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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“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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