By Lillian Mongeau

For the record, on the evening of January 13, 1999, I was nowhere near Leakin Park. I was probably driving my grandfather’s old Ford Taurus to ski team practice. Or maybe I had to work that night, teaching lessons, also at the local ski hill. Or possibly I had homework. Or Girl Scouts. Either way, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., I was in Massachusetts. Not Maryland. And definitely not Baltimore. I’m sure of that. I could probably find someone to attest to it. But proof? Proof might be hard to come by.

Also, for the record, like Sarah Koenig, I’m a reporter. And I definitely just structured that sentence to liken myself to Sarah Koenig, of whom I am in awe.

It is perhaps because of these two facts–that I am almost exactly the same age as the people involved in this case and that I’ve chosen the same job as the producer of the story–that I fell so hard for Serial. Or it’s because the 12-part series is one of the best-told stories I’ve heard. Ever. Or because I listened to a very large portion of the episodes all at once, on a plodding 22-mile run, my last training session before my first marathon.

Whatever the reason, I joined the masses. I listened with bated breath. And I tried to answer the question Koenig was trying to answer, the question she got us all desperately interested in answering: What the hell happened that night? And, when it happened, where was Adnan?

Also for the record, I have done absolutely no reporting in developing the theory I’m about to lay out for you. In complete opposition to Koenig’s high standards, I’m about to engage in pure, unsubstantiated speculation. You’re welcome to come along, but are under no obligation to take me seriously. When I refer to a specific point that Koenig has reported, I cite it. Otherwise, it’s just me thinking things. I have no inside line. No special scoop. Remember, I was in Massachusetts that night. Probably skiing. Or else, not skiing.

But too many pieces didn’t fit. Inspiring as it was to listen to Koenig’s persistent, if unfruitful, search for the truth, I wasn’t willing to let it lie there. My brain kept chomping on it. I couldn’t let it go.

So, here’s my theory:

Adnan did have Hae’s body in the trunk of the car and Jay did help him bury her in Leakin Park. But neither of them killed her.

We know Jay was a small-time drug dealer. We know Adnan smoked a lot of pot. It’s not a huge leap to guess he might have dealt a few dime bags himself. Could Hae have been involved in some way? Not involved, but knew about it? My theory is that however Hae was connected, she ran afoul of the wrong guy. Not Adnan. Not Jay. Someone else. Someone bigger. Someone further up the chain.

Lots of high school kids deal lots of drugs, especially pot. Very few of them have any power. They are often on the bottom rung of incredibly intricate crime syndicates. They don’t know anyone important and no one important knows them. They are mostly ignored by both the more serious gangsters and the cops for this reason. But sometimes they are not.

In 2003, when I was a college student, there was a case of a college-kid dealer in Boston named James Cassidy who’d gotten in over his head. His roommate later told The Boston Globe, anonymously, that three armed men entered the apartment after a quiet knock shouting, “Where’s the weed?” Cassidy was then shot three times in the leg by one masked gunman, while his roommates were tied up with duct tape in the other room. They were not harmed. Cassidy died.

I think Hae somehow got mixed up with whatever Jay and Adnan had going on. Maybe she had some minor role herself and something went wrong? Maybe she got romantically involved with someone too old and too bad for her? Maybe she wasn’t involved personally, but knew too many names and faces? Maybe she wasn’t involved at all. Maybe, like the roommates in Boston, she just knew the wrong people (Adnan and Jay) and someone wanted to prove something to them by killing her.

I’m a former middle school teacher and an education reporter. I talk to a lot of teenagers. Adnan’s convoluted story and even Jay’s are not as crazy coming from teenagers as they would be coming from adults. But there are holes. Huge, unexplainable holes. And, to quote Sarah Koenig, “there’s this:” In that last episode, we learned that one of the cell phone towers that got pinged that day wasn’t anywhere near the school, the Best Buy or Patapsco State Park (where Adnan and Jay allegedly hung out and got reflective after the murder). Instead, it was in a rough neighborhood on the other side of town. The kind of neighborhood where drug dealers hang out. Serious drug dealers. The kind who murder people. People like Hae Min Lee.

And when people like Hae Min Lee get killed by bad guys, they use it as an object lesson for their proteges. People like Adnan and Jay, who were called to come collect her body, dispose of it and ditch the evidence. Shakily, they did it. They made sure someone else (“Cathy”) saw them together that evening so they’d have an alibi. Jay dumped the clothes and cleaned the shovel. It was done.

But then Hae’s body was found. Things were about to fall apart.

