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Chief: Police may never know Yale killing motive

POLICE may never know the motive for the killing of a Yale University graduate student whose body was found hidden behind a wall on what should have been her wedding day, the police chief said yesterday.

Raymond Clark III, a technician in the lab where Annie Le conducted research, was arrested Thursday, a day after authorities took DNA samples from him to compare with evidence from the crime scene. His bond was set at $3 million, and he did not enter a plea.

"The only person who knows the motive is the suspect," Chief James Lewis told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "It's true in many cases. You never know absolutely unless the person confesses, and in this case it's too early to tell."

A telephone message seeking comment from the public defenders' office, which is representing Clark, was not immediately returned yesterday.

Lewis said yesterday that no further arrests were expected, but investigators were sifting through hundreds of pieces of evidence. He said police had trailed other people before they zeroed in on Clark as a suspect.

A law enforcement official who talked to the AP on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing and many details remained sealed said Thursday that co-workers called Clark a "control freak" who was territorial about the mice whose cages he cleaned. Authorities are investigating whether that attitude might have set off a clash between Clark and Le.

Clark tried to hide evidence even as investigators worked in the basement lab around him, authorities said, then coolly played a softball game on the day Le's body was found stuffed inside a nearby wall.

An investigator observed Clark trying to hide cleaning equipment that contained blood splatters as teams probed the disappearance of Le, who was 24, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation who spoke to The Hartford Courant.

Investigators have records of Clark, also 24, cleaning areas that Le was in before she was reported missing Sept. 8, the official told the Courant, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But despite Clark's efforts, investigators found the DNA of both suspect and victim in the ceiling and in the wall recess where Le's body was hidden, the official told the paper. New Haven police wouldn't confirm that information to the AP.

The body of Le, a pharmacology student from Placerville, California, was recovered Sunday, the day she was to get married on New York's Long Island.

Also that day, Clark played shortstop in a softball playoff game for his team, the New Haven Wild Hogs, an opposing player said. And he played under the gaze of undercover police officers who had been trailing him 24 hours a day for several days before his arrest.

One of the opposing players, Vinnie Mauro, of New Haven, said he knew Clark as a plain, calm New York Mets fan who usually wore a David Wright jersey.

"You couldn't tell anything," Mauro told the AP. "There was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. He was just nondescript, kept to himself."

Prosecutors may face difficult questions in Clark's trial about why they didn't restrict access to the lab after Le was reported missing, legal experts said. Le disappeared on a Tuesday, and authorities didn't close it until the weekend.

"If a jury is looking for something to grab onto, then this could be something for them to grab onto," said Hugh Keefe, a top state defense attorney.

Le's work involved experiments on mice that were part of research into enzymes that could have implications for treatment of cancer, diabetes and muscular dystrophy, while Clark's technician job involved cleaning floors and mouse cages.

Ann Turner, executive director of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, acknowledges "there is a gulf" between technicians and the researchers they interact with.

"There's a gulf in any workplace where you have a person with a higher level of education and no education," she said, noting that gap shouldn't necessarily lead to tension.

However, "if there is a culture of trust and a culture of respect, the researchers will respect the animal care technicians, and vice versa," Turner said.

A memorial service for Le is planned at the Huntington, New York, temple her fiance's family attends between the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah, beginning sundown yesterday, and Yom Kippur on Sept. 28, cantor Sandra Sherry said.

The family of fiance Jonathan Widawsky, a graduate student at Columbia University, had already announced it would not attend services "for the foreseeable future" to ease things for the synagogue, Sherry said.

Clark is jailed in Suffield, north of Hartford. His next scheduled court date is Oct. 6.


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