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Annie Le: Police Search Hartford Garbage Incinerator For Clues

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)- Investigators sifted through garbage at an incinerator Sunday, looking for clues into the disappearance of a Yale University graduate student who was supposed to be celebrating her wedding day.

FBI agent Bill Reiner said Sunday that investigators are "following the trash" that left the university laboratory in New Haven. He declined to comment further on the search at the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority's trash-to-energy plant in Hartford.

Annie Le, 24, was last seen Tuesday morning at the lab. More than 100 state, local and federal law enforcement agencies are looking for her but have not yet determined if Le's disappearance is a missing person's case or an act of foul play.

Authorities say Le, a pharmacology doctoral student originally from Placerville, Calif., swiped her identification card to enter the lab. But there is no record of her leaving despite some 75 surveillance cameras around the complex. Her ID, money, credit cards and purse were found in her office.

Investigators on Saturday said they recovered evidence from the building that houses Le's laboratory, but would not confirm reports by media outlets that the items included bloody clothing.

In a story published Saturday, the Yale Daily News quoted an unnamed New Haven Police Department official as saying the bloody clothes were found in a ceiling at the building. The official spoke to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity so the official would be free to discuss an ongoing investigation.

On Sunday morning, a state police Major Crimes Squad van drove down a ramp into the basement area of the building where the lab is located. Officials had no immediate comment.

Yale is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Le's whereabouts.

On Sunday, students prayed for Le's safe return at The University Church.

"It has been a week that has tested many people in many different ways," the Rev. Ian Buckner Oliver said just before he gave the Sunday morning sermon. "It has brought up a lot of fears for people. It has brought up a lot of worry and concern for her and for all our safety."

The student-dominated congregation offered a moment of silence and prayer, "for Annie, and her family, who have arrived here in New Haven, for her fiance, on this, what would have been their wedding day. Let's lift them up in our prayers," Oliver said.

Le's family arrived in New Haven on Saturday, Oliver said after the service. He said the church doesn't have any other events or prayer services planned specifically for Le.

"There is nothing else at this point because the university and police have said there is no criminal investigation, there is no proof of a crime. So at this point, we are just praying," Oliver said.

Le, who's of Asian descent, stands 4 feet 11 inches and weighs 90 pounds. She was to marry Columbia University graduate student Jonathan Widawsky on Sunday at the North Ritz Club in Syosset, N.Y., on the north shore of Long Island.

Police say Widawsky is not a suspect and is assisting with the investigation.

"I will categorically say a body has not been found," Mertz said. "Items that could potentially be evidence have been seized. None have yet been associated with Annie Le at this time."

Reports from NBC News and others indicated that bloody clothes had been found. Mertz would not confirm reports that items found included bloody clothing. MSNBC:

A police source told NBC News that investigators had recovered bloody clothes from a laboratory building in which Le was last seen on Tuesday. The New Haven Register and the Yale Daily News reported on their Web sites that the clothes were found in a ceiling space.

Le was last seen Tuesday at a university laboratory. She swiped her identification card to enter the building Tuesday morning, but authorities have found no record of her leaving, despite some 75 surveillance cameras that cover the complex.

Authorities said they still have not determined whether Le's disappearance is a criminal case.

"We don't know where she is. We don't know what happened to her," Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said. "We don't know if a crime was committed or not."

Investigators, having already gone through the videos once, continued to review the surveillance tapes frame-by-frame Saturday to see if they overlooked Le, who could have changed into a laboratory coat or other clothes before leaving the building. Mertz said the review included video enhancement being conducted by state police.

"I do not know that it's definitive that she has left the building at this point," Mertz said.

On Saturday, investigators took what appeared to be blueprints to the building. FBI agents were also spotted questioning a man outside the lab. When they finished talking, the man got in the front seat of the unmarked car and an FBI agent got in the back seat. The car then drove away.

Yale is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Le's whereabouts.

Le, who's of Asian descent, stands 4-foot-11 and weighs 90 pounds. Her purse, cell phone, credit cards and money were found in her office.

Officials say there's no evidence of foul play.

Le, originally from Placerville, Calif., was set to get married Sunday at the North Ritz Club in Syosset, N.Y., on the north shore of Long Island. Workers at the club say the wedding was canceled Friday.

Police say Le's fiance, Jonathan Widawsky, a Columbia University graduate student, is not a suspect and is assisting with the investigation.

At Le's apartment building across town, hopes for Le's safe return waned.

"I feel bad what happened to her," said Anna Beth Funk, who lives across the street from Le's apartment. "It broke my heart hearing she was about to get married because I love being married and it must be so hard for her fiance."

Wesleyan University professor Charles Lemert, who also lives across the street, said Le always took time to talk to his 11-year-old daughter.

"I wish more than anything this could be solved and turn into some kind of misunderstanding, but it seems bleak," he said.

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