If the police figured out who’d actually killed her, both Jay and Adnan would have their lives to worry about. So maybe they pulled straws for who would take the fall. More likely, they figured Adnan had a way better chance of getting off. He was the straight-laced kid from the good home that everyone liked. Jay had a record. Jay was wild. But everyone said he and Adnan were whip smart. And don’t forget, they were 18-ish. Invincible. I think they thought they could beat the system. Maybe Jay thought that if he changed his story often enough, they’d throw him out as a witness and have no case against Adnan and they’d be free and clear and no one in the higher rungs could accuse them of not taking the heat.

It would explain why they express almost no rancor towards each other. It would explain why they were so near (in…) Leakin Park together and how Jay knew where Hae’s car was and why he was so scared when he called Jenn to tell her about his clothes and his boots and his shovel. It would explain why there was a guy in a van in the Amtrak parking lot across from the porn store that Jay was terrified of. Maybe there really was someone in that van. Not Adnan. Not family of Adnan. The Family?

It would explain why Adnan, a goodie two-shoe kid in a very serious prison, has had such an easy time of it. Protection. For taking a fall.

And it would explain why the one thing Adnan is furious about is that people thought he might have done it. That’s what eats him up at night. Because: He. Thought. He’d. Get. Off. That was the plan. Jay would throw suspicion on him, but then everyone would see how silly that was, how obviously innocent the golden boy of Woodlawn was and he’d get off. And this seemed plausible because they were teenagers. And because ‘life’ didn’t register as a possible sentence. And because they were actually innocent.

They did not kill Hae.

They just buried her.

Serial: A Completely Unsubstantiated Theory That Explains Everything! 21 January,2015KQED Pop

  • Kay

    What about the diary? Seems like Hae would have mentioned something about getting involved in some other circle if she were in that deep.

    • KulturVultur

      Yeah, I seriously doubt the good Korean girl who plays lacrosse and is a magnet student decides to risk her future by dealing weed with thugs.

  • Jetson Flyers

    The theory that explains everything is the one where Adnan did it. I’m not quite sure why people are continuing to jump through ridiculous hoops in order to theorize Adnan was innocent, meanwhile there is a simple and convincing theory already heard at trial and which on the basis of a jury convicted him.

    • billyburgdad

      right except none of it adds up. which is why this podcast exists in the first place. to figure out what actually happened.

      • The Truth

        The podcast exists to get listeners. Not to free convicted killers.

        And now because of some silly podcast where the host becomes enamored with the killer’s big brown “cow eyes” and distorts the facts, you feel that a murderer deserves a 3rd trail?

        Sure. Where do I sign up to see this train wreck of justice?

    • KulturVultur

      Not really convincing at all. We have heard more about the case than the jurors did and most of us who have really looked at the case have come to the conclusion that there’s no way Adnan did it. The hoops we have to jump through are to believe he is guilty. The case is a mess, mostly because it lies squarely on the admittedly shifting testimony of a witness who knows more than the guy serving a life sentence.

      • Jetson Flyers

        The people who listened to the podcast alone did not hear more than the jury. For instance, did the podcast mention Hae writing in her diary that she disliked Adnan’s possessiveness as shown at trial? No, in fact SK said she never called him possessive – a blatant lie or glaring oversight. Did the podcast mention the french teachers testimony of Adnan stalking Hae as she hid from him? No. Did the podcast give us any in depth info as to the cell experts testimony? It touched on it, but not near the extent that it should have.

        I have read the transcripts. I have “really looked at the case.” I find the conviction just and fair, as many people I converse with have. That isn’t to say that you should too, or that all that are well versed will come to the same conclusion, but don’t claim the opposite. It is a split crowd to be generous.

        To create a scenario that involves Adnan’s complete innocence, you must pepper the story with butt-dials, police corruption, false incriminations, random memory black-outs, reasons for needing a ride when you don’t, etc, etc. What hoops are there to show guilt? That a witness told the basic truth despite lies to downplay his involvement? That a person charged with murder is lying about not remembering the day? I don’t see any “hoops”. I see a lack of a smoking gun. But when the evidence is put together I see what looks like a gun and it has a smoke-like material emitting from it.

    • OKMG24

      There’s no way you’ve been paying attention.

  • Jamie83

    If this were true, why would Jay finger Adnan at all? Why not just keep quiet? They might have buried her, etc., like you said, but if they did, I’m sure they weren’t required by “the family” to take the fall for it. They could have just shut up, and made an alibi for each other, and gone on with their lives. Doesn’t make sense.

