Murder at Yale Out of Control?

updated 10/05/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/05/2009 01:00AM

AnnMarie Goodwin has distinct memories—none of them fond—of the eight months she and Raymond Clark III lived in the same three-family house in New Haven last year. She recalls how Clark blew up at one of her three teenage sons for leaving a bag of trash in the hallway. And she still grows indignant when talking about what she saw as Clark's overbearing treatment of his fiancée, Jennifer Hromadka. If, for instance, Hromadka exchanged pleasantries with Goodwin, Clark would brusquely hurry her along. "She used to go out every morning and start his car," says Goodwin, 40, a waitress. "In the wintertime, she would be the one out there cleaning off the ice."

According to police, Clark was far worse than a mere bully. In custody at a maximum security Connecticut state prison, he stands accused of fatally strangling Annie Le, 24, the Yale graduate student whose remains were found on Sept. 13—it was to be her wedding day—crammed behind a wall inside the high-tech lab where Le conducted her research and Clark worked as a technician. At his Sept. 17 arraignment Clark, 24, stared at the floor as he entered no plea and bail was set at $3 million. Citing an ongoing investigation, the New Haven police then sealed the 1,000-page arrest warrant and declined to release a 2003 police report that describes an incident involving one of Clark's former girlfriends.

It is not clear whether police have a motive for the murder. But people who know Clark offer starkly divergent portraits of the accused. On the one side are those like Goodwin, who perceive him as a control freak with anger issues, as well as an ex-girlfriend who says their relationship devolved from romantic dinners into terrifying encounters. At first, "it was little things," says the woman, who asks not to be identified. "'Don't wear this.' 'You can't go anywhere without me.'" Later, she says, if she arrived home even a few minutes late, Clark would fly into a rage. When the violence accelerated, she broke up with him. At the time, she adds, "very few people believed me."

Indeed, even after his arrest, some neighbors and colleagues still see Clark as a gentle soul. "He's like the kid next door," says David Russell, 50, who worked in the same Yale department as Clark for four years. "I don't recall him being confrontational; I don't remember him having control issues." But if Clark did snap, he says, "the stress of the job" may have been a factor. Students' perception of technicians as being "nothing more than janitors," he says, leads to an "underlying animosity and tension."

It will be some time before Clark is finally judged. In the meantime, Annie Le will be laid to rest quietly by family members at a cemetery near their home in El Dorado, Calif. "She lived a good life," her brother Chris Le told a local TV station. "We want to respect that."

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