UPDATED: 2:05 p.m. At 11:30 a.m. Thursday morning — just over 18 months after Annie Le GRD ’13 was found dead on the day she was to be married — Raymond Clark III pled guilty to her murder.
Clark, who was an animal technician in the same Yale building where Le worked, also pled guilty to criminal attempt to commit sexual assault, which for the first time reveals a possible motive for why he killed Le. Previously, Yale administrators had just called the murder a result of “workplace violence.”
At the hearing Connecticut Superior Court Judge Roland Fasano recommended a sentence of 44 years in prison for Clark. Although Connecticut sentencing guidelines say Clark can get anywhere from 25 to 80 years in prison for the crimes, the current recommendation was reached through a deal with the defense and prosecutors.
“Given the nature of the evidence that the state had, I think 44 years was his best option,” said Beth Merkin, one of Clark’s defense attorneys. “I think, had he gone to trial, we would have seen a much worse outcome.”
At the hearing, prosecutor David Strollo listed the extensive DNA, keycard, finger print and video evidence the state had against Clark. Strollo also revealed that Le’s body was found upside down, partially decomposed inside the wall with her jaw and collarbone broken.
According to Strollo, when Le was found her bra was pushed up and her panties were by her ankles. Seminal fluid was also found on her panty liner, but there was not enough to test if the DNA matched Clark’s. Other semen found on the scene matched Clark’s, he said.
As part of the guilty plea process, Strollo was required to list charge-substantiating details on the record. Although many of the facts had been released in reports (see here and here), some were made public for the first time.
Clark pled guilty to the charge of attempt to commit sexual assault under the Alford Doctrine which means he did not admit guilt, but acknowledges the state had enough evidence to convict him if the case went to trial.
“Sexual assault was always part of the evidence, and we were aware that the state would have added that charge, maybe some other charges as well,” Merkin said. “But for a variety of reasons we did not release this information before today.”
Le’s family was not present but Strollo said they planned to be present at sentencing. Strollo said that Le’s parents were satisfied with the recommended sentence but other family members thought Clark deserved more time.
Clark, who was wearing a blue button-down shirt and black pants, did not speak except to plead guilty and answer “yes” and “no” to the judge’s questions.
Clark’s father, mother, and fiancée, Jennifer Hromadka, were all present in the courtroom. After the hearing, Clark’s father, Raymond Clark II, read a statement to the press outside the courthouse.
“My family and I extend our deepest sympathy to the Le family,” he said. “I want you to know that Ray has expressed extreme remorse from the beginning. I can’t tell you how many times he sobbed uncontrollably, telling me how sorry he is.”
“Our hearts are broken,” he continued. “It doesn’t make any sense to us. This is not the Ray we know.”
Yale released a statement following the hearing which expressed relief that Le’s family did not have to go through any difficulties that a trial may have presented.
“We hope today’s guilty plea and the sentence that will follow will help bring closure to them and to all in the Yale community who suffered by her senseless killing,” the Office of Public Affairs release said.
Clark had previously pled not guilty in January 2010. His final sentence will be announced at a court date tentatively scheduled for May 20, but Merkin said Clark will definitely receive the recommended sentence of 44 years.
Grace Patuwo contributed reporting.