    • menocu

      why would Jay finger Adnan


    • Jetson Flyers

      What else doesn’t make sense is being so scared that you refuse to name the real killer and are totally cool with spending the rest of your life in prison….. but not quite scared enough to turn down being interviewed for 40 hours by someone attempting to uncover the truth.

  • CuriousB

    Before I served on a jury I’d have said that there had to be convincing evidence for him to be convicted, but now I know that it’s perfectly possible for one or two jury members to intimidate everyone else, accusing anyone who doesn’t take the leaps that lack of evidence necessitate of being stupid, moronic, or any a long list of insults that can cause an unexpected reaction ina juror or two, leading them to go asking with a verdict that the evidence simply doesn’t support.

  • Feldman’sJizzedStainedPrinceT

    This is clearly a silly, raised on tv view from a possibly privileged white suburbanite while at the same time totally drags the character of the poor dead girl through the mud…

    However, I am sure many will believe/agree with this Law and Order episode scenario you concocted…ugh

  • Eskimoe

    Adnan was a smart kid with a lot to lose. At the point it was clear he was going to jail and already in the hands of the authorities, why wouldn’t he talk? The Cops/FBI could protect his family, and he could hand them a busted drug ring along with a closed murder case.

    • Eskimoe

      That said, I think it’s clear there’s a third party involved in this case––who the hell was Jay so scared of?

      • KulturVultur

        I buy this too. The answer to this is not with Adnan, but the people in Jay’s life.

  • Daniel

    i’m sorry but this is just laughable…these bad actors strangled hae rather than shooting her? that’s not exactly their modus operandi, if the evening news is any indication!
    i was excited about this, too 🙁

    • billyburgdad

      strangling someone keeps them from screaming, is less noisy than a gun and leaves less mess behind.

      • Daniel

        i don’t disagree

      • ME123

        Then why do so many drug dealers shoot each other? They could care less about noise and mess. They’ll just intimidate all the witnesses anyway.

        • Who what why where when how

          Primarily because most of them don’t want to actively take away someones likfe for 1-3 minutes. A gun allows them to pull a trigger and walk away. Choking someone is personal.

  • KulturVultur

    If we exclude Adnan entirely from this theory, then it makes much more sense. But for the two of them to be in on it together seems so unrealistic. By all accounts, Jay knows what really happened. And that he would frame Adnan – thanks to the phone – much more plausible, due to the convicts and criminals featuring in Jay’s life.

    To the Jaysayers, I keep asking: what really ties Adnan to the murder? Not speculation or motive or projection. He gave 40 hours of audio to someone who wanted a smoking gun to rock a good story. There wasn’t one. What we are left with is Jay. Who has lied and lied, admitted to burying the body, knew where the car was, never denied his involvement, who Jenn goes to FIRST after the cops contact her, ditches shovels, and has a very questionable criminal past. And you believe him more?

    • The Truth

      Adnan Syed was indicted by a Grand Jury and tried twice for the same crime. He was convicted by a jury of 12 people of the murder of Hae Min Lee. They did so after deliberating for only 2 hours. He’s had multiple appeals and requests for post conviction relief.

      To date; nothing can refute the fact that Adnan Syed showed Jay Wilds Hae Min Lee’s body in the trunk of Hae’s car and that the two of them buried Hae’s body in Leakin Park.

      I believe Jay Wilds.

      • turbulents

        None of this is evidence!

        • The Truth

          Tell that to the grand jury that indicted him and the 12 men
          and women that convicted him. Last time I looked, having a witness to a crime is pretty compelling evidence; otherwise they wouldn’t need a witness protection program.

          And why the exclamation point? Are you actually yelling at my comment?

          If you showed me your dead girlfriend’s body and asked me to help you bury her and I told this in court, to a jury, on the witness stand and I did so very calmly with “Yes Ma’am, No Sir” answers… I bet the jury would convict you as well.

          An eye witness to a crime is evidence.

          Now, if you simply don’t believe Jay, then that’s OK. I would be one of those jurors that would believe him.

          Adnan Syed strangled Mae Min Lee.

          • turbulents

            This is the most naive approach you could take to this case.

          • The Truth

            You are correct. Everyone involved with this case was naive. Especailly Adnan Syed who was naive enough to think he could get away with murder.
            I appreciate you making my point for me. 🙂

          • OKMG24

            An eye witness with a different recount of events each time they are questioned… not a great eye-witness.

            Police also named dropped the attorney Jay should seek to represent him during the trial. Is that totally kosher too?

