Yale Lab Technician Pleads Guilty to Grad Student's Murder

03/17/2011 at 01:50 PM EDT

Annie Le Murder Suspect Pleads Pleads Guilty
Raymond Clark III at his 2009 arrest
Matt Kabel/The Middletown Press/AP
Former animal-lab technician Raymond Clark III, arrested in September 2009 for the alleged killing of Yale University graduate student Annie Le, pleaded guilty to her murder in a New Haven, Conn., courtroom Thursday.

Under his plea deal, he will receive a 44-year sentence, prosecutor David Strollo announced.

Barely audible when he said "guilty" – twice, to charges of both murder and attempted sexual assault – Clark, 26, stood before Superior Court Judge Roland Fasano wearing a blue button-down shirt and black pants, reports the New Haven Independent. His handcuffs had been removed, per his attorney's request, though his fists were clenched, said the paper.

Each of the charges had carried a potential sentence of between 25 and 60 years. Le's family was not present in court Thursday but may attend Clark's May 20 sentencing, the prosecutor said – adding that the family were kept apprised of the plea deal, with some relatives hoping for a longer sentence.

Clark's family did attend the hearing, as did his fiancée. "We are proud of Ray for taking responsibility for his actions and pleading guilty," his father, Raymond Clark II, told reporters outside the courtroom. "I want you to know that Ray has expressed extreme remorse from the very beginning."

The elder Clark added, "My family and I extend our deepest sympathy to the Le family."

With bail set at $3 million, Raymond Clark stood accused of raping and fatally strangling Le, a 24-year-old doctoral student in pharmacology. She went missing Sept. 8, 2009, and her body was discovered five days later – on the day she was to have been married in New York.

Yale Lab Technician Pleads Guilty to Grad Student's Murder| Crime & Courts

Annie Le

Courtesy Yale University

Those remains were found stuffed behind a research laboratory wall in a basement space that only someone familiar with the area would have been aware of, police said at the time. The building had strict security measures that permitted access to only a handful of people.

Clark, who has been in the employ of Yale for four years, worked in that basement. A lab technician who cleaned out the cages for lab mice, he reportedly knew Le because she used the mice in her experiments.

After Le's disappearance, he reportedly failed an FBI lie-detector test, and had what were described as defensive wounds on his chest when police examined him.

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