Friday, September 18, 2009

Annie Le and Raymond Clark

Annie Le's homicide makes me very worried. If a vivacious, bright woman's life can be cast aside so easily and so brutally, whom among us can really feel safe? (It doesn't help that I have a small sister who spends some time in an East Coast lab doing research.  Like Ms. Le, she was also born in the Bay Area.)

As much as I am saddened by Ms. Le's death, I disagree with the rush to judgment against the alleged perpetrator, Raymond Clark III. We already have a media story titled, "Picture emerges of Yale suspect as controlling." Other news reports refer to him as a "control freak."

On what facts does the media base this subjective slant? Apparently, Clark got upset if lab workers wouldn't wear shoe covers, presumably because he had to clean up after them. Other news reports mentioned issues with girls...when the 24 years-old Clark was in high school.

I don't know Clark. I don't know if he's guilty or not. I just know I am upset at the media's rush to judgment based on such flimsy facts/hearsay. In this country, the accused are innocent until proven guilty. It sickens me to think that we might be crucifying a young man's reputation because he ticked off a few employees in a lab.

Surprisingly, the media reports haven't bothered to explain some obvious irregularities. For example, why was Clark living in a Super 8 motel? All the news articles talk about Super 8. If he's a lab tech with a girlfriend (Jennifer Hromadka), why is he living in a Super 8 hotel? Is Yale using the Super 8 as temporary housing for lab techs? Seems like a simple issue to clarify, no?

Also, I hope New Haven officials quit calling the homicide "workplace violence." When I think of workplace violence, I think of laid-off employees shooting their bosses in a murderous rampage. Choking someone to death and then putting her in a small, hidden crawl space seems too pre-meditated to be deemed "workplace violence." It also doesn't seem anything like an ordinary workplace shooting, even if it is just as heinous. By the way, did the murderer not think anyone would eventually notice Le missing, especially with an upcoming wedding date? Did he presume that everyone would assume they were dealing with a runaway bride?

In any case, here's why I think the case isn't completely cut-and-dry, despite the DNA evidence. Apparently, Clark worked as a lab tech since 2004. He must have known about the card system and the video cameras, which record everyone going in and out of the building. Therefore, he would have known that nothing would show Le walking out of the building, meaning the "runaway bride" theory wouldn't work. The cameras and card check system seem like something only an idiot would overlook, and I presume you don't get to work at Yale if you're stupid.

In the end, I'm perturbed, because the crime scene seems unnecessarily violent and sloppy, but at the same time, the murderer hid the body so well, the police were stumped for several days. Perhaps Clark snapped and went after Le for some perceived slight, or he was madly jealous of her. But if he snapped suddenly, would he really think about the hidden crawl space so quickly after the murder? I don't think people walk around with back-up plans about where to hide a body "just in case." The subsequent action of hiding Le in a hidden crawl space seems to require a ready knowledge of the blueprints for the building or at least some very quick thinking post-murder.

Also, I'm sorry to suggest these things, but there must have been a large suitcase or some large bags in the building. Le's murderer could have put Le in a large bag, even if it was just a garbage bag, and then removed her from the building. (What idiot leaves a decomposing body in a place where the smell would eventually tip everyone off?)  If the murderer intended to take the body out sometime, why not just do it right then and there or soon thereafter? He had from Wednesday until Friday to go back to the lab and dispose of the body.  If you're thinking it would hard to transport 90 pounds out of the building inconspicuously, fine--but would you leave the body where the police would eventually find it?

I don't know if Clark is guilty or not guilty. When I wrote this, it was late, I was tired, I was upset at the media's reporting, and I felt like playing devil's advocate. I hope they find the bastard who did this and put him in jail for life. [Update: Clark pled guilty and is serving 44 years.]  If Clark did it, then I am happy he is in custody. I pray God will look after Ms. Le's family.

One side note: the New Haven police aren't known for being geniuses. The 1998 homicide case of Suzanne Jovin is still unsolved, and the New Haven police accused and pursued the wrong man in that case. Jovin's case is particularly interesting because she wrote her senior thesis on Osama bin Laden's threat to the United States.

[This post has been updated since its original publication.]  

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