News | 1:33 pm | November 13, 2009 | By Vivian Yee

As investigation unfolded, suspicion of Clark grew

New Haven Police Chief James Lewis announces Clark's arrest at a press conference on Sept. 17, just as police detained the murder suspect at a Cromwell, Conn., motel.
New Haven Police Chief James Lewis announces Clark's arrest at a press conference on Sept. 17, just as police detained the murder suspect at a Cromwell, Conn., motel. Photo by Vivian Yee.

The arrest warrant for Raymond Clark III released this morning makes public, for the first time, the details of how authorities came to suspect Clark in the murder of Annie Le GRD ’13 — and reconstructs Clark’s activities the day Le disappeared and the days after.

Clark was arrested Sept. 17, nine days after Le was first reported missing and five days after her body was found in a wall cavity in the basement of 10 Amistad St., the research building where both Le and Clark worked. As investigators searched the building, combed through electronic key card swipe records and watched video surveillance footage, they uncovered a trail of DNA evidence that pointed to the animal laboratory technician. And repeated encounters with Clark himself only fueled their suspicions.

Clark has yet to enter a plea.

Though police began interviewing Le’s family, friends and colleagues soon after her roommate, Natalie Powers, reported her missing on the evening of Sept. 8, nothing appeared to involve Clark until Sept. 10. That day, pharmacology postdoctoral fellow Rachel Roth, who worked with Le, approached Yale Police Officer Sabrina Wood, showing her a box of Wipe-All hygienic wipes with what appeared to be splattered blood sitting on a steel pushcart in one of the laboratory rooms Le had worked in G13, prompting Wood to call FBI agents to the scene.

As she waited for the FBI to arrive, Wood watched Clark come in and leave G13 “several” times, according to the affidavit. He walked over to the pushcart and shifted the box from one side of the cart to the other, turning it so the spatter faced away from Wood, then leaned on the cart as he made small talk with the officer. Later that day, Clark began scrubbing a drain in G13, even though Wood said it did not appear to need cleaning.

There were other encounters between investigators and Clark, too: Clark came up to Yale Police Officer Jennifer Garcia on Sept. 10, according to the affidavit, and volunteered information, saying he had known Le. Clark told Garcia he had seen Le working in G13 at about 10:30 a.m. the morning of Sept. 8 and later saw her leaving the building at 12:30 p.m. But video surveillance records did not show Le leaving 10 Amistad at any time after she entered it that day.

As part of a series of interviews with Le’s co-workers, investigators spoke to Clark on Sept. 10 and learned that he had been assigned to take care of the animals in three laboratory rooms, including G13, on the day of Le’s disappearance. The two had known each other for at least four months, he told FBI agents, but never socialized or saw each another outside of work. During the interview, agents also asked Clark about scratches on his face and upper left arm, which he said had come from a cat.

And while the FBI asked the public for information about Le’s disappearance, displaying Le’s photograph on billboards and setting up a tipline, other FBI team members were gathering objects from the building and Le’s home. They would eventually amass a collection of about 250 pieces of evidence, including the box of Wipe-Alls and an extra-large lab coat with red stains found in a recycling bin in 10 Amistad. DNA on the box and lab coat matched the DNA on toitletries taken from Le’s house — and lab testing also revealed DNA on the lab coat from an unknown male.

Even as police collected bloody evidence, they insisted that there was no evidence of foul play and no suspects. But when Connecticut major crime squad investigators turned up bloody clothing during a search of the basement of 10 Amistad on Sept. 12, police officers confirmed that they now considered the building a crime scene. The items found included a rubber glove, a white sock, a pair of Vikings-brand work boots labeled “Ray-C” on the back, and one blue short-sleeved hospital scrub shirt, all stained with what appeared to be blood. Through chemical analysis, investigators found blood-like stains and spray patterns that had been cleaned off the walls of G22 and G13, later confirmed to be blood.

The next day, an odor “similar to that of a decomposing body” struck investigators inspecting the locker room in the basement of 10 Amistad, according to the warrant. Cadaver dogs were brought to the scene and immediately detected a decomposing body. Shortly after 5 p.m., investigators found Le’s body concealed in a wall behind the toilet in a mechanical chase. She was wearing surgical gloves with her left thumb exposed, with several items surrounding her body in the wall cavity, including a green-inked pen, a stained lab coat and a sock — one that matched the blood-stained sock found the day before.

On Sept. 15, police obtained a search and seizure warrant to collect mouth swabs, body hair, fingerprints and fingernail clippings from Clark. DNA tests showed that stains on the sock had a mixture of Le’s and Clark’s DNA, while the pen contained Le’s blood but Clark’s DNA inside the pen cap and on the barrel. Over the next few days, more hair fibers and blood stains turned up in various lab rooms.

FBI agents conducted a detailed examination of when and where Clark’s security keycard was used in the building before and on Sept. 8, finding a flurry of activity. While he used the keycard to access G22 three times and once to access G13 in the 12 days between Aug. 27 and Sept. 8, he used it 11 times to open G22 and five times for G13 on Sept. 8. Clark apparently moved between rooms a total of 55 times between 10:40 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. on the day Le disappeared. Investigators also found that Clark’s keycard was the only one used to access G22 — where the traces of blood had been found on the walls ­— after Le swiped into 10 Amistad that morning.

The warrant, submitted with the affidavit, was signed by a judge, and Clark was arrested at a Cromwell, Conn., motel in the early morning of Sept. 17.

Comments
  • Y10

    so guilty. so f’ing guilty.

  • Anonymous

    Great reporting on the details of this investigation. Thanks

  • Helen Li

    A well-thought-out piece of clear, precise, and thorough-going reporting. The most heartbreaking piece of information is that Annie was still wearing surgical gloves. The girl was working hard in the the remaining minutes of her young life, no doubt putting in extra hours before her dream Greek-Islands honeymoon. Another detail is that one of her thumbs was exposed, indicating some tear during a struggle. Annie was fighting with her last breaths like a lioness. What a brave, brave kid! No wonder her beloved brother Christopher said that though tiny in stature, she had a “seven feet personality.”

    The web of cold, deliberate deceit and cruelty spunned is a truly soul-destroying account of “evil that men do” It is total contempt for the victim, arrogance, and utter callousness and selfishness writ large. Some had said that the suspect regarded the laboratory as his “fiefdom.” How a twenty-four year old could develop such a proprietory and controlling attitude in a Yale Laboratory without the indulgence and support of those family members who worked there with him for almost five years I cannot imagine. And they knew about the suspect’s history of violence against women and must have been aware of his bullying and angry demeanour on duty. Somebody must answer for that lunatic arrangement by the Human Resource Department!