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Video: Mom of murdered student: ‘Yale let it happen’

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    >>> we begin this half hour with the tragic murder of annie le. a medical student at yale university killed by a man who worked with her on campus. in a moment her mother vivian speaks out for the first time in an exclusive live interview. but first, nbc's jeff rossen has the latest on this story. jeff , good morning.

    >> good morning. this really was a brutal attack that's that sent shockwaves around yale . ray clark now admits he killed annie le and stuffed her body in the wall of a university research lab. now annie 's family is suing yale saying the school didn't do enough to protect her. it began as a bizarre mystery. a young doctor ral student working in the lab simply vanished. soon the story of annie le would morph into one of yale 's most tragic times and the timing was just as awful. annie was just one week from her wedding.

    >> disappear in the middle of the day with lots of people around. very unsettling.

    >> reporter: police and the fbi combed the campus for clues. then on what would have been annie 's wedding day, a gruesome discovery. annie 's body stuffed behind the wall in the lab's basement, badly beaten and strangled. two years later her mother is opening up for the first time.

    >> she's very special to me. and she's very beautiful. and she was like the most important in my family. my only daughter my family.

    >> how are you doing?

    >> every day i try to tell myself i think she's still with me. when someone asks me, how many children you have? i always say i have two, even though she already pass away.

    >> reporter: police moved in on a suspect quick. ray clark . he worked with annie in the yale lab. police say clark sexually assaulted annie before killing her. clark pled guilty, sentenced to 44 years in prison.

    >> when i see mr. clark in the court, i think like he didn't want to do that to my daughter because sometimes like an looeevil gets in the mind.

    >> you still don't know why he did it?

    >> no.

    >> reporter: now annie 's family has filed this lawsuit against yale claiming ray clark had a violent propensity against women and the school should have known he posed a potential threat, alleging the university fostered an atmosphere of sexual harassment and sexual assaults that emboldened clark .

    >> i want yale to change the lack of observation of students.

    >> in the past yale has denied tolerating sexual harassment . in this case school officials told us there is no basis for the civil suit . yale had no information indicating that raymond clark was capable of committing this terrible crime, and no reasonable security measures could have prevented his unforeseeable act. this lawsuit serves neither justice nor annie 's memory. yale says after the attack it maiden hansments to security on campus but, ann, it claims students has always been safe.

    >> jeff , thank you so much this morning. annie le's mother vivian is joining us exclues sexclusively, speakin g out for the first time, along with her attorney, joe tacopina. good morning. this is the first time you've spoken out publicly. what do you want to say to the world about what happened to your little girl ?

    >> i want to say to the world that i love annie , i miss her a lot. and i want the world to know that she is a smart girl and she studied in the library and she will become a very good scientist and helpful to the country. i'm missing her every day. i don't know how to --

    >> you just said that she would have been a good scientist to help the world, the country. there's a loss not just for you, you're saying, but also to the world. do you blame yale university for what happened to your daughter?

    >> i come here for my daughter because i don't want to anybody be killed like my daughter. i want yale to have more protection for the students and they have to change the security system to be better. and yale had let it happened and they have to be responsible for that.

    >> you're saying that yale let it happened because it didn't have what you're saying as adequate security to protect your daughter. joe , so what is it that this lawsuit will -- is alleging? is it -- what is the basis of saying that this university is responsible given the fact that the man who is now admitting to this crime has never had anything prior on his record? he did not have a criminal record .

    >> he didn't have a criminal record , ann, but he had problems within the university. yale -- longstanding well-documented problem at yale for being -- there's a cultural tolerance there for allowing sexual harassment on women. there is a federal investigation of yale right now for this very same -- these are the same offenses. students filed a lawsuit under title ix , equal protection statute, where they're asking the federal authorities and the federal authorities launched an investigation against yale , looking into the allegations of failing to secure and protect women. they had prior notice about him. they had prior notice -- why do you say that there wassed a quite prior notice? we just saw this statement that we just saw in jeff 's report that t. was the university's response. but in this particular case, it is not culpable. how do you argue in this particular case yale university was culpable?

