Lab tech accused of killing Le

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - As FBI agents and Yale University police combed the basement of a laboratory building for missing bride-to-be Annie Le, the man accused of killing her moved among them in an apparent effort to cover his tracks, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said.

That behavior aroused suspicions about Raymond Clark III, but the final piece that led to his arrest Thursday was the discovery that evidence in the ceiling and in the crawl space where Le's body was found contained the DNA from both Le and Clark, according to the law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

Clark, 24, was arrested at a Super 8 Motel in Cromwell and charged with murder.

Sources familiar with the investigation said it was a combination of analyzing computer records of security cards that showed Clark was the last person to see Le alive, his failed polygraph, scratches on his body, and his attempts to clean up the crime scene and the DNA match in two places that led to his arrest.

Police believe that Le fought for her life.

Investigators found a single bead from a necklace she was wearing in the lab area where she was last seen. They also found tiny blood droplets in that area.

Clark also had scratches and bruises on his arms and back. When he was interviewed by FBI agents, Clark said the scratches were cuts from a cat and from playing softball.

The sources said authorities are investigating whether Clark got some of them when he allegedly stuffed Le's body into the crawl space where she was found five days after she disappeared.

Computer record of his movements between laboratories using his swipe card show he left the building several times and also moved between several rooms, including some that he had no reason to be in, a source said.

Late Tuesday night, police searched Clark's Middletown apartment and collected hair, fingernail and saliva samples from him. Clark cooperated and was released to his attorney.

Sources said Clark did not give a statement to police. Clark maintained that same silence when a bail commissioner tried to interview him before his arraignment Thursday in Superior Court in New Haven.

Judicial marshals led a leg-shackled Clark, who was wearing a striped polo shirt and tan pants, into the courtroom filled with journalists. Neither Le's family nor members of Clark's family appeared to be in the gallery.

The muscular Clark, a former high school athlete, looked pale and said, "Yes sir," softly when Judge Jon C. Blue asked if he had been read his rights.

Blue set Clark's bail at $3 million, citing the serious nature of the case.

Investigators are still trying to nail down a motive for the attack, sources said.

Those same sources said police are looking into whether a work dispute may have sparked the attack on Le, whose body was found Sunday -- the day she was supposed to be married.

The state medical examiner said Le died of traumatic asphyxiation due to neck compression.

ABC News, citing sources, reported Thursday that Clark, an animal laboratory technician, had sent a text message to Le on Sept. 8 -- hours before she was reported missing -- requesting a meeting to discuss the cleanliness of cages of research animals.

The Associated Press, also citing sources, reported Thursday that Clark was described as a "control freak" who often clashed with researchers and viewed the laboratory and its mice as his territory.

New Haven Police Chief James Lewis did not offer a possible motive for the killing but said in a news conference what the crime was not.

"This is not about urban crime. It's not about university crime. It's not about domestic crime, but an issue of workplace violence," Lewis said.

He said reports that Le and Clark had a romantic relationship are false. He also declined to answer a reporter's question about whether Clark had complained about Le's treatment of animals.

Students and staff who worked at the expansive Yale Animal Resources Center said the building appeared to be very secure.

"It's a fairly isolated place," said Amy Yuan, 21, a student who conducts research in a lab that connects with the one in which Le and Clark worked. "I thought it was the safest place you could be. You need security to get into the building, into the research labs, in the elevator to get into the basement, and swipe again to get into the animal facilities."

Yuan said that when she would spend hours working in the basement's animal facilities on weekends, she rarely saw other people there.

News of Clark's arrest allayed much of the anxiety that had settled over the university following Le's disappearance. "I don't feel unsafe," said Marcus Parrish, a university senior studying biomedical engineering. The incident was "completely work-based and could have happened anywhere."

Clark has been a lab technician at Yale since December 2004, Levin said.

"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.

News of Clark's arrest surprised those who knew him growing up. Conor Reardon, 23, who played baseball with Clark on the Branford High School team, recalled that Clark was shy on the outside but had an energetic personality and could throw a mean knuckle ball.

"He had a borderline manic sense of humor," said Reardon, who now lives in Bridgeport. "If you were sitting in the front of the bus on the way back from a game we had won, for the whole ride you'd hear Ray's high-pitched laugh coming from the back of the bus."

"I guess the mystery to me is, what happened to him between then and last week?" Reardon said.

The family of Le's fiance, Jonathan Widawsky, issued a statement Thursday, thanking people who were involved in preparations for "a wedding that was not to be."

"We share in the grief of the family of Annie Le and are, collectively, doing our best to deal with our tragic loss," said the family's statement. "Annie will live in our hearts forever."

Los Angeles Times staff writers My-Thuan Tran and Kate Linthicum in Los Angeles contributed to this report. Kate Kraft contributed reporting from New Haven.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

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