Raymond Clark III, the only suspect in the horrific murder of Annie Le, a PhD candidate at Yale University, appears to have proven that unchecked obsessive behavior at the workplace can be deadly. It is a tale of office horror that recalls one of Edgar Allan Poe's most frightening stories.
After weeks of speculation in the media that Raymond Clark III, the muscular 24-year-old, may have stalked Le and that it may have been a crime of passion, Police arrested Clark, and said Le's murder was an example of "workplace violence."
Richard Levin, Yale's president, quickly announced that there was nothing in Clark's employment history that might have hinted he could have become the only suspect in a murder.
That duck and cover statement, which sounded scripted by lawyers, will soon come under attack -- as will Yale University. The institution will likely be sued for both its failure to reign in Clark's bullying and to anticipate this crime. News reports already demonstrate that Clark was a feared bulldozer well known for his acidic clashes with researchers. But what may have made him lethal in the workplace was the fact that his supervisors failed to check his obsession for absolute control.
Clark appears to have been the ultimate dark-side Spreadsheet.
His job was to clean hundreds of cages of mice and countless other animals. As a full-time animal tech, he was also a caretaker for the animals. He had to insure animals were properly fed and hydrated and not sick. He was responsible for the paperwork on each animal. And when animals were designated to be euthanized, Clark was one of the technicians authorized, as TheStar.com reported, to "take the animals to the basement, lock them in a cage, and turn on the carbon dioxide."
After having been reported missing for several days, the body of Annie Le was found on September 13, hidden in a wall of the basement of the Yale Amistad "friendship" building. The parallels to Edgar Allan Poe's The Black Cat are uncanny, a classic tale in which a man murders this wife and buries her along with the cat that first inspired his mad rampage behind a wall in his cellar.
Coworkers said that, more than just a janitor, Clark's job required him to be a policeman of sorts. He may have taken his workplace responsibilities too far. "Control freak" was the term one Yale coworker gave to police. Clark clashed with upper and lower management -- from top scientists to researchers. Last year a team leader in the building said several researchers complained that Clark was rude to them. "He would berate them for minor infractions," a source told TheStar.com. "Everyone enforces rules, but he enforced them in an officious manner."
Clark also reportedly screamed at neighbors and children.
There even may have been a digital warning before the crime. ABC News has reported that Clark sent a text message to Le early Tuesday, Sept. 8 -- the day of her disappearance -- requesting a meeting to discuss cleaning up those mice cages.
Richard Levin, Yale's president said that Clark's supervisor "reports that nothing in the history of his employment at the university gave an indication that his involvement in such a crime might be possible."
Le was just 24, murdered on the eve of her marriage and on the brink of a great career. Her killing is a great tragedy for her family, fiancé and students and workers everywhere.
There is little positive in a grisly crime that seems ripped out of the pages of a Stephen King novel. But in the coming weeks and months we will likely learn even more clearly that Yale University failed to see the risk of letting a Bulldozer play tyrant in enforcing his Spreadsheet rules.
Perhaps that public dialogue will help prevent the death of another talented, innocent worker who was not protected by her supervisor or employer.
Jonathan Littman is the co-author of the new book I HATE PEOPLE! (Little, Brown and Company; June 2009) with Marc Hershon. A Contributing Editor at Playboy, Jonathan is the co-author of the best selling Art of Innovation.
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