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Yale student strangled, medical examiner’s office says

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (CNN) — Yale University graduate student Annie Le, whose body was found in the basement wall of an off-campus medical research building, was strangled, a spokesman for the Connecticut medical examiner’s office said Wednesday.

The cause of death was “traumatic asphyxia due to neck compression,” the spokesman said. The office would not release the spokesman’s name.

Le, 24, a pharmacology student, was last seen alive September 8, the day she appeared in a surveillance video entering a four-story lab at 10 Amistad St., about 10 blocks from the main campus.

Her body was found Sunday, on what was to have been her wedding day. No one has been arrested or charged in her death.

Earlier Wednesday, a Yale employee was released from police custody after investigators detained him Tuesday night to collect DNA, said Jessica A. Mayorga, a spokeswoman for the city of New Haven.

Police took Raymond Clark, 24, into custody after obtaining a search warrant for his home and a body warrant that allowed them to collect DNA samples as authorities probed Le’s death.  Watch how police briefly detained the lab tech »

Clark, a technician, could have been arrested if he declined to provide DNA samples, but he was released after complying, Mayorga said.

Police vehicles were parked outside Clark’s home Tuesday in Middletown, Connecticut.

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Investigators have collected about 150 pieces of evidence, reviewed about 700 hours of video and interviewed more than 150 people, said Chief James Lewis of the New Haven Police Department.

A senior police official disputed Yale University President Richard Levin, who had indicated that the suspect pool would be a “limited number” of people who had been in the basement the day Le disappeared.

“We know everyone that was in the basement … and we passed that on to police,” Levin said. “There is an abundance of evidence.”

But the police official, whom CNN is not naming because of the sensitive nature of the ongoing investigation, said investigators believe dozens of people could have had access to that area of the building.

The police official said that investigators were unlikely to make any arrest until DNA evidence is returned from analysis and that the investigation could take days or weeks.

Authorities have not released information on what DNA evidence may have been found, although investigators said earlier that bloody clothing was found hidden above tiles in a drop ceiling in another part of the building.

Police have not described the clothes that were found, nor said to whom they might have belonged. Teams of investigators at a Connecticut State Police lab worked through the weekend processing and examining the bloodstained garments.

But Thomas Kaplan, editor in chief of the Yale Daily News, said a Yale police official told the college paper that the clothes were not what Le was wearing when she entered the building.

On Sunday, New Haven Police spokesman Joe Avery said that Le’s killing was not a random act, but would not elaborate.

Le was to have been married Sunday on New York’s Long Island to Jonathan Widawsky, a Columbia University graduate student.

Le was from Placerville, California, and seemed to have been 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 last week, she left her purse, credit cards and cell phone in her office.
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