forced a high school girlfriend to have sex with him and “confronted” her when she wanted to break up with him. The article says she reported the incident to the police but did not press charges. The three people interviewed who were familiar with Clark during high school did not have any knowledge of this incident. The New Haven courthouse has no criminal record for Clark, and his criminal record in Connecticut is clean except for one speeding ticket.
Clark’s name surfaced in media reports Tuesday, and speculation about his potential role in the murder intensified Tuesday night, after police detained him to obtain evidence in the case. Reports brought to light a MySpace page shared by Hromadka and Clark, where more than a year ago Hromadka had denied rumors that Clark was having an affair with someone else in his lab.
Hromadka also wrote this on the Friday before Clark was detained, the New Haven Register reported: “Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I’m not perfect and I don’t live to be, but before you start pointing fingers make sure your hands are clean!!”