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Serial: I think I figured it out.

Leakin Park

I intentionally got Katiebird hooked on Serial. Now, I feel like a pusher. “Go on, try it. Are you afraid? All your friends are doing it.”

But yesterday, it all came together for me. Katiebird is still wending her way through the evidence so I’ll go first on a theory of what’s going on with Serial and then Katiebird can tell me where I’m wrong.

I’m working off of a couple of concepts here. The first is that it is very difficult to construct and be consistent with an elaborate lie. If the events never really happened, the mind has to fill in gaps, explanations, timelines. It’s hard to keep all the details straight because it is a constructed memory, not a real one.

The second concept is that of confirmation bias.  Rabia Chaudry, Adnan’s friend and longtime advocate, touches on confirmation bias in her blog. Basically, that is the tendency to look for evidence that supports your theory and throw out evidence that doesn’t. Fox News encourages confirmation bias but it’s hardly the only offender. In general, if you are a consumer of cable news, you are introduced to confirmation bias to one degree or another on an hourly basis. That’s why I don’t watch cable news.

If you have been a faithful listener of Serial, you will have been exposed to all the information you need at this point to come to a completely new and novel explanation of this crime. I’ve gone back and listened to all of the episodes and multiple clues have been dropped in every single one that helps cut through all of the confusion of the timelines and locations and motives. But recently, like, yesterday, I came across a reference on Reddit to another case that brought all of the information into sharp focus.  The item in question is the case of Ezra Mable.

Ezra was a bit player in the Baltimore drug scene until he spent 10 years in prison for the killing of a major Baltimore drug lord. Eyewitnesses actually pointed to a different guy but the cops built a case for sending Mable to jail. They did this by intimidation of witnesses, threatening to take their children away in one case, and constructing an alternative reality that made Mable look guilty. Mable spent the last 10 years in prison getting to the truth. Don’t ask me how he did this from prison. He’s not an educated man but he was determined to prove his innocence. Last year, his conviction was overturned and a whole slew of detectives and prosecutors were accused of misconduct including detective William Ritz. Detective Ritz was also on the Hae Min Lee case. Ritz has since resigned from the Baltimore Police Department after Mable’s conviction was overturned.

Another piece of information came up in the 1998 murder of another Woodlawn teenager. Jada Denita Lambert was found raped and strangled in a nearby park about six months before Hae Min Lee’s disappearance. The murderer, Roy Sharonnie Davis, was already in prison on another charge when DNA from the crime scene was found to match him in 2002.

Ok, let’s go back to the beginning of this story to see if adding corruption and a serial killer makes more sense to the chronology of events than the nonsensical timeline that Jay gave the cops. In this scenario, Hae Min Lee leaves school about 3:00pm to pick up her cousin at daycare but is kidnapped by an unknown assailant. Maybe this happens in the parking lot of the school or at another stop along the way. Katiebird says Hae stopped for gas. The assailant forces Hae to drive to the I-70 park and ride near Leakin Park. He then takes her into the woods via the Gwynnes Falls Trail (see the Leakin Park map), attempts to rape her and strangles her.

Hae’s body is found almost a month later. The cops ain’t got no clues. It could be a serial killer. But if they tell the Lee’s that, they’ll never hear the end of it. The community will demand a full, lengthy investigation and in all likelihood, the crime will never be solved. It will be just be endless years of the Lees getting on their nerves. Serial killings don’t look good on end of year performance evaluations and when you don’t have a motive or any connections to the victims, they’re a pain in the ass to solve.

Enter the old boyfriend.

Pinning it on either Don or Adnan will solve all their problems. Don has an airtight alibi. Adnan does not. Adnan’s whole future depends on one track team coach taking attendance that day. Track team coach doesn’t.

Now, here’s where I speculate all kinds of corrupt police skullduggery. The cops fake a call to the office tipping off Adnan as the killer. They immediately subpoena Adnan’s cell records and find Jenn Pusateri as a person of interest. They bring her in for questioning and threaten her. She gets a lawyer and tells some elaborate lie that Jay helped bury Hae’s body. Then they bring Jay in. They spend hours with him off tape before they start recording his story. Serial hired an expert in police investigations who says that this is probably where there was a deal made with Jay.  Supposedly, Jay tells them where Hae’s car is parked.

I used to think that knowledge of the location of Hae’s car is what solidified Jay’s involvement but now, I don’t buy it. It certainly makes the possibility of a serial killer fade into the background though, doesn’t it? Hae’s car is a serious piece of misdirection. I’m going to bet that the cops found Hae’s car shortly after they found her body. They weren’t that far apart.

The reason why Jay’s story and timeline make no damn sense is because it was constructed in the interrogation room in order to frame Adnan. Oh sure, they can claim that Adnan was the killer because he doesn’t  have an airtight alibi. But that’s all they’ve got. No alibi and this convoluted story of two teenagers driving around all afternoon getting stoned and looking for a place to bury the body in the trunk.