          • 21 Minutes

            Sharon Talmadge, Latent Print Unit, Baltimore Police Department processed partial prints on an envelope and a card in the trunk of Hae’s car. The partial prints were compared to and identified to belong to Adnan Syed’s right middle finger, his left thumb, and left index finger. Adnan Syed’s right little finger was identified on a Nationwide insurance ID card. A full palm print was found on the back cover of a map book recovered from Hae’s read seat. The partial latent prints were identified as the left palm print of Adnan Syed.

            Adnan Syed was wearing red wool gloves with leather palms when you killed Hae Min Lee. Red fibers were found on Hae’s body.

            Jay testfies that Adnan was wearing red gloves when they met up at the Best Buy parking lot. Jay also testifies that he did not touch the body.

            It’s pretty obvious that Jay was an accomplice to Adnan Syed, but Adnan Syed killed Hae Min Lee.

          • OKMG24

            The prints on a card and/or magazine don’t give me enough personally to convict Adnan. They interacted a lot, I don’t think prints are a smoking gun in the case. The red wool gloves – why does Jay only mention those briefly (in the same interview that seems damning for the BPD)? They aren’t questioned or technically put into Adnan’s hands, his house, even him buying them from somewhere.

            I mean…….. OJ was innocent, riight? They had a glove too.

          • 21 Minutes

            Adnan has means. Adnan knows Hae’s routine. Hae trusts Adnan. Adnan can get into Hae’s car. They go somewhere to talk. Somewhere that is not out of Hae’s way. Somewhere they’ve been before. They go to the Best Buy parking lot.

            Adnan has motive. It’s a toxic cocktail of love, jealousy and betrayal. The PROM is near. Adnan tries to convince Hae to reconcile. She confesses her love for Don. The thought of Hae being with Don is the trigger. Adnan strangles Hae with his hands as he looks into her eyes. How could she do this to me!

            Adnan has opportunity. Adnan has no alibis. Adnan has an accomplice. He lends his car to Jay Wilds. He lends his brand new cell phone to Jay Wilds. He incites Jay’s help into burying the body and disposing of Hae’s car. Adnan Syed is the link between Hae’s murder and Jay Wilds.

            You don’t believe it? Ok. I respect your position.

          • joegrubb

            That explains why Jay lied. It was Adnan so Jay made up numerous versions of what happened. Makes sense.

            Jay had means. Jay knew how to track people. Getting into her car was not the hardest thing in the world to do.

            You got nothing

          • 21 Minutes

            Go up to the top of the article and look at the chart. You have Jay on the left and Hae on the right. Then, smack in the middle you have Adnan Syed. Adnan is the link between Jay and Hae.

          • Bahadur Singh

            Do you not see? This guy is turning this place into a courtroom and is again fabricating lies like they did 16 years ago!

          • Chelsea Granger

            you think you have the facts to this case, but you really don’t. Each of those items have been proven inaccurate or pointless due to adnan and hae’s former close relationship. granted it’s been a year and all of the new information has come out within the last year. But if you look up the evidence now that they have new supporting evidence you’ll see none of this hold up as correct.

          • 21 Minutes

            You’re right. He’s 100% innocent. I’ve moved on from this story.

            Good luck to you.

          • Chelsea Granger

            no, actually it isn’t. you can’t convict someone of a murder without PHYSICAL evidence. a witness is not enough. you have to have physical evidence to support the eye witness claims. and there was none. the phone records used were inaccurate and even if accurate cannot be used to do what the prosecution tried to use them to do. that’s not how they work. tons of people who work in the industry have said that in testimonies over many cases for years.

          • 21 Minutes

            You’re right. There’s zero evidence and he was framed. I’ve moved on.

            You should too.

          • Chelsea Granger

            I didn’t say that did I. I think my point was that you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about and you just verified that by saying you haven’t kept up with the case. that’s fine I haven’t looked into it in a couple months but I do know the information that I know is more accurate than yours. I don’t know who is responsible for the death of hae but I do know that someone was put in prison for it without legally justifiable evidence. And that you’re kind of a douchebag

          • 21 Minutes

            I’m a douchebag because I won’t engage you in a debate that’s over a year old? Really?

          • Chelsea Granger

            No. Clearly you don’t understand anything I say. You’re a douche because of the attitude and arrogance you exert when you are in fact wrong and it’s proven. But no, you still have to be correct and exert your dominance over others for his knows what reason. I stated a contrary opinion to yours. You couldn’t let that go, and a year later had to still be a snarky as whole to me about it. Just for informing you/readers that your evidence is incorrect. If it really didn’t matter to you do be involved you wouldn’t feel the need to keep trying to put down my intelligence. I didn’t have any goal but to express a correction about mistakenly stated “fact.”

