Investigators in the murder of Annie Le GRD ’13 are now seeking a DNA sample from the fiancée of suspect Raymond Clark III, her attorney said Wednesday night.
The attorney, Robert Berke, said he was told in September that his client, Jennifer Hromadka, was not a suspect, adding that it is unclear why authorities now want her DNA. He added that investigators wanted to interview Hromadka shortly after Le’s murder but did not. Berke declined further comment, except to say that Hromadka has not been arrested.
A representative of the FBI who was involved in the Le investigation said the agency is not involved in requesting the DNA. Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance would not confirm whether investigators are seeking the sample. But he added that the New Haven Police Department is in charge of the investigation and that “there will be further details from the prosecutor.”
Both New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington and New Haven Police Department spokesman Joseph Avery declined to comment Wednesday night.
According to search and seizure documents released Wednesday, surveillance videos from the day Le disappeared show Hromadka meeting Clark shortly after he left 10 Amistad St., the Yale laboratory where Le’s body was found five days later. After sitting at a table on the corner of Congress Avenue and Cedar Street, Clark entered a nearby café and left a few minutes later with Hromadka, also a Yale lab technician, and an unidentified woman. The three left for Clark’s apartment in a 1999 red Ford Taurus. Police later searched the Taurus and found parts of the car stained with blood.
SEARCHING FOR CLUES
Police investigators may ask someone who is not a suspect to provide DNA for a variety of reasons, five forensics experts said Wednesday, such as to eliminate the person as a suspect or to investigate the possibility that there is another victim, the experts said.
It is standard procedure for police to gather DNA samples from people who may have had access to the crime scene, said Donald Schuessler, an Oregon-based physical evidence consultant. Since Hromadka worked in 10 Amistad St. along with Clark and Le, police may simply need to determine when and where she was at the time of the murder, he said.
Another possibility is that the police may need DNA evidence to eliminate possible suspects, said Joseph Bono, president-elect of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He said the police may have identified an unknown sample of DNA in Clark’s home or on evidence obtained from the crime scene.
“It may be from the fiancée, perhaps because of intimate relations, and [the police] need to eliminate that piece of evidence,” said Thomas Bohan, the Academy’s current president.
A third but distant possibility, said Adam Dutra, a member of the San Diego Police Department and president-elect of the California Association of Criminalists, is that there may be a second, unknown victim. In order for police to get a complete picture of what occurred at a crime scene, they sometimes need to gather DNA from all possible persons who may have been there at the time of the crime, he explained.
Hromadka is still employed at Yale and had returned to work as of Nov. 4, Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel said at the time. University spokesman Tom Conroy did not return a request for comment on Hromadka’s current employment status Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, Clark’s job as animal lab technician has been suspended.
‘IN PLAIN VIEW’
The court documents released Wednesday, about 80 pages of search and seizure warrants, repeat information already presented in Clark’s arrest warrant, which was released Nov. 13. But the newly revealed documents also provide some previously undisclosed details about how police searched 10 Amistad St., as well as Clark’s Middletown, Conn., apartment and car. According to the records, police also gathered evidence after Clark’s Sept. 17 arrest, seizing his cell phone records.
Police found blood stains “in plain view” on the kitchen floor in Clark’s apartment, according to the warrants. Authorities also discovered a pair of bloody white Converse sneakers, stained hospital scrubs and a dark garbage bag in Clark’s red 2000 Ford Mustang, according to the warrants. In Clark’s apartment, police seized numerous items of clothing and a bait box containing fishing supplies. The warrants offer no explanation for the seizure of the bait box.
Though video surveillance showed Clark wearing a black jacket with white stripes, a black T-shirt and jeans on the day of Le’s disappearance, police were unable to find any of these items of clothing.
FBI agents subpoenaed cell phone records from Clark’s Blackberry as early as Sept. 12, before Le’s body was found, the warrants show. Police seized the phone at the beginning of October. The warrant does not reveal whom Clark called on the phone.
From Sept. 20 to 22, night sanitation workers at 10 Amistad St. found rags, tweezers, scissors and a screwdriver, among other items, deliberately placed in a clogged drain pipe, according to the documents.
NO MOTIVE YET
The released documents, which contain 23 redacted sections, do not provide any indication of a motive.
“To my knowledge there is no motive given as the materials are now,” Beth Merkin, one of Clark’s defense attorneys, said Wednesday.
Clark’s relationship with Le remains unclear, though there is evidence of e-mail contact between the two co-workers. Her e-mail address was found inside a locker labeled “RAY” in the basement of 10 Amistad St., the documents show.
Clark was arrested Sept. 17 and charged with Le’s murder. He is due back in court Dec. 21 for a hearing on whether the state has enough evidence to prosecute him. He has yet to enter a plea.
According to state law, as long as there is enough evidence to prove that Clark intended to kill Le, prosecutors do not need to establish motive. John Waddock, the state prosecutor handling Clark’s case, declined to comment on the search warrants. Merkin said the release of the documents does not affect how the defense will handle the case.
Clark is being held at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Conn., on $3 million bond.
Nora Caplan-Bricker, Konrad Coutinho, Christian Eubank and Sanjena Sathian contributed reporting.