Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Annie Le: The Yale Lab Murder

The Amistad Street Lab

The Yale School of Medicine's lab technicians clean the mice cages, feed the mice, and deal with supplies. They make sure the animals are clean and not sick or dehydrated, and they euthanize animals when necessary. On top of that, they're saddled with the task of making sure that the professors and graduate students who perform research in the lab follow the rules. They have to reprimand researchers who forget to put on a gown when entering the lab, or who improperly injure an animal to get a DNA sample, for example.

The academics working on prestigious research projects and the workers cleaning up after them often see themselves as occupying very different worlds. New Haven's press and citizens have said that researchers and lab techs at Yale typically aren't very friendly with each other. In the days following the murder, one source derisively referred to the suspected Clark as "more or less a janitor." Another researcher haughtily declared that researchers and animal staff are as distinct and separate as students and janitors. Another graduate student bragged to the New Haven Register that she barely says hello to the animal techs. She stressed that Clark had a "low-level, low-skilled, low-paying position" in what she insisted was not even a real "lab" but just an "animal room."

It's common for lab techs to chastise researchers; it's their job. But some researchers thought Clark was arrogant and domineering, too rigid in his enforcement of lab rules. They called him a "control freak" and scoffed at the stocky, tattooed high school graduate whose only power in life was in bossing them around as they carried out important, potentially life-saving work. A team leader reported him to his supervisor for being rude.

Raymond Clark III and Jennifer Hromadka
Raymond Clark III and Jennifer Hromadka
Clark seems to have had a drama-filled relationship with his girlfriend, Jennifer Hromadka, and other lab workers. At the time of the killing, Hromadka and Clark, recently engaged, were living in the Wharfside Commons apartments on Ferry Street in Middletown, Conn., about 30 miles from the Yale lab where they both worked. In 2008, Hromadka posted a lengthy defense of her boyfriend on her blog, denying accusations that he was cheating on her with other lab employees. She used this public forum to call him gullible and say he was a poor judge of character, but she insisted he was true to her.

Annie Le didn't tell friends about any interpersonal conflicts at the lab. Authorities say they've ruled out the possibility that Clark and Le had a sexual relationship, or that he was stalking her. They know that Clark was angry that Le wasn't careful enough about maintaining her mouse cages. He'd already emailed her to complain about this. Her email records seem to show that she successfully smoothed over their dispute. But investigators think something must have gone wrong between researcher Le and technician Clark on September 8.

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