Yale student’s killing ‘completely senseless,’ roommate says

Students at Yale attend a candlelight vigil for Annie Le Monday night.
A quiet rendition of “Amazing Grace” capped an emotional candlelight vigil Monday night for slain Yale University student Annie Le, whose body was found on what was to have been her wedding day.

Several hundred people turned out on the Yale campus for the vigil, crying and hugging. Le’s roommate, Natalie Powers, said the 24-year-old graduate student in pharmacology “was as good a human being as you’d ever hope to meet.” “She was also really tenacious and had a sense of humor that was never far away, and she was tougher than you’d think by just looking at her,” Powers said. “That this horrible tragedy happened at all is incomprehensible, but that it happened to her, I think, is infinitely more so. It seems completely senseless.” Connecticut state medical examiners announced Monday that the body found in a Yale medical research building over the weekend was that of Le, who had been missing for nearly a week. Her body was found Sunday hidden in a basement wall, while bloody clothes were found hidden above tiles in a drop ceiling elsewhere in the building, investigators said. No suspects were in custody, but investigators were questioning several people in the case, New Haven Police spokesman Joe Avery said. Le’s death is being investigated as a homicide, but Connecticut authorities released no further information beyond the identification. Watch a report about the case Thomas Kaplan, editor in chief of the Yale Daily News, said Le “really had everything going for her.” “She was a top scholar. She was very outgoing, a warm person,” Kaplan said. “You know, she was diminutive in stature, but certainly not in personality. And that’s what I think just makes this so sad for everyone, regardless of whether you knew her. It’s just a tragedy.” Le was to be married Sunday on New York’s Long Island to Jonathan Widawsky, a graduate student at Columbia University. “Annie has been planning this wedding for over a year with John, and she was very excited. She’s been doing a countdown to her wedding day,” Jennifer Simpson, a friend in Sacramento, told the CBS “Early” show. “She was doing weather patterns to make sure that the weather would be perfect on her wedding day. She just wanted everything to be perfect, everything down to table napkins, to flowers. Annie was very, very excited about this day.”

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The Amistad Building, where Le’s body was found, was closed Monday as police conducted their investigation, and will have additional security posted when it reopens, Yale Vice President Linda Koch Lorimer told students. Officials at the three-century-old school were cooperating with investigators “to ensure they find every shred of physical evidence in the building so they can solve this horrible crime without delay,” Lorimer said. Yale professor Gary Rudnick, who interviewed Le when she applied for admission to the graduate program in pharmacology, told CNN that the building where Le’s body was found had good security, and only certain people could enter, let alone access specific areas. He said the circumstances suggested there could be a “murderer among us.” Kaplan said Le’s killing had left Yale students shocked and wary. “Only Yalies had access to that basement, and that seems to point to someone in our community being involved in this,” Kaplan said. “That’s what is so frightening.” Authorities have not described the clothes that were found, nor said to whom they may have belonged. Teams of investigators at a Connecticut State Police lab worked through the weekend processing and examining the bloodstained clothes. Kaplan said a Yale police official told the paper that the clothes were not what Le was wearing when she entered the building. Security cameras captured video of Le as she entered the four-story lab building at 10 Amistad Street, about 10 blocks from the main campus, on Sept. 8. After poring over hours of surveillance tapes, authorities said they had not found images of her leaving the building. Investigators searched a waste facility Sunday that normally handles garbage from the Yale lab, said William Reiner of the FBI’s New Haven office. The search took place at the Resources Recovery Authority landfill in Hartford, near New Haven. “In a situation like this, it’s common for us to follow the trash,” Reiner said. Le was from Placerville, California, and seemed to have been well aware of the risks of crime in a university town. In February, she compared crime and safety at Yale with other Ivy League schools for a piece for B magazine, published by the medical school. Among the tips she offered: Keep a minimum amount on your person. When she walked over to the research building on Tuesday, she left her purse, credit cards and cell phone in her office. Vanessa Flores, Le’s former roommate, wondered whether the magazine article had something to do with Le’s death. “The only thing I can possibly think of right now is maybe a psychopath, an antisocial person who — I don’t know — maybe got upset about what she wrote about back in February about not being safe, and just kind of wanted to prove her wrong.”

At Monday night’s vigil, Powers quoted from the New Testament book of Romans — “all things work together for good” — and said the verse “brings me a sense of comfort that this isn’t just senseless, that God is in control and something will come out of this.” “It’s a comfort that I think she’d want us to have. And so as we remember her, just remember that and keep that in mind,” Powers said.