I love analysis, so here’s my theory around the over 15 year old murder case of Hae Min Lee that Adnan Syed now is imprisoned for.
Now, I finally got to listen to the Serial podcast season 1 about the murder of Hae Min Lee (Hangul: 이해민; 1980–1999). From wiki: She “was a Woodlawn High School senior in Baltimore, Maryland who disappeared on 13 January 1999. Her body was found 9 February 1999 in Leakin Park, the victim of murder by manual strangulation. Adnan Masud Syed, her ex-boyfriend, was convicted of first degree murder and is currently serving a life sentence plus 30 years for her murder. In February 2015, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals approved Syed’s application for leave to appeal.
While her murder initially generated only local interest, it was the subject of the podcast Serial in 2014, which brought international attention to Syed’s trial.”
Listen to the podcast if you haven’t before you read further. I won’t go into details around the whole case (million links), but will mention a few specific details that lead me to understand what might really happened.
Some basic facts
The important things we really know are:
- the time when Hae Min Lee’s left school and later was found murdered.
- the main “witness” Jay Wilds knew where Lee’s car was located after her disappearance.
- Adnan’s cellphone has travelled here and there according to cell phone base station’s data (we don’t know who has had it in which time spans, really).
- A third unknown (?) person knew about the events calling in twice to the police pointing towards Adnan Syed and leading the police to Jay Wild’s storytelling.
Now, there are also some bigger conclusions that caught my attention while listening to the podcast:
- Jay Wilds seemed very convincing. As if he really told the truth (except for events he wasn’t part of or had been instructed to testify about). Since he had been very scared and jumpy after the disappearance he really has been experiencing something and he has not done the murder itself, so he focuses on saving his own ass and with the help of the police he has got specific instructions on what he can confess etc in order to get his deal.
- In interviews of the podcast Adnan Syed seems also very convincing. Had he been this convincing in court there would have been reasonable doubt. And after all this years, behaving like he has done in prison says something. He is not a murderer. Definitely not. He loved “his girl” like any teenager.
And some fine details that led me to my theory:
- Adnan Syed said something to Jay Wilds while he was passing him in court, something like: “-…pathetic..”. Why?
- The whole chain of telephone calls made during that day and the fact that Adnan Syed had left it with Jay Wilds and all confusing stories and lies Jay Wilds came up with only leaves me with this conclusion: the telephone must have been in anyone else’s possession from lunch and forward, returning to Adnan after his track practice then off and away again.
- Now, the third little detail was the school prom incident when Adnan Syed was confronted by his family (mom?) at the prom since he was “dating”Hae Min Lee presumable without the family’s consent. The family’s surveillance of the son had most likely continued even after the “break up”.
Putting the pieces together
Jay Wilds story might be true in parts. Adnan’s story isn’t even a story, this is pretty much it:
Adnan says he did not go shopping with Jay, and went back to school at around 11:30 a.m. However, he let Jay borrow his car and cell phone, so that Jay could go buy a birthday present for Stephanie, who is also a close friend of Adnan’s. He tells Jay he will call after track practice so that Jay can come pick him up.
After that he got wasted by weed and then went to the mosque. He doesn’t remember anything of course.
Someone could have contacted Jay Wilds during the day with some threats and the necessity to assist or else something bad would happen. Perhaps a call to the police around some drug-deal or something. Perhaps this someone was interested in getting hold of Adnan’s new cellphone or had found Jay Wild’s number there. Perhaps this someone was determined to stop the marijuana smoking in order to get in control over Adnan’s life and future. Perhaps then the cellphone was handed over from Jay to another person and then a lot of unplanned events took place including finding out which numbers went to which person in the phone, confronting Hae Min Lee about the calls and her relationship with Adnan, getting into an uncontrollable fight, strangling a woman, burying a corpse, getting rid of evidence and making up a story giving blame to one person and making sure other people weren’t involved.
Now, 2 and 3 together led me to think of some cases in Sweden related to so called “honor killings“. With the knowledge of this basically anything is possible – there are always so many feelings, prestige, fear, hate, love and the conflict between generations protecting “old ways” and younger generations “living life” is very infected. Brothers are forced to murder sisters if they don’t comply to the family or community wish. Fathers and “uncles” are “forced” to murder family members in order to save the family’s honor. This is facts and not a rasist rant or putting down muslims or anything. This is just the same old stupid human behavior when status quo in time of changes are to be preserved. It has happened in any age no regards of religions, “race” or cultures. I’m not blaming muslim culture or sloppy western decadent lifestyles, I’m blaming stupid human behavior.