In the Ezra Mable case, the Baltimore PD is accused of “losing” exculpatory evidence that would have proved Ezra’s innocence as well as failing to investigate the guy who really committed the murder. In Hae’s murder case, Jay and Jenn were never given a polygraph, Jay’s house, car, possessions, phone records were never searched. Now, why would you fail to do that? I’ll tell you why. The investigators had no reason to think there was anything to uncover there- because they never did anything wrong. They were just two people who happened to be caught up in the scheme who were pressured to give evidence against Adnan. And they might have had some good reason to suspect that the cops were going to bust them on drug related activities. (There goes Jay and Jenn’s financial aid packages and her sorority membership.) But, in general, the whole story that Jay gives doesn’t make sense because it never happened.

One vital clue to Jay’s cooperation in this case is that he didn’t serve any jail time. It was probably part of the deal. Give us what we want and we’ll see to it that you don’t go to jail for being an accessory after the fact.

So, there you have it. These are the pieces of the puzzle that made sense to me. It’s a simpler explanation that doesn’t require me to reconcile a lot of conflicting timelines. It doesn’t force me to concentrate on subjective evaluations of character that distract from the lack of physical evidence. It resolves the issue of Hae’s car. It explains why Jenn says she didn’t know anything about a murder the first time she meets with the cops but lawyers up the next day when she starts spinning a tale. It explains why Jay doesn’t want to be interviewed. Maybe they can’t get him on being an accessory to murder but perjury is still a pretty serious crime.

It also explains why Sarah Koenig says that Hae’s murder may never be solved satisfactorily. The serial murderer is dead. The forensic evidence from Hae’s murder site may not be available. We may never know where Adnan was on the day of Hae’s death but I’m betting he was at track. There’s no physical evidence tying him to the crime and plenty of reasonable doubt now. I predict he’ll be home for Christmas. The likelier outcome is that Koenig and Glass will win a slew of awards and podcasts will become the new “thing”, even though some of us have been podcast junkies for years now.

Whether Adnan will track down Jay and beat the s^&* out of him is another question. Koenig reports that Adnan is a perfect gentleman in prison, well liked and has won awards for being a model prisoner. But he’s probably learned a thing or two while he’s been incarcerated for 15 long years. We’ll see.

I’m anxiously awaiting Katiebird’s analysis.

8 Responses

  1. You watch a lot of TV.

    • I watch ZERO tv. Not that I have to defend myself on this but my cable subscription is very limited to Internet, HBO and a few other channels. I’ve never even hooked up the cable box to my tv. Don’t need it. But think what you like. Facts have never gotten in your way before.

    • I watch a lot of TV though — so what?

  2. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO CONVINCE PEOPLE OF! I am with you 100%. This article shows that it’s not just a Baltimore problem, and it’s not a crazy consipiracy theory that could never plausibly happen in the real world: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/04/crime-fiction

  3. Your theory is compelling, Riverdaughter, but I’m not quite there yet. (I should probably spend the next two weeks ’till the next edition to re-listen for detail I missed the first time around)

    The whole thing is so senseless until I remember how trusting and easily friendly high school kids can be. Part of what makes this story real is hearing 30 year old adults retell their memories of those weeks back when they were still in their teens. That life is long gone to them — and there is so much they’d probably do over even without a murdered friend!

    RD mentioned the gas station visit. I don’t think this was mentioned in the podcast. I think it’s something I picked up from a Reddit thread (and can’t find now) … Apparently there was a $1.60 charge on her card for something bought that afternoon at a Crown Gas Station. But, no mention of anyone who saw her or what she bought.

    There are just SO many questions and I’m new enough to this to still be hung up on them….

    Why would Jay’s story be taken for truth without attempting to verify the story by searching his home interviewing parents, etc. How did HE avoid being a person of interest for at least a little while?

    What did he do with Adnan’s car for all those hours? Did he ever bother to buy his girlfriend a birthday gift (this was the supposed reason for borrowing the car)

    Did the police ever have an explanation for why Jay and Jenn would be more concerned about the fingerprints on the shovels if Adnan didn’t care? Maybe I’m weird, but it seems it might be because it’s their own fingerprints that worried them.

    I do believe that corruption has spread deeply into the fabric of our society in ways that were unimaginable when I was a child.

    So, I can see a world where it’s embedded in police departments. The corrupt police theory does cut through all this — and that makes it appealing. But, jeez, it’s scary. The idea that police can pull a few strings and jerk us into prison forever just to save themselves some legwork.

    Is the legwork/time issue enough to make this happen? It’s not like the cops didn’t have to go to work the next day and work on another case.

    • I’m just thinking things through. I’m nowhere near any theory yet. I’ve really got to re-listen to the podcasts. It wasn’t until about the 3rd one that I had the characters straight. So any clues dropped before that were totally lost on me.

  4. This could be one of the dumbest things I’ve read in quite some time. Definitely get your facts straight…Detective Ritz retired years ago from the BCPD. And not amidst any controversies. This guy was regarded pretty highly amongst his peers, the States Attorneys Office and shockingly enough the community. I know this because I reside in the city and worked for a defense attorney.

    • Mebbe. Mebbe not.
      It wouldn’t be the first time police have sent an innocent person to prison and so far, the evidence hasn’t convinced me that Adnan had anything to do with Hae’s death.
      You and I don’t know what happened in that interrogation room with Jay and jenn and at least one expert in interrogations that Koenig hired has said it’s possible that the detectives cut a deal with Jay.
      Dumb or not, I have to consider it whether you like it or not.

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