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Lab technician in custody in Annie Le slaying

Police seek DNA evidence connecting Raymond Clark to the Yale grad student's death. It is unclear what connection, if any, the two had.

September 16, 2009|Times Wire Services

MIDDLETOWN, CONN. — Police and FBI agents staged a dramatic raid on the home of a Yale University animal research technician Tuesday night, seeking evidence that might tie him to the slaying of graduate student Annie Le, whose body was found stuffed behind a wall in a campus research building.

No charges were filed against Raymond Clark III, 24, but police took him into custody while searching for DNA and other physical evidence. Police said Clark would be released after they obtained evidence from him and his apartment.

Clark was handcuffed and escorted out of the Middletown apartment building and into a car. Neighbors cheered as police led him away.

At an evening news conference, New Haven Police Chief James Lewis did not describe Clark as a suspect. He said police were hoping to compare DNA from Clark's hair, fingernails and saliva to more than 150 pieces of evidence collected from the crime scene. That evidence also may be compared with DNA samples given voluntarily by other people who had access to the scene.

"We're going to narrow this down," Lewis said. "We're going to do this as quickly as we can."

Police have collected more than 700 hours of videotape and sifted through computer records documenting who entered what parts of the Yale research building where Le's body was found.

Investigators began staking out Clark's home Monday, a day after they discovered Le's body hidden in the basement of the building where she worked.

Le, 24, of Placerville, Calif., was last seen on security cameras entering the building about 10 a.m. on Sept. 8. She never left.

She was to have married Columbia University graduate student Jonathan Widawsky on Sunday. Police have said he is not a suspect.

Clark shares the Middletown apartment with his girlfriend, Jennifer Hromadka, whom he is engaged to marry in December 2011, according to the couple's incomplete wedding website, the Associated Press reported. Middletown is about 20 miles north of New Haven.

Neither the couple nor Clark's parents returned telephone calls Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, sources told the Hartford Courant that Le had been asphyxiated and her body stuffed into a 2-foot-long crawl space inside the lab near Yale's medical school.

Chief State Medical Examiner Wayne F. Carver did not release the cause of death, saying he didn't want to affect the investigation.

Sources told the Courant that Clark was a "person of interest" who had worked at Yale for four years and that the killing was not random.

Investigators had searched the research building for days looking for clues as to what happened to Le.

Five days after her disappearance, a state police crime squad working with a cadaver dog discovered her body. A source told the Courant she was dressed in the same clothes she had on when she had entered the building.

A network of about 75 surveillance cameras has every door covered.

Because there is limited access to the research laboratory, investigators were able to determine who was in the building when Le disappeared. FBI agents interviewed anyone who had access to the lab and gave many of them polygraph tests. Sources told the Courant that the lab technician had failed at least one polygraph test.

Police had to remove part of the wall to get to the crawl space.

The Courant source said evidence recovered from the scene indicates that Le was killed in a different room in the basement lab and moved to a second room where the crawl space is located.

The source said only someone with intimate knowledge of the lab's layout could have accessed the crawl space. The source said droplets of blood were found in one of the lab rooms where police believe the killing took place. The blood is being analyzed at the state forensic laboratory.

When a Courant reporter knocked on Clark's apartment door Tuesday afternoon, a man inside refused to open it and said he didn't know the technician.

A person in the apartment building's leasing office said she had been instructed not to comment.

It was unclear what connection, if any, Clark had to Le other than caring for the animals, mostly mice and rats, that she used in her lab work, a source told the Courant.

Also Tuesday, the Le family issued a statement through a family friend, the Rev. Dennis Smith, thanking friends and Yale for their support and asking for privacy.

"The entire Yale community as well as our extended families and friends have been very supportive, helpful and caring," Smith said. "Our loss would have been immeasurably more difficult to cope with without their support."

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