Found body is likely missing Yale student

September 14th, 2009 by

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Just seven months before police found what they believe is Annie Le’s body hidden in a Yale University building, the graduate student wrote a magazine article about how to stay safe on the streets around the Ivy League school.

The 24-year-old bride-to-be, who had been missing since Tuesday, apparently met a violent death in a secure Yale building accessible only to students and staff, police said Sunday on what was supposed to be her wedding day.

Authorities have said little about the investigation. They hadn’t positively identified the body found hidden in a wall Sunday, but they were assuming it was Le and treating her death as a homicide.

State police found the body in a building in Yale’s medical complex, about a mile from the main campus. It was in an area that houses utility cables that run between floors.

The university planned a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. Monday at the Ivy League university. The Yale Daily News says an e-mail to the Yale community invites participants to “bring a candle and join us in solidarity.”

Yale President Richard Levin offered support to Le’s family and her fiance, Columbia University graduate student Jonathan Widawsky. The couple was to marry Sunday in Syosset, N.Y., on Long Island’s north shore.

“The family and fiance and friends now must suffer the additional ordeal of waiting for the body to be positively identified,” Levin said.

Police on Sunday would not say if they have any suspects. They previously have said Widawsky is not a suspect and is assisting with the investigation. New Haven Assistant Police Chief Peter Reichard said police also recovered “a large amount” of physical evidence, but he would not discuss what that included.

Last winter, Le, a pharmacology student from Placerville, Calif., wrote a magazine article about how to stay safe around Yale’s campus.

The article, titled “Crime and Safety in New Haven,” was published in February in a magazine produced by the university’s medical school. It compares higher instances of robbery in New Haven with cities that house other Ivy League schools and includes an interview with Yale Police Chief James Perrotti, who offers advice such as “pay attention to where you are” and “avoid portraying yourself as a potential victim.”

“In short, New Haven is a city and all cities have their perils,” Le concludes. “But with a little street smarts, one can avoid becoming yet another statistic.”

Le, who worked in a laboratory in the five-story building’s basement, was reported missing last Tuesday. Surveillance video shows her arriving at around 10 a.m., but police could find no video of Le leaving, despite some 75 surveillance cameras operating around the complex. Her ID, money, credit cards and purse were found in her third-floor office.

More than 100 local, state and federal police had been searching the building for days, using blueprints to uncover any place where evidence or Le’s body could be hidden.

Investigators on Saturday said they recovered evidence from the building, but would not confirm media reports that the items included bloody clothing.

On Sunday morning, a state police van drove down a ramp into the building’s basement area. Authorities also sifted through garbage at a Hartford incinerator Sunday, looking through trash that was taken from the building in the days since Le went missing.

Le’s disappearance weighed heavily on Yale students, who prayed for her safe return Sunday at The University Church on Yale’s campus.

“It has brought up a lot of fears for people,” the Rev. Ian Buckner Oliver said just before he gave the Sunday morning sermon. “It has brought up a lot of worry and concern for her and for all our safety.”

Bjorn Cooley, a 20-year-old Yale student from Oregon, said he heard the news that a body had been found while studying in his room Sunday night.

“Before they found the body, I still had hope she had just disappeared,” Cooley said. “I was looking for some sort of quasi-happy ending to this whole thing.”


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