EL DORADO HILLS, Calif. – In a ceremony filled with tears and song, those who loved Annie Le best said goodbye to her Saturday.
The private Mass, held in the sloping foothills of the Sierra Nevada, not far from Le’s hometown of Placerville, came nearly two weeks after the 24-year-old graduate student’s body was found hidden behind a wall in a Yale University laboratory building in New Haven, Conn.
In eulogies, Le’s family and pastor tried to reconcile the young woman’s vibrant life with her violent death.
“We could ask a thousand whys for the rest of our life,” said her pastor, Monsignor James Kidder.
Le’s fiancé, Jonathan Widawsky, whom Le was to marry the day she was found dead, did not speak.
Dan Nguyen, 15, Le’s younger brother, said he loved his sister for “her silliness and friendliness.” Le never missed a birthday, Ngyuyen said, and would “send home presents on every occasion.”
Le’s mother, Vivian Van Le, read a poem she had written in Vietnamese after she “heard the bad news from New Haven.”
In it, she recalled the lullabies she used to sing when her daughter was a child. Now that Le is dead, she said, she will sing a different sort of lullaby. Le’s brother, Chris, 20, read an English translation of the poem.
The ceremony, which was held at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in El Dorado Hills, was filled with prayers and hymns. Much of the ceremony, including a rendition of “Amazing Grace,” was in Vietnamese.
Le, a Yale graduate student in pharmacology, disappeared from a research building at the university’s medical school complex on Sept. 8. Five days later, her body was found stuffed into a 2-foot-long crawl space inside a laboratory wall.
The state’s medical examiner reported that Le died from asphyxiation. A lab technician, Raymond Clark III, was arrested on Sept. 17 and charged in her slaying. Police have not offered a possible motive. Clark has not entered a plea.
Le was buried in nearby Rescue.