NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Clues increasingly pointed to an inside job Monday in the slaying of a Yale graduate student whose body was found stuffed inside a wall five days after she vanished from a heavily secured lab building accessible only to university employees.
Police on Monday sought to calm fears on the Ivy League campus, saying the death of 24-year-old Annie Le was a targeted act. But they declined to name a suspect or say why anyone would want to kill the young woman just days before she was to be married.
“We’re not believing it’s a random act,” said officer Joe Avery, a police spokesman.
No one else is in danger, he said, though he would not provide details and denied broadcast reports that police had a suspect in custody.
Yale officials said the building where Le worked would reopen under increased security. Still, some students worried about their safety.
“I’m not walking at nights by myself anymore,” said student Natoya Peart, 21, of Jamaica. “It could happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.”
Michael Vishnevetsky, 21, of New York, said he did not feel safe when he made a late trip to his lab Sunday in a different building.
“It felt very different than how I usually felt,” he said.
Police found Le’s body about 5 p.m. Sunday, the day she was to marry Columbia University graduate student Jonathan Widawsky, lovingly referred to on her Facebook page as “my best friend.” The couple met as undergraduates at the University of Rochester and were eagerly awaiting their planned wedding on Long Island.
Police have said Widawsky is not a suspect and helped detectives in their investigation.
The building where the body was found is part of the university medical school complex about a mile from Yale’s main campus. It is accessible to Yale personnel with identification cards. Some 75 video surveillance cameras monitor all doorways.
The body was found in the wall chase – a deep recess where utilities and cables run between floors. An autopsy on Monday confirmed that the remains were those of Le, and authorities formally declared her death a homicide.
Le’s laboratory was in the basement of the five-story building. Her office was on the third floor, where authorities found her wallet, keys, money and purse.
Campus officials have said that the security network recorded Le entering the building by
swiping her ID card about 10 a.m. Tuesday. She was never seen leaving.
Yale closed the building Monday so police could complete their investigation, according to a message sent to Yale students and staff. Scientists are being allowed in only to conduct essential research projects, and only under the supervision of a police officer.
Police activity continued at the crime scene early Monday evening, as uniformed officers with police dogs and workers wearing white suits to protect them from hazardous materials went in and out of the building.
When the building reopens, there will be extra security both inside and outside, said Yale Secretary and Vice President Linda Lorimer.
Police are analyzing what they call “a large amount” of physical evidence.