Here’s my conclusion: It must have been relative to or a family member of Adnan Syed that committed the murder. It’s the most logical explanation.
Let me explain further
Jay’s stories around events does not hold, in fact he has had 3-4 versions and none of them are right, so let’s skip all that “smoke” and try to find some alternative events. Jay has Adnan’s car and cellphone from the time of Adnan going to class. Around here it starts.
Time: 12:41 p.m.
To: Jenn Home
Jay Still Has the Cell phone, and is Not at Jenn’s House.
Maybe then someone else has got the phone driving around with Adnan Syed’s cell phone finding out who Adnan has been talking to. And first number called is to Hae Min Lee. Like “this has to stop, now and permanently..” and maybe Jay has been instructed to stay put at Jenn’s house while they make further investigations. But we still don’t know where Jay is.
Significantly, the tower data for the 12:41 p.m. call contradicts all known narratives of what was occurring during this time period. The call pings a tower fives mile to the east of Jenn’s house, close to downtown Baltimore, which makes its very unlikely that Jay was at Jenn’s house at 12:41 p.m., or even that he was near Woodlawn or Security Square Mall. There is no explanation for what Jay was doing downtown at this time.
He wasn’t there probably. Someone else had the phone. Now, Jay came to Jenn’s house in the afternoon, saying he was waiting for a call.
At trial, Jenn testified that on January 13, 1999, “[Jay] came over to her house in a tan car to hang out with her and her brother. [Jay] was acting different, not relaxed, and had a cell phone which was unusual. [Jay] said he was waiting for a call.” (Brief of Appellant at 12-13.)
Call 4-6 no-one knows anything of. Seems a lot is happening. Somewhere around 2:15 Hae Min Lee gets interrupted. 2.36 someone calls to the cell phone, Jay claims this was the pick-up-call from Adnan: “It is much more likely, however, that as of 2:36 p.m., Hae was still alive.” 3:21 is the next. The cell phone is at the area around the mosque. Jay tells a lie about it, claiming it’s him asking to buy marijuana.
Jay cannot be at Jenn’s home, as he and Jenn repeatedly told the police and testified at trial. The cell phone records show that the phone was near Woodlawn for the entire time of Hae’s probable abduction and/or murder, and that the phone was being used to call “Jenn Home” during this same time period. As Adnan has no reason to call Jenn, it is virtually certain that the call was made by Jay.
Or someone else had the phone making sure Jay is ready and compromised. Then another call:
Time: 3:32 p.m.
This is said to be incriminating for Adnan – the only one who new about the new girlfriends’ number. He must have made that call. No, not really. Someone from Adnan’s home might have found a note in some trousers, or in the car or pressing a speed dial press and wait for answer.
I believe it’s certain that Adnan called Jay to fetch him at the tracks: “The 4:58 p.m. call would likely have been Adnan calling his cell phone to let Jay know he was done.” Adnan was not involved at all and in many parts Jay wasn’t either. Meanwhile, someone or several persons investigated numbers in the cell phone, calling here and there and keeping Jay posted on what they wanted him to do and when.
When Jay gets the car back he is informed and compromised about what has happened. Adnan has killed etc but he must shut up about the family or else they will blame Jay since he should have had both the car and the cell phone – and “oh, btw, there’s a dead body in the trunk”.
“At approximately 5:15 p.m., Jay picks Adnan up from track, and they then go to “Cathy’s” (not-her-real-name’s) house. Cathy is a friend of Jenn’s. Cathy sort of knows Jay, through Jenn, but Adnan and Cathy had never met before that day. Adnan almost certainly has his cell phone back again by the time of this call — Krista is a friend of Adnan’s, not Jay’s, and Jay is unlikely to be calling her.”
The cell phone ended up with Adnan again but Jay borrowed both car and phone once again since Adnan was too stoned and not aware or what was happening really. Before this, the police had talked to Adnan and Adnan was worried about both possession in his car and in which state he was in.
Adnan’s father testified at trial that, on January 13, 1999, Adnan “attended religious services with [him] from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.”
