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Time for a Serial update

Where Lee met Davis?

Where Hae Min Lee met Roy Davis? The corner of Essex Rd and Liberty Rd in Baltimore, MD.

Katiebird is killing the world with Plague on her new iPad so I think I might have lost her temporarily when it comes to Serial. But there has been a lot going on lately with Adnan’s case against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune so I’m doing an update and revising (slightly) my hypothesis on how Hae Min Lee died.

First, a disclaimer: I am firmly in the “Adnan is innocent” camp. I haven’t seen any convincing or physical evidence tying Adnan to the crime. His conviction hinges almost exclusively on the testimony of a witness with a significant conflict of interest.

What has been going on lately is that Rabia Chaudry, Adnan’s family’s friend, and former immigration lawyer, has been speaking at different law schools and universities about Adnan’s case. Just search “Rabia Chaudry” on YouTube and filter by upload date. There are numerous appearances to choose from. Her purpose is to keep the story alive while Adnan’s case winds through the appeal process. She is also raising money to hire lawyers and private investigators so Adnan gets an opportunity to mount a vigorous defense.

The most significant outcome of the Serial podcast so far is that Adnan has been granted another appeal as a result of a hearing that happened last week. His lawyers were able to raise questions about the missing alibi witness, Asia McClain and whether Adnan’s lawyer effectively defended her client when she didn’t call Asia to the stand in the trial back in 2000. The appeal will be heard in June 2015. There are a couple of possible outcomes from the appeal. One is that nothing will change and the judges will rule against Adnan. The second is that he will get a new trial. That could drag things out a bit but I think by the time a new trial comes along, there will be enough evidence to show that the state doesn’t have a case against him. The third possibility is that the state could cut a deal with Adnan for something called an Alford plea. I think that’s a face saving deal for the state where they make the defendant plead guilty while maintaining his innocence. That could get Adnan released on time served but the conviction would still haunt him for the rest of his life. Rabia might be hopeful about this kind of deal but I wouldn’t want that hanging over my head for the rest of my life, especially because the case has been so public. People will always be wondering.

As far as evidence goes, DC lawyer Susan Simpson has been ripping through the state’s case against Adnan. The case was based on cell phone records and witness testimony. That witness was Jay and his testimony is pretty worthless by now. You can find Susan’s invaluable analysis of the “evidence” against Adnan at her blog TheViewFromLL2. Susan is meticulous and thorough. She is able to pull apart the evidence in a way that Sarah Koenig and Dana Chivvas of Serial did not. That’s not to say that Sarah and Dana did anything wrong. They just had a different area of expertise. Susan has a very logical mind and she’s very good at data analysis. If I’m ever accused of murder, I want Susan as my lawyer. She doesn’t miss a thing.

Ok, so on to my updated hypothesis of how the murder of Hae Min Lee happened. You can read about my initial hypothesis here. I am starting with the premise that Adnan is innocent and was unaware of any of the events surrounding the death of Hae on January 13, 1999. Additionally, I am also supposing that Jay also had nothing to do with the crime. He just happened to be on the cops radar for another reason altogether.

Someone killed Hae. My best guess is that it was a serial killer and my best suspect is Roy Sharonnie Davis. Davis is currently serving a sentence for the murder of Jada Danita Lambert, another young Woodlawn woman who died about 7 months before Hae. Lambert’s body was found in Herring Run Park about 30 minutes east of Woodlawn HS and there’s a gas station not far from this park where Hae’s credit card was used. So, here’s my best guess as to how the whole thing went down:

Hae Min Lee is at the school until almost 3:00pm on January 13. She talks to several reliable witnesses who say they remember her being there. She speaks to her co-coach for the boy’s wrestling team who reports that Hae says she is not taking the bus to the wrestling match. She is driving herself there. She has other things to do in the meantime, the first of which is picking up her cousin from daycare.

Hae leaves the school at about 3pm and heads to Campfield Early Learning Center. (Consult the Serial Podcast Locations map to follow the route).  She can take two possible routes to get from Woodlawn HS to the daycare center. One is the Rt 695 main artery running north-south. The other route is the back way through a residential area. If we think back to the Serial episode on “Route Talk”, we may remember that the area between the school and Rt. 695 is congested at that time of the day. If you’re in a hurry, you’d probably want to stay clear of that area. It takes almost 20 minutes for Sarah and Dana to go about 2 miles. So, let’s assume that Hae took the residential route.

Hae gets on Woodlawn Dr, makes a left onto Windsor Mill Road and a right onto Essex Road. That will eventually intersect with Liberty Road. Hae would stay on Essex and cross Liberty to get to the Campfield daycare. Along this route are two known addresses for Roy Davis. The first is at a place called Woodgreen Circle. Woodgreen Circle is a street behind Essex on the way to Liberty. The other known address is in the 7500 block of Liberty Road.

This is where I enter the realm of speculation but that’s Ok because that’s all the cops have with regard to Adnan’s involvement so my guess is as good as theirs is at this point.

I’ve tried to think of how Hae might have encountered Davis in this area and my best guess is that it happened in a gas station parking lot. I’m guessing that Hae was low on gas so she stopped to get some at the gas station at the corner of Essex Road and Liberty Road. There’s a Shell station at that corner along with some other stores. If you just want to get a few bucks of gas, you go in to the store to pay for the gas with cash before you pump it. Credit cards for high school students in 1999 are for emergencies only. I know because I had a teenager with a car living in my house back then.

Maybe she didn’t make it into the store because the gas station attendants should have remembered her. Maybe Davis encountered her in the parking lot, forced her back into the car and took her on a drive. Did he pretend he was a full service attendant? Did she roll down her window? Did he threaten her? Catch her off guard? Smack her on the right side of her head with something to scare her? Does he force himself into her car?

Somewhere between the corner of Essex and Liberty and the Crown Gas Station on the corner of Northern Parkway and Harford Road, Davis presumably killed Hae. If Davis wants to relive his previous experiences with Lambert, he heads east on Liberty towards Herring Run Park. He makes a left onto Northern Parkway. Then, after he kills her, he realizes that the car was almost out of gas so he stops to put a gallon in the car at the gas station at the corner of Northern Parkway and Harford Road. Otherwise, he’s got to get rid of the body and he’d be stuck in a stalled car at the side of the road. Someone might notice him walking away from the car that they later find contains a dead body.

We can all speculate why he chooses to bury the body in Leakin Park. It’s closer to home if he’s going to have to ditch the car. Is there a bus route on Edmonson Ave? Yes, there is and several routes come off of it going north towards Davis’ home. There might have been too many people around in Herring Run Park to dump the body there so he found somewhere closer to home where the notoriety of leaving a dead body there would look almost commonplace. He leaves the body face down in the car, waits until later that night and buries the body in Leakin Park. Then he ditches the car on Edmonson Ave and takes the last bus towards home.

I’m not the first person to speculate on this route or encounter with Davis. Reddit has a few adventurous types who stray far from the Adnan-Jay nexus of culpability. Koenig has probably thought of it as well. The reason why it has been underplayed may be that a.) Davis is still alive and it’s improper for Koenig to defame him before he’s officially a suspect (?) and b.) Davis is at the same correctional facility that houses Adnan and the last thing you want is for Adnan’s story to get the attention of a violent serial killer in jail with you. Yeah, that would keep me up at night too.

Meanwhile, Deirdre Enright’s Innocence Project at UVA is sitting on a DNA request. They’re hoping that the samples are not contaminated and biding their time.

Stay tuned.

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.