        • Bahadur Singh

          You guys need to understand this guy . He keeps talking about ‘evidence’, ‘ grand jury’ , ‘appeals’. Who do you really think he is?

      • Katy

        How can you believe a proven liar?

        • 21 Minutes

          Becauase it makes the most sense and there’s a ton of evidence against him. You can disagee. I respect your opinion, but mine is that there’s no one else with motive, means and opportunity to kill Hae Min Lee.

          Adnan Syed is a killer.

          • OKMG24

            I understand your thought process. But if take the timeline and completely wipe out all the different versions Jay gives, if you read her autopsy report and understand the pooling of blood/fluids, and if you go on to add the recorded testimony from Undisclosed #3… I couldn’t convict Adnan. IF, even IF, I had another reasoning or understanding to actually convict him – there’s no doubt Jay would be behind bars for some time too.

            I wish it was as simple as love, jealousy, etc. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is and if it was – the police royally screwed up preserving it as such.

          • 21 Minutes

            First off, Jay Wilds deserves to be in prison alongside Adnan Syed for the murder of Hae Min Lee. Jay should have been arrested and convicted for conspiracy and accessory to murder. Jenn should have served time in prison for destroying evidence in a murder investigation.

            If you believe that Jay Wilds is in on Hae’s murder, then Adnan is your link between Hae Min Lee and Jay Wilds.

          • OKMG24

            Still can’t eat that. You keep bringing up a ‘ton of evidence’. If there was a ton of evidence against Adnan, Jay wouldn’t be as important.

          • 21 Minutes

            I’m sorry that there isn’t a YouTube video or an Instagram Selfie of Adnan strangling Hae Min Lee. I could itemize the evidence for you, but it isn’t worth the effort. You’ll have a “Yeah, but…” response for each and every item. You’ve already made up your mind that Adnan Syed is innocent and I’ve made up my mind that he’s guilty.

          • OKMG24


        • Bahadur Singh

          He/she doesn’t believe the liar! They are one of the people who created the liar!

      • Angie

        Listen to Undisclosed. We can refute that as of yesterday.

        • 21 Minutes

          Thank you Angie, but I know that Adnan Syed killed Hae Min Lee.

          First off, I believe the murder of Hae Min Lee was premeditated. I believe Adnan Syed called Hae the night before. Adnan gives Jay his car the next morning. 3 people, including Adnan Syed, corroborate that he asked Hae for a ride. I believe Adnan got into Hae’s car. I believe they went to the Best Buy parking lot. I believe Adnan Syed strangled Hae with his hands. Hae kicks the turn signal in the car during the struggle. Adnan looks up to make sure no-one saw him. He opens the trunk of Hae’s car, drags Hae’s body out the passenger side and into the trunk. He closes the trunk and uses the phone in the vestibule of the Best Buy to call Jay.

          This is where his plan stops. The rest is a logistical improvisation on the part of him and Jay. He incites Jay to help bury the body and ditch the car because he has no plan. They drive around aimlessly thinking of what to do. Many of the details of this “plan” are decided afterwards, not before. This includes where to dump the body, what to do with the car, what are their alibis will be and what are their corroborating storylines.

          The Baltimore Police get a phone call. They suspect Adnan. They get his cell phone records. The records lead them to Jenn. Jenn leads them to Jay. Jay leads them to Adnan. This was definitely not in the plan.

          Adnan Syed murdered Hae Min Lee. Jay Wilds also deserves to be in prison alongside him. Jay should have been convicted of conspiracy and accessory to murder. Jenn should also have served time in prison for destroying evidence and for being an accessory, after the fact, in a murder investigation.

          I don’t need to listen to a podcast to know that Adnan Syed is exactly where he belongs.

      • Raife Keller-cooper

        its supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. there is a reason for this; its almost impossible to prove a negative.

        • 21 Minutes

          Adnan Syed was proven guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. He is guilty. He now has to prove he’s innocent. Fortunately he will never get that chance.

          The appellate courts are not going to retry his case. Adnan’s appeal is based on two things, 1) Gutierrez ignoring to ask for a plea deal and 2) Gutierrez never speaking to Asia McClain.

          Gutierrez’ alleged failure to ask for a plea is insignificant because a deal was never on the table and Gutierrez’ strategic decision to not call a witness is not up to courts to decide. Neither issue would have had an impact on the case, trial or conclusion.

          Adnan Syed is not going to win his appeal. He will stay in prison for the rest of his life. SERIAL 2 will come out and no-one will care any more about this case. Adnan Syed will die in obscurity.

