Motive in Yale Slaying May Never Be Explained

NEW HAVEN — Prosecutors do not have to know a motive to win a conviction, but it does not hurt. It also helps the public make some sense of the senseless.

Still, Chief James M. Lewis of the New Haven police said in an interview on Friday that the authorities may never be able to establish why Annie M. Le, a Yale graduate student, was killed.

“We may never know the exact motive,” Chief Lewis said. “There is only one person who can tell us what the motive is, and that is the suspect.”

“He may never talk, and she cannot explain to us what occurred,” he added.

On Thursday, Raymond Clark III, a 24-year-old animal research technician, was arrested and charged with killing Ms. Le, 24, on Sept. 8. He did not enter a plea at his arraignment.

The body of Ms. Le, who had been strangled, was found hidden in a wall of a research lab on Sunday, the day she was to have married a graduate student from Columbia University.

Some co-workers have said Mr. Clark antagonized colleagues and research students he believed were cavalier about rodent-handling regulations, and one research team leader said he had complained to Mr. Clark’s supervisor. But Chief Lewis saidhe did not “have any knowledge” of complaints about Mr. Clark. He said any theories about a motive were “all speculation.”

“As more evidence is evaluated, something may pop up that points us in one direction or another. And who knows what may happen at trial?”

The chief said no more arrests were planned.

He has described the killing as “workplace violence,” and has said the suspect and victim were not romantically involved. One official familiar with the investigation said it did not appear that Ms. Le was sexually assaulted.

The university president, Richard C. Levin, said in a statement Thursday about Mr. Clark that “nothing in the history of his employment at the university gave an indication that his involvement in such a crime might be possible.”

Evan Cobb, a spokesman for the union that represents technicians at Yale, said the union was not aware of any complaints or disciplinary problems involving Mr. Clark.

Lawyers representing Mr. Clark did not return phone calls seeking comment Friday.

Mr. Clark came under suspicion partly because of scratches and bruises on his skin. Authorities said Mr. Clark’s DNA, which was obtained with a court order, matched DNA from the crime scene, but they did not elaborate.

The arrest warrant, said to include more than 1,000 pages, is being sealed for two weeks, and neither the police nor prosecutors have disclosed what is in it.

Chief Lewis talked Friday about how investigators were helped by the conditions at the crime scene, the basement of a state-of-the art research building opened two years ago.

“It is a secured building, a limited number of people have access to it, and there is technology involved,” the chief said. “You just have more information here than you would in a street crime.”

He was referring to an extensive network of security cameras around the building and computerized records of card swipes that show not only who entered the building, but also who entered individual rooms.

Chief Lewis added that it could take authorities weeks to process all the evidence that investigators have collected: about 300 pieces so far, including body fluid, hair, blood, clothing and computers. “We took a lot of things out of his apartment,” he said.

He said that investigators were able to make an arrest in a matter of days after Ms. Le’s body was found in part because the F.B.I. was involved from the time she was reported missing and because only a modest number of people had access to the area.

In the days before Mr. Clark’s arrest, the chief turned to another resource, his own narcotics unit, which had much experience in surveillance of suspects. Roughly half a dozen narcotics detectives followed him for days.

Still, there were unique problems, said John Danaher III, the Connecticut commissioner of public safety.

“In the normal course of things, if there were an event like this, you say, ‘O.K., everybody out,’ ” said Mr. Danaher, who oversees the State Police, which also aided the investigation. “You seal off the site and then let people back in after. It was not possible here. There were extremely important and valuable experiments that would have been destroyed.”

“These experiments have not just financial value, but also enormous scientific value that many people with medical issues are depending on,” he said.

The biggest break in the case came from a German shepherd named Max handled by State Trooper Nick Leary, according to a law enforcement official.

Max, who is trained in body recognition, was first sent to search through mounds of garbage that had been sent out for incineration from the lab. On Sunday he was taken to the basement of the lab building, where he picked up Ms. Le’s scent.

Alison Leigh Cowan contributed reporting from Stamford, Conn., and Javier C. Hernandez from New York City.

No comments: