Yale student Annie Le should have spent Sunday evening enjoying her wedding, surrounded by family and friends. Instead, the bride-to-be's bloodied body was found stuffed inside a wall at a high-security university lab.
The 24-year-old had penned an article for the university magazine on crime and safety earlier this year while studying for her doctorate in pharmacology. "New Haven is a city and all cities have their perils," she wrote. "But with a little street smarts, one can avoid becoming yet another statistic."
Now it seems she has become just that. Five days after she went missing, the day she was due to tie the knot with Jonathan Widawsky, police found her body. She had been beaten and strangled, then squeezed inside a basement area that housed utility cables.
Ms Le, described as a "brilliant student" from Placerville, California, was last seen arriving at the five-storey laboratory building, wearing a brown skirt and green top, at around 10am last Tuesday. There is no evidence of her ever leaving. Her purse, driving licence, credit cards, and other personal effects were found on a desk in her office.
When her disappearance was first reported, police wondered if she had got cold feet about her impending nuptials and fled. However, friends denied she had any concerns about the wedding and said it was "inconceivable" that she was a runaway bride. "Jon was just so wonderful to her, so supportive of her, and of her dreams," said her room-mate Vanessa Flores. "They would talk on the cell phone for hours, and they would just be so connected."
Interest in the case has been heightened by the fact that Ms Le wrote an article entitled: "Crime and safety in New Haven", which was published in the medical school magazine in February. It detailed the relatively high number of robberies and assaults affecting students in the city, and contained advice from the local police chief as to how undergraduates, particularly female ones, could stay safe.
Speaking to ABC News, Ms Flores cited the article as a potential motive for her room-mate's murder. "The only thing I can possibly think of right now is maybe [the killer was] a psychopath, an antisocial person who, I don't know, maybe got upset about what she wrote about not being safe," she said.
Police are analysing evidence left near the scene, a mile from the main Yale campus in New Haven, including a pile of bloody clothes apparently belonging to the killer. They are also studying footage from the 75 CCTV cameras constantly trained on the laboratory, along with records logging which students and staff accessed the building.
"It's a frightening idea that there's a murderer walking around on campus," Muneeb Sultan, a 20-year-old chemistry student, told the Associated Press. "I'm shocked that it happened in a Yale building that had key-card access."
Investigators have not said whether they have any suspects, although they confirmed they do not believe the killing was random. The victim's fiancé, a postgraduate student at Columbia University, has been ruled out. The New York Daily News claimed police had questioned an unnamed professor, who was to have hosted a class involving Ms Le on the day she went missing. The class was cancelled at short notice.