NEW HAVEN, Conn., March 17, 2011 -- This morning in a Connecticut courtroom, with his entire family looking on, Raymond Clark III pled guilty to the murder and sexual assault of Yale University graduate student Annie Le.
Clark, 26, had been accused of strangling the 24-year-old Le just days before her wedding in September of 2009.
Clark entered the plea under an agreement with prosecutors and will receive a sentence of 44 years. He had been charged with murder and felony murder, each carrying a possible sentence of 25 to 60 years.
Le's body was found stuffed behind a research laboratory wall on Sept. 13, 2009, five days after she had last been seen inside the Yale medical building. Clark, an animal research assistant who worked in the same facility, was arrested by police Sept. 17 and charged with the murder.
When he initially met with investigators, Clark had scratches on his face and left arm -- marks that he claimed came from a cat. But in court, prosecutors cited voluminous amounts of evidence from the crime scene that tied Clark to the murder. This included a bloody sock found in the wall that contained both Clark and Le's DNA as well as a lab coat in the laundry bin that also contained both their DNA. A green ink pen was found under Le's body that had her blood and Clark's DNA.
Police said that Clark signed into the secure building using a green pen the day Le went missing. Video footage taken from the building showed that Clark changed his clothes on the day the murder was alleged to have taken place.
Outside the courtroom today, Clark's father Raymond Clark Jr., said, "It is a heavy heart that I stand here before you today. We will live out our life knowing that he is behind bars. But we are proud of Ray for taking responsibility for his actions and pleading guilty. I want you to know that Ray has expressed extreme remorse from the very beginning. I can't tell you how many times he sobbed uncontrollably, telling me how sorry he is; telling me how his heart is tortured by the reality the he caused the death of Annie."
Joe Tacopino, an attorney for Annie Le's family, said her mother did not attend the hearing today because it would be too painful but that the Le family is satisfied.
After hearing the news of Clark's plea, a Yale University spokesman, Michael Morand released this statement: "We think first of Annie Le's family, her fiancé and his family and her friends. We are relieved they have been spared the further agony a long and difficult trial might have caused. We hope today's guilty plea and the sentence that will follow will help bring closure to them and to all in the Yale community who suffered by her senseless killing.
"All of us are indebted to the men and women of the State's Attorney, FBI, Connecticut State Police, New Haven Police, Yale Police and the Yale Security who worked swiftly and persistently to investigate the and prosecute this despicable crime. As the criminal proceedings come to a close, we renew our commitment to honor the memory of Annie Le, whose joy of life and learning is an inspiration to faculty, students and staff at Yale now and for the future."