Meanwhile, Jay and the phone got on the road again, Jay needed to be picked up from the park where Hae Min Lee had been buried and Jen had called him there and another person had replied.
She testified that when she called the cell, someone other than Jay answered the phone and said, “Jay will call you back when he is ready for you to come and get him, he is busy” (Brief of Appellant at 13). She stated that “[t]he voice on the cell phone was an older male, deep, not like a kid, and it was not [Jay]” (id.). But Jenn does not identify the voice as belonging to Adnan – even though she knows him, and even though she had previously identified the speaker as Adnan in her police interview.
So what happened?
Adnan’s family got hold of Adnan’s new cell phone and was making sure to confront Hae Min Lee about them still seeing each other. They managed to stop Hae Min Lee’s car and perhaps threats and insults were made from both sides. Perhaps things escalated beyond repair. Maybe Jay Wilds job was just to retrieve the phone and the car, perhaps Jay Wilds by then knew too much and they needed his cooperation after Hae Min Lee’s been tied up and put in the trunk. Jay gets instructions to wait at Jenn’s house. If Adnans father or older brother or an “uncle” had been involved it would have been important to cover up the (not intended) murder making sure to blame Adnan instead of the family or the muslim community – after all everything was Adnan’s fault (using drugs, humiliating his future planned wife). And word against word, Jay would probably have the stronger case – although later certainly would have disappeared as Hae Min Lee did.
In panic, everything is planned and taken care of. Adnan is sent to the mosque while Jay and killers get rid of the body, the car and evidence. And they also make up the story – which does not hold at all when looking at where the cell phone in fact has been.
I believe Adnan was not allowed to testify because the family/community was afraid that Adnan would crack and put the blame on them. And after all, the court had to prove Adnan’s guilt in order to convict him. He would probably be released since no evidence could be found. Right? But the case became so strong (despite of Jay Wilds lies, different testimonies and strange behavior in interrogation) due to his calmness in court. Also, the defender did not do very well I’m afraid, most of the jurors simply made up their minds based on Jay’s words and the prosecutor’s fine cherry picking of events and “evidence”.
The family/community is of course not interested in finding the murderer and everything is still Adnan’s fault not listening to them = threatening their whole community/religion. There needed to be a scape-goat and they needed to make sure Jay to stick with his testimony giving Adnan the blame.
Now, they also needed the body to be found for the case to be “closed” – no lose ends. So therefore, they tipped off some idiot to find it and made sure the traces led to Jay and his confession. Without Jay, no case at all, therefore Jay was to be protected and given a deal.
The “pathetic”-remark made me think that Adnan thought Jay was a coward not standing for his actions, pointing out Adnan as the killer while protecting the family/community. He was in Adnan’s eyes just pathetic with no courage, no spine and with no honor for sure.
Maybe the defense lawyer’s claim for extra cash from the family/community was because she was pressured to disregard Adnan’s alibi? To prevent him from testifying?
Syed Rahman, Adnan Syed’s father.
“He spends the whole time in his room,” his wife, Shamim, tells me a few minutes later. “What does he do in there?” I ask her. “He reads books,” she says. “Islamic books.” “Has he been diagnosed with depression?” “He doesn’t believe in depression,” Shamim says. “That’s the problem.” “He doesn’t believe in antidepressants,” adds Yusuf, their son. “And this is all because of Adnan?” “Yes,” they say.
Tanveer [the older brother] vanished to Philadelphia, becoming totally estranged from the family. “Imagine having a family one day, and the next day you wake up and it’s completely broken”
It’s a tragedy of the worst sort for all. Worst for Hae Min Lee and her family of course. And another young life’s ruined of course but as he says himself, Adnan says he did what he did, he challenged his family and community, lived a life he shouldn’t have done. He betrayed his family, disrespected them and have put them in a misery for the rest of their lives. But he himself is alive, imprisoned but alive. What can he say but to appeal to state justice. He has indeed been wrongly convicted and put to jail. If he comes out some healing will be made on his family’s side, but never on Hae Min Lee’s. The real killer is also a victim and is also innocent in some way. In these kind of cases there are many to blame – as in other kinds of murders with a “chain of command”.
Still I’m not accusing anyone. I merely try to open for new thoughts, I analyse and I use my brain doing what it can do best – process information and come up with some kind of sense.