          • Raife Keller-cooper

            I don’t care about the trial, the trial was stupid. As the interview with the juror demonstrated she was going off “jay felt honest” which is not a good way to go about these things.
            I’m saying that if we, as individuals want to understand the truth we have to start with a presumption of innocence and then see if there is any compelling evidence to suggest otherwise. All we have is hearsay and circumstantial evidence. therefore its only reasonable for us to assume not guilty, as should they have in the trial.
            What’s your beef? you seem really angry.

          • 21 Minutes

            There is a mountain of evidence provided by multiple detectives and officers of the Baltimore Police Department. There’s an indictment from a Grand Jury. There’s expert testimony from the State of Maryland, Forensic Anthropologists from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, a Chief of Forensic Trace Materials Analysis, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, the Chief Medical
            Examiner, all the Crime Lab Technicians, Forensic Chemist, and the Maryland State Police Crime Lab. The defense provided a list of 80 witnesses. There’s is eye witness testimony and testimony
            from Adnan’s friends, teachers and the victim herself. The case was tried twice. All the facts were presented. There was no plea deal offered.

            The fact that YOU don’t care about the trial is ok. You have nothing to do with the appeal
            process and can’t change the events of things to come. The fact is Adnan Syed is the true killer of Hae Min Lee. His appeal has no illegitimacy or substance. It will be denied and Adnan will stay in prison.

            I have no beef or anger here.. I’m just expressing facts about the case.

          • Naysayer1

            I’m so glad you’re wrong about the appeal being denied. I wonder if your opinion will change if Syed is exonerated.

          • 21 Minutes

            There is no evidence to exonerate Adnan Syed of killing his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. There’s no DNA evidence. Jay Wilds isn’t recanting his testimony. There isn’t a host of new and verifiable alibi witnesses for the 13th of January, 1999 . There’s nothing but a bunch irrelevant information distributed to distract from the fact that Hae Min Lee was a victim of a jealous and resentful 17 year old boy who couldn’t let go.

            I’m a firm believer that Adnan Syed killed Hae Min Lee. It’s the only answer for me. If he gets out on a silly legal technicality, then fine…he gets out. I can’t stop it. I would feel bad, but I’m just a fan of a podcast posting here because I’m bored. But, no matter what happens, he will always be seen as a murderer. He will never get exonerated. He will always be the man that was convicted of killing Hae Min Lee. He’ll never be able to live down that stigma. And…although not fair, it’s a small bit of justice for Hae Min Lee.

          • RiffRaff

            Reasonable Doubt.

            I have to admit, I found the podcast inconclusive but if you follow to the letter of the law, there was enough reasonable doubt to acquit Adnan Syed. You need to prove BEYOND a reasonable doubt. And there is plenty of reasonable doubt, and hardly any hard evidence at all.

            They didn’t have any smoking guns. The prints? Jeebus, Adnan nailed Hae in that car many times probably, there were probably his prints all over the place. It looked like a smoking gun to the cops because he had kept their relationship secret from his family.

            Without Jay there was no case. Frankly, Jay knew way too much about the details, way too much. There may not be obvious motive for him killing Hae but when I was 17 there’s no effing way an acquaintance could have gotten me involved in something like this.

            Adnan’s lawyer was horrible. I’m thinking that she was either a drunk or on drugs. I say that because it was known to insiders that her game was slipping quickly, and she was diabetic and clearly not taking care of herself. And that voice? Ugh, if I was a juror I would have done ANYTHING to get out of that courtroom.

            Lots of mishandled stuff in this case. It was EXTREMELY thin, not nearly as strong as some people seem to think it is.

            Anyway, I still didn’t get the vibe that Adnan was completely innocent, and that’s his fault. He wasn’t adamant enough that he wasn’t the killer! I mean, if I was in jail for something I didn’t do I’d be like the tasmanian devil and so angry and tortured and I’d want to effing kill Jay and there’s no way you wouldn’t get that feeling from me after all those phone calls. But the recordings it seems like it’s no big deal, that’s the way the cookie crumbles, no worries….. BULLSH T. Just not sure how that works.

            But 21 minutes comes across like this is some obvious open and shut case, and I don’t believe that it is. There was so much reasonable doubt I’m shocked that he was convicted. Something else had to have happened in the case that we didn’t hear in the podcast – I’m guessing the DA was REALLY convincing, and Adnan’s lawyer did a crap job of making the jury understand that you cannot convict if there’s a shred of reasonable doubt.

          • 21 Minutes

            I’m sorry. I’ve move onto season 2 of SERIAL. I really don’t care what happens to Adnan Syed. After reviewing all the facts, I know he killed Hae Min Lee. There is not a single doubt in my mind. I no longer need to discuss the case. I do want to thank you for your reply. Have fun arriving at you own conclusion to season 1.


