By DAVE ALTIMARI, ALAINE GRIFFIN And JOSH KOVNER
The Hartford Courant
12:22 PM EDT, September 17, 2009
Computer records show that lab technician Raymond Clark III, who was charged today with the murder of Yale graduate student Annie Le, was the last person to see her alive, a law-enforcement source told The Courant on Wednesday.
Investigators traced Le's and Clark's movements through their computerized swipe cards, said the source, who is familiar with the investigation. Le entered the Yale laboratory at 10 Amistad St. at about 10 a.m. on Sept. 8. She passed through a basement lab area moments later. Then she swiped her way into a separate room of that lab.
Clark entered that same room a short time later, the source said, citing the computer records. Le was never seen again and her card was never used again.
Clark had moved around the laboratory area quite a bit that day, including entering rooms that he normally would not expected to be in, the source said.
Clark also swiped into another area — the place where Le's body was eventually found after five days, stuffed into a 2-foot crawl space behind a wall.
The pattern of movements captured by the computer records are the reason authorities focused almost immediately on Clark, 24, the source said.
The chief state medical examiner ruled Wednesday that Le, 24, who was pursuing a doctoral degree, died of traumatic asphyxiation by neck compression.
When Clark was initially interviewed by federal agents shortly after Le was reported missing, he acknowledged seeing Le in the laboratory, the source said. He then was asked to take a polygraph test, which he failed, sources said.
Federal authorities also issued polygraph tests to anyone who had access to the laboratories, including Clark's girlfriend, Jennifer Hromadka, who is also a animal lab technician. She passed her polygraph test, the source said.
Le's devastated family, speaking through a pastor, expressed gratitude to the law offices and the Yale community, including a Vietnamese student association, for their response to the tragedy. Scooped up at his Middletown apartment by a squadron of police officers armed with search warrants, Clark was released from custody Wednesday after giving police a DNA sample.
Investigators will compare it to 150 items of evidence found in and around Le's makeshift tomb in the wall of the laboratory basement.
Police have already served four search warrants in the case, three in search of evidence at Clark's Middletown home and in his car and another on Clark's body. Those search warrants have been sealed from public view, according to prosecutors.
Though Clark was cooperative while in police custody, the chief said Clark invoked his right not to speak to police.
The public defender's office in New Haven, which traditionally does not get involved in criminal cases until arrests, is also consulting on the case, sources said.
Law officers and the media are delving deep into Clark's life, and part of a portrait is emerging.
Clark, a 2004 graduate of Branford High School, belonged to three clubs, according to his yearbook; one that focused on Asian culture, another that drew attention to the plight of the homeless, and a third that stressed charity.
In the group picture of the Asian Awareness Club, he is standing, bespectacled, his hair short and combed back, next to a female Asian student. The group cooked authentic Asian dinners, and on Jan. 22, 2004, visited New York's Chinatown to participate in New Year festivities.
Homicide investigators working the Le case have obtained a police report indicating Clark's ex-girlfriend at the high school had trouble with Clark after breaking up with him. She went to Branford police with her concerns. Clark was not charged in the case and has no criminal history, save for a traffic ticket.
Police on Tuesday night served warrants for Clark's person and for Apt. 1A at 40 Ferry St. in Middletown. Clark shares the apartment with his girlfriend.
Clark moved to Middletown from New Haven six months ago, where he shared an apartment with Hromadka and three cats, according to former neighbor Taylor Goodwin, 16.
Clark worked as an animal technician for the expansive Yale Animal Resources Center, which "provides for the daily care of all animals used in research at Yale (95 percent of which are rodents)," according to Yale University's website.
The center, which is accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, coordinates the procurement of research animals, houses animals at multiple sites around the campus, and offers various scientific services to researchers, including breeding, tissue collection and analysis, animal restraint during experimentation and euthanasia.
Five days after Le's disappearance, members of the state police crime squad, with the assistance of a cadaver dog, discovered her fully clothed body in the research building at 10 Amistad St. She was wearing the same clothes seen in a video of her entering the building last week, a source said.
Police had to remove part of the wall in a laboratory to get access to the crawl space. The source said that evidence recovered from the crime scene indicated that Le was killed in a different room in the basement and then moved to the room that has the crawl space.
The source said that only someone with intimate knowledge of the layout of the laboratory would have been able to access the crawl space.
The source said that tiny droplets of blood were found in one of the laboratory rooms where police now believe that the slaying took place. The blood is being analyzed at the state forensic laboratory. Authorities also are trying to determine if Le was sexually assaulted.
Investigators didn't lock down the building until the weekend, meaning that people walked around and possibly through the potential crime scene for four days.
Investigators had attempted to bring a cadaver dog into the building earlier in the week, but because of the large number of animals in the laboratory, the dogs were unable to do a thorough search.
Le, from Placerville, Calif., was to have been married last Sunday in Syosset, N.Y., to Jonathan Widawsky, a graduate student at Columbia University in New York. Police have said that he is not a suspect and is helping with the investigation.
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