A Yale University animal technician was charged yesterday with murdering the 24-year-old pharmacology graduate student Annie Le, whose body was found behind a wall of an off-campus research facility on Sunday.
The suspect, Raymond Clark III, had been a full-time lab technician since he graduated from high school in 2004, first working in the washing centre and then caring for mice and other animals. In a statement, Yale president Richard Levin said that “nothing in the history of [Clark’s] employment at the University gave an indication that his involvement in such a crime might be possible.”
But a team leader in the Amistad Street building where Clark worked said otherwise. He told the New York Times that several researchers complained last year to Clark’s supervisor that he was rude and overly critical of others. “Everyone enforces rules, but he enforced them in an officious manner,” the anonymous man said. Other Yale workers called Clark a “control freak,” according to the Associated Press.
On the day that Le disappeared (8 September), Clark reportedly sent her a text message asking to meet at the lab to discuss the cleanliness of the research animals’ cages, according to ABC News.
The New York Times article discussed the stresses of maintaining an animal facility such as the Amistad building, which opened in 2007 and is home to about 4,000 mice. In addition to caring for — and often euthanizing — animals, technicians must ensure that all ethical and cleanliness standards are adhered to. Students and other researchers might flout the rules, and it’s often left to techs to play the watchdog role.
“There is a certain stress that builds with the job,” David Russell, who worked as an animal technician at Yale from 1997 to 2008, told the Times. “If there’s something wrong, you are the one who is on the hook.”
After some building closures earlier in the week, Amistad was nearly fully operational again on Wednesday. The basement-turned-murder scene had only limited access but the upper four floors were open for business as usual, according to Yale officials.
Image: Lab tech with mice, courtesy of Understanding Animal Research