09.14.09

Yale Killer Caught on Tape?

With 75 cameras trained on the Yale lab where Annie Le’s body was found, former sex crimes prosecutor Wendy Murphy says police are likely tracking their suspect’s reaction to the grim discovery.

First it was bloody clothes hidden above ceiling tiles in the lab where Yale graduate student Annie Le was last seen alive. Then Sunday evening, Le's body was found behind a wall in the same building.

As yet, there are no suspects, but unlike most cases, odds are excellent the killer will be identified quickly. The building requires those who enter to swipe a card to get in—which means every potential suspect is already known to police. And even if the person gained entry without using a card, the building is under constant surveillance by 75 video cameras. Whoever killed Le is on the tapes.

By process of elimination alone, there's little doubt police will name the killer soon. If 25 people were in the building at the time Le went missing, cops will have no trouble figuring out that 24 of them had nothing to do with the crime. Whoever's left will become the focus of their investigation. This remaining individual—make no mistake—will have had a motive to kill Annie Le. A jilted and possessive ex-lover who was jealous because Le was about to be married to another man? A crazy scientist, upset that Le's work had led to a discovery that he had hoped to find? An angry woman, upset that Le was marrying a man she loved?

Wendy Murphy: What the Police Know

John Connolly: Annie Le’s Final Struggle
Whoever it was had to be familiar enough with the building to know where to hide a body and was apparently aware of the need to avoid taking the body out of the building because of all the security cameras.

No matter how much of a genius-killer it might have been though, he or she left enough of a bloody mess that forensic experts will have an easy time doing all the necessary testing to match the killer to the crime scene.

Cops no doubt have a suspicion about what happened—and they probably know who did it. Which means they are watching that person closely to see how he or she reacts to the discovery of Le's body. Remember Scott Peterson's reaction to news that his wife's and son's bodies had washed up on shore after he thought he'd successfully disposed of them at sea? Peterson changed his hair color, got in a car, and drove toward the Mexican border. This sort of "Tell-Tale Heart" behavior can be the best evidence of all.

Wendy is a former child abuse and sex crimes prosecutor who teaches at New England Law/Boston. Wendy specializes in the representation of crime victims, women and children. She also writes and lectures widely on victims' rights and criminal justice policy. Her expose of the American legal system, And Justice For Some, came out in 2007. A former NFL cheerleader and visiting scholar at Harvard Law School, Wendy lives outside Boston with her husband and five children.