- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2011

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A former animal research technician pleaded guilty Thursday in the 2009 killing of a Yale University graduate student under an agreement with prosecutors that calls for a 44-year sentence.

Raymond Clark III, 26, was accused of strangling 24-year-old Annie Le of Placerville, Calif., in a case that drew intense national media attention to the Ivy League university.

Le’s body was found stuffed behind a research lab wall on Sept. 13, 2009, five days after she was last seen inside the Yale medical building. It would have been her wedding day in New York.

Clark pleaded guilty to murder and attempted sexual assault. His plea on the attempted sexual assault charge was under Connecticut’s Alford doctrine, in which the defendant in a criminal case agrees only that the state has enough evidence against him or her to get a conviction. The plea will be entered into his record as a conviction.

Clark had been charged with murder and felony murder, each carrying a possible sentence of 25 to 60 years.

A prosecutor said Thursday that Le had a broken collar bone and jaw, injuries suffered while she was alive, and that her underwear had been disarranged.

He also cited DNA evidence in the case, including a green-ink pen under Le’s body that had her blood and Clark’s DNA. Police have said Clark signed into the secure building with a green pen the day Le disappeared. DNA from Le and Clark also was on a bloody sock found hidden in a ceiling.

Court papers describe a bloody crime scene and Clark’s efforts to scrub floors. Investigators say Clark tried to hide a box of cleaning wipes that later was found to have traces of Le’s blood.

Clark had a scratch on his face and left arm that he said came from a cat, investigators said.

Le was a doctoral pharmacology student who worked on a team that experimented on mice as part of research into enzymes that could have implications for treatment of cancer, diabetes and muscular dystrophy.

At her memorial service, family and friends remembered for her academic success, sense of humor, ambition, love for shoe-shopping and love for her fiance, Jonathan Widawsky.