Adventist Pastor Emerges
as Family Spokesperson
Pastor Dennis Smith aids Le family, fiancé Widawsky, in crime’s wake

news editor

Seventh-day Adventist pastor has emerged as a spokesperson for two families caught in what authorities are calling a “workplace homicide.”

MAKES STATEMENT: Seventh-day Adventist pastor Dennis Smith reads a brief statement for the families of Annie Le and Jonathan Widawsky on Sept. 15, 2009 at Yale, in New Haven, Conn. Le, a Yale graduate student, was murdered and her body was discovered Sunday in a Yale medical lab. (AP Photo/Douglas Healey).
Dennis Smith, pastor of the New Haven, Connecticut, Seventh-day Adventist Church, had his image flashed around the world as he read a brief statement September 15 from the families of Annie Le and Jonathan Widawsky. Le, a Yale University graduate student in pharmacology, disappeared September 8, five days before her planned marriage to Widawsky, a Columbia University graduate student. Le’s body was found on what would have been her wedding day.

Neither Le nor Widawsky, nor their families are Adventist Church members. But an Adventist friend of the Le family contacted Smith asking for help in dealing with the onslaught of media attention. Le’s disappearance attracted worldwide press and broadcast attention, particularly with the proximity of her wedding.

“Where I became involved with the families was they asked if I would be willing to read a statement from them on their behalf,” Smith told Larry King of CNN in a September 16 interview. “And that gave me an opportunity to become acquainted with the family.”

Smith told King, and also Adventist Review in a phone interview, that the Le family wanted to express that they were “very appreciative” of what had been done by “the Yale University staff administration [and] law enforcement agencies” in the case. Smith singled out the “professionalism and … compassion” shown by law enforcement during the difficult time.

In the statement read to the media, Smith said the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Connecticut State Police, the New Haven Police Department, and Yale police were notable “for the professional and compassionate manner in whey they [conducted]” the probe. A 24-year-old Yale laboratory technician, Raymond Clark III, of Middletown, Connecticut, has been charged with the murder and is being held on $3 million bail.

Although no motive has been formally disclosed, media reports indicate Clark and Le worked together at the same laboratory and have labeled the case a “workplace homicide.”

Smith told Adventist Review that he has been senior pastor of the New Haven church, which  has drawn approximately 150 people weekly, for the past nine years. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Colorado State University, and during his time there he joined the Adventist Church. Eventually, Smith sensed a call to full-time ministry and earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.


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