Raymond Clark stands accused of strangling Annie Le to death in a Yale lab basement. Investigators charge that Clark flew into a rage because he thought Le was flouting the rules of the lab, where he oversaw the cleanliness of the cages and was charged with keeping order. Clark and Le had known each other through their respective work at the lab.
A study “Murder by Manual and Ligature Strangulation,” by Helina Hakkanen, tells us that research on homicidal strangulation has shown that “in a high percentage of cases, the offender and the victim have some kind of previous relationship (usually family or friends) and that as much as 75% of the victims are females and infants.” In the study, the most frequent motives for homicidal strangulation were rape, sexual jealousy, and personal rivalry.
While many call this a case of work place violence, we must not separate a defendant's past from the crime he's charged with. Analyzing a case, we all can look at signs and symptoms and try to see whether the writing was on the wall. Was this a random act, or was Raymond Clark a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode?
Let's take a look at his history. This isn't the first time Clark has shown aggressive jealousy. The first time that we know about is an alleged sex crime. If that incident had been prosecuted and he'd been found guilty, Clark would have had to register as a sex offender, putting him on the radar. Perhaps that would have been enough for the folks at Yale to be concerned about whom they were hiring…and maybe they would have passed on his application.
The New Haven Independent reported that Clark was accused of harassing a 16-year-old girlfriend in high school. Clark was an athlete at Branford High. During his 2003 senior year at Branford, his girlfriend claimed he once forced her to have sex with him. She said when she tried to break up, Clark confronted her at the school and defaced her locker. Although she talked to police, she refused to press charges. Yet she worried enough to ask police to warn Clark to stay away from her. Since the case was never prosecuted, Branford police have refused to release the paperwork on the case.
“He's just somber,” said Lt. John Bernard of the New Haven Community Correctional Center (reported by The NY Daily News on September 18th). “It's his first time in jail. This is all new to him. He hasn't cried. He hasn't said a word to anyone.”
Investigators zeroed in on Clark early in the investigation after he failed a lie detector test and was found to have defensive wounds on his body, scratches on his arms and back and a bruised eye. In addition his attempts to clean up the crime scene (where Le had been, before she was reported missing) and DNA evidence led to his arrest.
Clark's past relationship in high school suggests the signs for aggressive behavior were there, but could anyone have imagined he could commit such a murder?
CNN also recorded some of Clark’s former friends thoughts:
High school friend Lisa Heselin remembers Clark “as a jokester, kind of a class clown. Everybody knew him. Everybody liked him.” She and others who knew Clark in high school are shocked that he was arrested in connection with Le’s murder. “They can’t believe it, and then, of course, you’re reminiscing, like, ‘Oh my God, remember when we went over to his house, and we all hung out?’ You don’t expect somebody you grew up with to be involved in something like this.”
Maurice Perry, a friend of Clark's since first grade, says he doesn’t believe his longtime pal is guilty: “This is not the Raymond Clark that I know. I’ve known him so long, I just can’t picture him doing something like this.” Asked if he ever knew Clark to be violent, Perry replied, “Not at all. I've known him to be outgoing, happy, athletic, and fun. Violent, not at all.”
Unfortunately, these reports from friends are pretty typical when it comes to cases like this. Those close to a defendant rarely think their loved one or friend is capable of a brutal crime. But we all know from history and experience that even the guy-next-door can be capable of murder. Shame on us for not seeing the writing on the wall.