Police Say Yale Murder A Case Of Workplace Violence

Raymond Clark III in courthouse i

Raymond Clark III is arraigned Thursday at Superior Court in New Haven, Conn., in connection with the murder of Yale graduate student Annie Le. He is accompanied by Assistant Public Defender Joseph Lopez (left). Douglas Healey/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Douglas Healey/AP
Raymond Clark III in courthouse

Raymond Clark III is arraigned Thursday at Superior Court in New Haven, Conn., in connection with the murder of Yale graduate student Annie Le. He is accompanied by Assistant Public Defender Joseph Lopez (left).

Douglas Healey/AP

Connecticut police appeared to focus on a workplace dispute as the motive in the murder of a Yale University graduate student, characterizing the case as "workplace violence."

University laboratory technician Raymond Clark III, 24, was charged with murder in the death of Annie Le early Thursday. During the brief proceeding, he kept his head bowed and spoke only once — when the judge asked if he understood his rights.

"Yes, your honor," he said.

Clark did not enter a plea and is being held on $3 million bail.

Le had been missing for five days when her body was found Sunday inside a crawl space in the basement of the building where she worked as a medical researcher. Clark worked in the same building.

Yale graduate student Annie Le i

Yale graduate student Annie Le disappeared on Sept. 8. The Connecticut medical examiner says Le, found dead in her lab building, was suffocated. New Haven Police Dept./AP hide caption

itoggle caption New Haven Police Dept./AP
Yale graduate student Annie Le

Yale graduate student Annie Le disappeared on Sept. 8. The Connecticut medical examiner says Le, found dead in her lab building, was suffocated.

New Haven Police Dept./AP

"It is important to note that this is not about urban crime, university crime, domestic crime — but an issue of workplace violence, which is becoming a growing concern around the country," said New Haven police Chief James Lewis. He did not elaborate.

Yale University President Richard Levin said Clark had been employed in the lab since December 2004 and was never reported to be involved in any violent incidents.

"His supervisor reports that nothing in the history of his employment at the University gave an indication that his involvement in such a crime might be possible," Levin said.

Police had been waiting outside the Super 8 motel in Cromwell, about 25 miles north of the Ivy League campus, where Clark got a room shortly after police questioned him about Le's death.

Shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday, they shut down the highway outside the motel and blocked the road leading into the driveway. Clark was ushered outside by police and put into the back of a dark sedan with tinted windows. The car then sped toward the highway and arrived at the New Haven police department about an hour later.

The Rev. Dennis Smith, a spokesman for the Le family, said on NBC's Today show Thursday that an arrest would help give the family closure.

"It's such a terrible thing to have lost Annie as they have and not know who did it. That adds to the grief," he said.

Le's body was found on the day she was to marry her college sweetheart, Columbia University graduate student Jonathan Widawsky. The Connecticut medical examiner said Wednesday that Le died of "traumatic asphyxiation."

FBI spokeswoman Kim Mertz said the bureau's polygraph and behavioral analysis units assisted in the case, but she refused to say what the units did.

Clark was the only person named publicly by New Haven police as "a person of interest" in the case. Authorities served four search warrants this week to obtain DNA samples for comparison with evidence collected at the crime scene and from his Middletown, Conn., apartment.

Clark's job as an animal services technician at Yale put him in contact with Le, who worked for a Yale laboratory that conducted experiments on mice. She was part of a research team headed by her faculty adviser, Anton Bennett, that focused on enzyme research that could have implications in cancer, diabetes and muscular dystrophy. Members of the team have declined to comment on the case or their work.

As a technician at Yale, Clark helped clean the cages of research animals used by labs and had other janitorial duties, police said. The technicians help tend to rodents, mostly mice, used in experiments and can help with paperwork. Clark, his fiancee, his sister and his brother-in-law all work for Yale as animal lab technicians.

From reports by member station WSHU in Fairfield, Conn., NPR and wires

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