UPDATE: New Haven Adventist Pastor Helps Families Directly Affected by Yale Student's Murder


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This morning, while reading the New York Times on the Annie Le murder investigation, I saw the following:

Dennis Smith, the pastor of the New Haven Seventh-Day Adventist Church, who has been speaking for the Le and Widawsky families, appeared on the “Today” show on Thursday and called the arrest “wonderful news.”

“They are very appreciative of the thoughts and prayers of everyone during this terrible time of grief and loss,” he said in an e-mail message later in the day.

Upon doing some news searching, it appears that Dennis Smith has been on NBC's Today Show and CNN's Larry King Live as well as local Connecticut media speaking on behalf of the Le family. Spectrum will be updating as we learn more about the Adventist connection here. (On a personal note, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected as well as for Pastor Smith as he seeks to communicate and comfort, particularly as we near the Sabbath.)

On CNN's Larry King Live, Sep. 16, transcript:

KING: We want to spend a couple of moments with Pastor Dennis Smith in New Haven, spokesperson for families of the victim and her fiance, Jonathan Widawsky. He's pastor of the New Haven Seventh Day Adventist Church.

What can you tell us about the deceased?

PASTOR DENNIS SMITH, SPOKESMAN FOR ANNIE LE'S FAMILY: Where I became involved with the families was they asked if I would be willing to read a statement from them on their behalf. And that gave me an opportunity to become acquainted with the family. I -- I did [not] personally know the deceased, but I have had an opportunity to become acquainted with her family and -- and, also, her fiance's family a bit, but primarily Annie's family.

And I must say -- and the reason I'm interested in sharing with the community is -- is the wonderful family that they are. They -- they have been so loving and supportive of one another and very appreciative of what everyone has -- has -- from the Yale University staff administration, from the law enforcement agencies, their professionalism; also, their compassion. So I -- I just -- my purpose is I just want the community to know, again, what a loving family they are and very thankful for what's been done in their behalf.

KING: Do you know the fiance?

SMITH: I have met the fiance, a very lovely young man. But I -- I do not know him personally.

KING: So the family is -- is -- is happy about the way she was treated and the way this story is being treated by everyone involved?

SMITH: Yes. They feel that every agency that's been involved has been very respectful, has -- and, of course, they have kept asking -- and I think this is appropriate -- that their privacy be respected. And -- and I believe, in essence, that has taken place. And that, again, is -- is my role. I want to do as much as I can to help maintain that privacy, but yet communicate with the community, again, their thankfulness and -- and what a wonderful family they are.

KING: Yes.

Thank you, pastor. We'll be calling on you again, too.

The New Haven Register reports:

Hours before Le’s cause of death was announced, the Rev. Dennis Smith, pastor of the New Haven Seventh Day Adventist Church made a brief appearance outside Woodbridge Hall at Yale to speak on behalf of the Le and Widawsky families. Jonathan Widawsky, a Columbia University graduate student, is Le’s fiance.

Smith thanked the entire Yale community, Le’s friends and her extended family for their support throughout the ordeal. He singled out the FBI, the state police, the New Haven Police Department and Yale police “for the professional and compassionate manner in which they are conducting the investigation.”

Smith, whose church is on Humphrey Street in New Haven, also mentioned by name Yale President Richard C. Levin and Yale Vice President Linda Lorimer, as well as the Rev. Robert Beloin of the St. Thomas More Catholic Church at Yale and Yale Chaplain Sharon Kugler for their help.

“Our loss would have been immeasurably more difficult to cope with without their support,” said Smith, who would not take any questions. The family has not talked to the press and has asked that it respect its privacy.

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UPDATE:

Spectrum contacted Pastor Dennis Smith, asking him about his involvement. He reports that Annie was not a Seventh-day Adventist, nor is anyone in the immediate Le or Widawsky families.

He said:

An Adventist friend of the Le family emailed me asking if I would be willing to assist the family if they needed assistance. I responded that I would. The family asked me to help them compose a statement representing both families for the press. This [I] did and read the statement last Tuesday night at a press conference at Yale. The Le family began getting phone calls, which made the whole situation more difficult for the family. So I told them to refer the calls to me and that I would assist them with the media. That is how the media began contacting me. I only represented the Widwasky family when I read the statement from the families on Tuesday night. After that I was only representing Annie Le's family.

Continue to pray for the family. There are still several things that lay ahead for them, which will be difficult. Also, the grief process will take time.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/1852