          • RiffRaff

            Sorry, yeah didn’t mean to single you out but I did. Pre-coffee this am. I did just listen to this last week so I’m not over it yet.

            It is probable that Adnan did it – the only thing that can change this now is DNA evidence or an iron-clad alibi that exonerates him.

            My point wasn’t that he wasn’t guilty, but that the case is heavily circumstantial. I read that back in 98, the cell phone information wasn’t very reliable, and in fact in this case ATT told them they could NOT use the incoming calls information to triangulate. So there goes the corroboration…

            Again, looking at it purely as the homicide detective did that dissected the case, in some jurisdictions the DA would have rejected such a case – do you know why?

            Double jeopardy. If you try a case without the evidence it takes to win, and the defendant is acquitted, you’re done! At that point it wouldn’t matter if HD video of you murdering someone came out, or some equally shocking ironclad proof, the case is over. So typically they don’t try a case without better evidence. Unless it becomes obvious that there just won’t be any additional evidence.

            Pretty interesting case, for sure.

          • 21 Minutes

            No worries. I don’t mind being singled out. It comes with the territory when you sit at the unpopular table. : -)

            I understand completely where you’re coming for. Trust me I do. If you and I were on deliberating this case it would end as a hung jury.

            I’ve read way too much about this case. Reams and reams of on-line documentation, police notes, witness testimony… I’ve spent over a year now deliberating this case, as other have, in on-line chat room, on Reddit and in these comment sections. I didn’t come to my conclusion easily, but it was fairly obvious that all the facts pointed to in being Adnan Syed.

            Once I made up my mind, I tried to share my points, but because everyone gets their information from podcasts instead the transcripts, it’s difficult to so without someone quoting some irrelevant information.

            Case in point: There were 6 Assistant State Attorneys, a Police Captain, a Police Lieutenant, 19 Detectives, 25 officers from both the Baltimore County and City Police, and dozens of forensic specialists working on this case. Yet, to everyone who hasn’t read the files, it seems as if it was 2 detectives and a DA that railroaded an innocent 17 year old boy.

            So, now with season 2 out, I’ve decided to move on and forget Adnan Syed and his murder of Hae Min Lee. I’ve started to concentrate on the new topic and new case being presented by SERIAL.

            If you still want to debate the facts of the case, I suggest getting onto Reddit. You’ll find a host of people there willing to engage you in lively conversation threads.

    • Janis

      I was actually thinking the same thing. I might be able to get my mind around Adnan snapping, but I can’t really get my mind around Adnan being the guy Jay was so afraid of. Much more likely that he was afraid of some higher level drug dealer. He throughs Adnan under the bus as an easy distraction/act of desperation and gets lucky that it sticks. The fact that he was convicted isn’t evidence. People are wrongly accused and wrongly convicted – hopefully not with regularity, but often enough that it is certainly possible.

  • ecall

    Pretty far-fetched. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to “Serial,” but have concluded that Syed murdered Hae Min Lee and that Jay Wilds was more involved than just helping to bury her body, but that Syed may not have been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

  • Pirata do Cabide

    I think Adnan did it, but I don’t think there was enough evidence to convict. He might be guilty but he shouldn’t be in jail.

  • Andrew Oppo

    This theory is based on absolutely nothing but I guess it’d make for an interesting movie.

  • allyson

    The only point agree on is that Adnan possibly did not kill Hae himself. That is why he can feel so secure in his innocence and belief in his goodness. If there is a third party involved, it’s someone like Jenn. But the rest of it doesn’t hold water with me.

    • AnneMarie Untalan

      I have another theory… What if Stephanie is involved and both Jay and Adnan wanted to protect her?

      • The Truth

        Yes, Stephanie McPherson strangled Hae Min Lee out of jealously and hate at Security Square Mall. She’s the one that called Jay Wilds, who drives Hae Min Lee’s car, with Hae’s dead body in the trunk, to the Park Ride off of I70. Then, after driving all around the city with Adnan, Jay calls Jen to help him bury the body in Leakin Park. Jay frames Adnan to protect Stephanie.

        The phone call to Nisha was a pocket dial and Adnan is actually a good boy who is completely innocent.

        Why didn’t the police, the D/A, the defense team, the private investigator, expert witnesses, the grand jury, the judge and the other 12 men and women who convicted Adnan see this? Huh.

        Makes total sense to me…. Jay and Stephanie got away with murder.

