Yale Student Died of "Traumatic Asphyxia": Coroner

Cops are waiting for DNA results, watching "person of interest"

By Xana O'Neill, LeAnne Gendreau and Andrew Pergam
|  Thursday, Sep 17, 2009  |  Updated 12:30 AM EDT
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Ray Clark is taken in by police.

Ray Clark is taken in by police.

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Police Issue Search Warrant

Police say they have executed a search warrant for a Middletown apartment and a person of interest in the Yale Murder case.
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Slain Yale graduate student Annie Le, whose body was found crammed into a duct in the basement of a university lab, died of "traumatic asphyxia due to neck compression," the coroner said Wednesday.

"Traumatic asphyxia due to neck compression" is a form of strangulation, according to a doctor at St. Francis Hospital, but it is not clear whether she was strangled by the killer’s hands or by an object.

The medical examiner ruled Le's death a homicide but delayed releasing the results of the autopsy report until this afternoon at the request of the state attorney.

Le's body was found stuffed into a cable duct of the university building on Sunday, the same day she was supposed to be married.

At a Wednesday afternoon briefing, the Chief of Police in New Haven said they are looking at a number of people in the case, but have only served search warrants on one.

Police detained Raymond Clark III, 24, a Yale lab tech as "a person of interest" in the slaying but later released him from their custody. His attorney, David Dworski, told the Associated Press that the lab tech was "committed to proceeding appropriately with the authorities."

Clark was led out of his Middletown, Conn., apartment in handcuffs by cops late Tuesday night as cops rummaged through items on a card table, towed away a red Ford Mustang and took DNA samples.

"We are looking for DNA and physical evidence," New Haven Police Chief James Lewis said Tuesday night. "This is not an arrest warrant, this is a search warrant." 

Additionally, access "swipe" records at the lab where Clark and Le worked show that Clark may have been the last to see Le alive, a police source told the Hartford Courant.

Late Wednesday night, police in Cromwell, Conn., were keeping a close eye on the motel in town where Clark was staying.

A scheduled night news briefing was moved to 7 a.m. on Thursday.

Clark shares his apartment with girlfriend Jennifer Hromadka, who he is set to marry in December 2011, the couple's wedding Web site said. Neighbors said the couple also lives with three cats.

Hromadka's father Bud, told the New York Post that Clark was a "quality man, a wonderful guy," who had been shadowed by about 15 FBI agents at a fair last weekend.

“The cops are pressuring the wrong guy,” he said. “He was there that day, he saw her, and the polygraph said he didn’t pass. That’s all there is to it.”

Clark and Hromadka reportedly share a MySpace page. In May 2008, Hromadka defended her man online against rumors that was cheating on her with a woman at the Yale lab where both work, the New York Daily News reported

"My boyfriend, Ray, if you don't know him, has no interest in any of the other girls at YARC as anything more than friends," she wrote in a blog post, according to the News.

"He is a bit naive, doesn't always use the best judgment, definitely is not the best judge of character but he is a good guy. He has a big heart and tries to see the best in people ALL THE TIME! even when everyone else is telling him that the person is a psycho or that the person can't be trusted. He thinks everyone deserves a second chance and has a hard time hurting people's feelings and it takes him getting burned to learn."

On Friday, Hromadka wrote in her most recent post: "Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I'm not perfect and I don't live to be, but before you start pointing fingers make sure your hands are clean!!"

Bloody clothes and other evidence of a crime were found in a ceiling inside that building, police sources confirmed Saturday. Le's ID, money, credit cards and purse were found in her office in a different building.

Officials also said they spoke with as many as 150 people throughout the course of the investigation, reviewed 700 hours of video and scanned 150 pieces of evidence.

Chief Lewis said he believes there will be an arrest in this case.

Le, 24, who worked for a Yale laboratory that conducted experiments on mice, went missing from the Ivy League campus last Tuesday and her body was discovered in the laboratory building five days later on what was supposed to be her wedding day.

The New Haven Independent reported that Clark, the technician visited by cops, allegedly had an unrequited love interest in Le, citing a source, but the publication was not able to verify that information on its own.

Le, of Placerville, Calif., was to be married to Widawsky, a Columbia University graduate student, last Sunday in Syosset, N.Y., on Long Island's north shore. Next week, they were supposed to be in Greece on honeymoon, the New York Daily News reported.

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