    >> the culture tolerance was alive and well because they had other students and employees who made complaints about ray clark . one of the problems was that ray clark supervisor, one of the supervisors was his brother-in-law. so his brother-in-law obviously was someone who was perhaps receiving complaints and didn't act on them. yale is responsible for that.

    >> joe , thank you. i know that this is so close to the anniversary of your daughter's death it's difficult for you. i know this is not the last time we'll speak to you. thank you for joining us this morning. i know everyone listening is so sorry for your loss.

    >>> we'll be right back with much more. but first, let's

TODAY contributor
updated 9/9/2011 9:42:40 AM ET 2011-09-09T13:42:40

It’s been two years since Vivian Le suffered the horror of finding out her daughter Annie had been brutally murdered at the hands of a lab technician while working in a research center at Yale University. Today, she still finds herself telling people she still has both a son and a daughter.

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Video: Mom of murdered student: ‘Yale let it happen’ (on this page)

“Every day I try to tell myself I think she hasn’t left me, she’s still with me,” Le told NBC News' Jeff Rossen. “When someone asks me, ‘How many children do you have?’ I always say I have two, even though she passed away.”

Story: Yale lab tech gets 44 years for killing student
Now, Vivan Le is pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against Yale. In a 10-page document filed Tuesday, Le accuses the university of failing to protect women on its New Haven, Conn., campus and turning a blind eye to aggressive behavior by males.

Le appeared exclusively on TODAY Friday with her family’s attorney Joe Tacopina to discuss the lawsuit. She told Ann Curry she's filing the suit in hopes to stop her family’s nightmare from ever happening to another Yale student.

“I’m standing for my daughter, because I don’t want anybody to be killed like my daughter,” she told Curry.
“She died for nothing; she died in vain, and I want Yale to protect the students. Yale had let (the murder) happen and you have to be responsible for that.”

At issue is whether the university could have known lab technician Raymond Clark was capable of the horrific crime against Annie Le, 24, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants whose body was found stuffed behind a wall at the Yale Animal Research Center Sept. 13, 2009, five days after she was reported missing. Tragically, her body was found on the day she was to marry Jonathon Widawski, a Columbia University student, in New York City.

In responding to the Le family lawsuit, the university issued a statement saying, “Yale had no information indicating that Raymond Clark was capable of committing this terrible crime, and no reasonable security measures could have prevented this unforeseeable act.”

But attorney Tacopina told Curry on TODAY Friday that Yale’s “culture of tolerance” for aggressive male behavior “was alive and well” in the case of Clark. While Curry noted Clark, now serving 44 years in prison after pleading guilty to Le’s slaying, had no previous criminal record, Tacopina asserted the university had received complaints about him.

“They had other students and other lab employees who had made complaints about Ray Clark,” Tacopina said. “One of the problems is Ray Clark’s supervisor…was his brother-in-law, and his brother-in-law obviously was someone who was perhaps receiving complaints and didn’t act on them. Yale is responsible for that. They had prior notice about him.”

Tacopina also noted an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is ongoing at the university, after 16 current and former students at Yale filed a Title IX lawsuit in March, claiming the university fails to properly deal with accusations of harassment and assault on female students.

“Yale had this long-standing, documented problem; there’s a culture of tolerance there for sort of allowing sexual harassment and assaults on women,” Tacopina told Curry. “It’s well-documented.”

Story: Feds investigate sex harassment complaints at Yale

Ironically, Le had written an article in 2009 for a campus medical journal titled, “Crime and Safety in New Haven.” She was in her third year at Yale, enrolled in the doctoral program for pharmacology when she went missing on Sept. 8, 2009. Key card access showed both Le and Clark were at the research center late that morning.

Two days after Le’s body, partially clothed and badly beaten, including many broken bones, was found behind the wall of the center’s locker room, police searched Clark’s home and found a DNA match to link Clark to the murder. He pleaded guilty in June, and while not eligible for parole, could be released from prison in 2053.

Story: After student's death, Cornell moves to end hazing

On TODAY Friday, Le lamented the loss of her daughter, saying she would have “become a very good scientist” who would have done good work “on behalf of the country.” But personally, she still achingly feels the void of losing her only daughter.

“I love Annie; I’m missing her a lot,” she said. “I’m missing her every day, and I want the world to know that.”

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