Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Murderer Among Them: Random Act or Was Raymond Clark a Ticking Time Bomb?

by Robin Sax

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.

So how is Raymond Clark acting now that he has been charged with Le’s murder?

“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?

Some say no. For instance, Lufeng Zhang worked with Clark in the Yale lab and thinks the police may have the wrong man. “He's a nice man, always,” Zhang said (CNN report, Sept. 18).

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.


Rose said...

Men who control and abuse are often very friendly, likable and charming, let's not forget that. That may be where his high school friends are feeling deceived.

Jeannine said...

The only shaming I am doing is the neighbors near the Dugard "family" compound who never called police with their suspicions.

There are millions of batterers, child molesters, rapists, murderers, running around right now and one could be your very own family member.

As I mentioned with the other writer on here, it happened at work, because he was unconnected with any family there. She was an object to him, just like any other work item. Something he wanted power over.

All batterers have an ability to kill, but that doesn't mean they will. We can't lock every possibility up in jail or prison just because of this alone. Hey, I am a social worker and believe me, I'd like to prosecute many people based on my intuition, but that is not legal. Until there is hard core evidence, until people are willing to press charges, and so on.

I can't tell you how many bad guys are out there that I know of who are capable of anything given the "right" circumstances for them. Should we follow all of them and wait? Yeah, that would do the trick, but where is the money going to come from? In my job, I document, document, document. When something bad happens, believe me the trail is right behind them in their case file. Every strange moment, odd phrase, odd movement, that I have seen, all down on paper waiting for evidence. Real cold hard facts. It is unfortunate, but this is life, and justice.

Oh and btw, all these bad guys are someones son, brother, uncle, father, etc... On their good days, they do seem like nice people. As I always say at work, the rest of the world is not a psychology professional. We can't expect people to understand things the way we do.

Jan said...

The confusing thing is that people are people. Even sociopaths aren't violent or scary most of the time. They can be very personable and very skilled at hiding behind a mask of normalacy. And since we can't imagine ever committing this kind of crime, it doesn't enter our heads that someone in our own circle could imagine it either. I didn't.

Anonymous said...

By ALL the statements from his co-workers he was a control freak about the mouse cages, to the point of harrassment. Who says this nut job wouldnt have done the same thing to a man who didnt clean the cage to his specifications and then blew him off when he tirated about it? This guy is a BIG guy. He could have done this to a man just as easily.

Its not always about power over women. Sometimes its just about power.

Ronni said...

But, if all his male friends found him to be a nice guy, and at least one girl he dated said he assaulted her, it seems as if he might have a history of aggression towards women. Didn't I read somewhere that he was a member of an Asian Appreciation club? Perhaps he saw Asian women as more submissive? Perhaps he didn't expect her to stand up for herself.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but the co-workers that talked about his aggression said that he was aggresive towards them too. And they were men.

Anonymous said...

She seems like a good person. Its a shame. Shes somebodys daughter. God bless her and her parents and family, fience too. Her parents must of adored her. I would of loved having a daughter like her. Her and her fience sure did look like a perfect couple.