  • Josh in Forest Hills


  • Carol Frueh Russo

    Brilliant! I, too, thought there were too many holes and that Adnan and Jay were into something very dark. This (while offering no proof – I recognize that) feels right.

  • Page

    i read this all in sarah koenig’s voice

  • MCT

    Just gonna point this out because i live in Baltimore that the theory that someone died at the hands of a “more serious gangster” to teach someone a lesson is not farfetched here. If you witness something you dont wanna go on the stand because you thing those people have connections that are gonna come after you

    Although I dont think this is what happened here.. I really wanna know what really happened though

  • Feng Yafei
  • Ashley Rae Boedeker

    I always figured there were characters to this story that haven’t been brought to light yet. I am at the same conclusion Koenig reached- the only thing we know for sure is that Jay knew where Hae’s car was parked. Jay’s testimony is scrambled and does not line up with the cell phone records, and neither Jay nor Adnan may have had the phone. Neither of the men can piece together a story that accurately follows the location of the cell phone, not in a way that implicates the other or exonerates themselves. I think someone else may have had the phone.

  • SFTukana

    I came to the same conclusion you have. I think there was more to with drug dealers that Jay dealt with. My conclusion was that Hae witness something brutally bad about someone she heard of from Jay on the streets and now she had put a face to it. As a result, she was murdered and then Jay and Adnand life and family were threatened by this mysterious guys and Anand took the blame. It still strike me as to my Adnand ever have a grudge on Jay or called him a liar outright… Someone else is behind this. How did Jay got a high reputable lawyer just like that>>>> It keeps me thinking

  • Jen Zambruno

    I can get into it but… why would this “high up scary drug dealer guy” kill Stephanie or Jen before Hae?

  • Lauren Urban

    Um, no.

  • Laura

    I don’t think there was enough solid evidence to prove either Jay or Adnan did it. I definitely feel the motive was way off, it didn’t seem to add up to any behavior Adnan displayed. Jay’s retelling of Adnan’s comments about him wanting to kill her seem so “out of nowhere” and makes Adnan sound like a cold hearted killer, which he does not seem likely given his lifestyle and background.
    My biggest question is how the jury, or anyone, took so much faith in Jay’s story when he very clearly was a liar. That’s what bugs me the most.

  • Manny George

    This huge conspiracy theory is way too far fetched. There is a principal often used by scholars and experts (physicists, philosophers, etc) that’s called Occam’s razor. This principal states, “that among competing hypotheses that predict equally well, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove to provide better predictions, but—in the absence of differences in predictive ability—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better”. In essence, the majority of the time, the simplest solution is usually the correct one. The theory presented by this author is so wild, that it is not credible and implausible.
    There are so many accounts, so many details and so many inconsistencies that it’s hard to keep up. And like the detective SK interviewed said, “this case is a mess”. However, there remains one certain, irrefutable fact that pops up in my brain every time I start to wonder. JAY KNEW WHERE THE CAR WAS. That’s it. The fact that Jay knew where the car was, absolutely and irrefutably links him to the crime. From that point on, there are only 2 possible theories. Either Jay killed Hae himself without Adnon’s involvement, or Adnon killed her and Jay helped him cover it up (as he testified). One or the other is true. Who had motive? Adnon did (I’ll get to that later). Was it the serial killer? No, because Jay knew where the car was. Was it Mr. S? No, because Jay knew where the car was. Was it this crazy theory put forth by this author? I’d put the possibility at .01%. Hae didn’t have a dark side. There is not one shred of evidence from anywhere to indicate that Hae was nothing but a regular girl occupied with girly things, playing sports at school, picking up her cousin from school everyday, having a boyfriend and writing young, girly stuff in her diary. If she had been mixed up with some very bad stuff or was a witness to some horrible thing, people would have noticed her freaking out. To lend credibility to this authors theory would mean that everything we know to be true about Hae, was somehow 100% false. No way. Occam’s razor!
    ADNON HAD MOTIVE. No one else did. Adnon had never been told “no” in his life. He was the golden boy, beloved by all. He could charm anyone into liking him. Everyone loved him. People who are universally loved feed off that high. It gives them power. In many cases, these people come across as nicer than others because it’s part of the scam. “I’m going to charm you into liking, loving and trusting me so I can manipulate you into doing whatever I want, and you’ll never believe I can do wrong”. Now that’s POWER! And finally, someone took that power away from him. For the first time ever, he was told by a smart, feisty person that he wasn’t wanted anymore. She chose another boy over him. He was rejected. He was told NO! He lost his power for the first time in his life and that played with his mind. She insulted and dishonored him. And we all know that in his culture, the worst thing a woman can do is to DISHONOR her man. In his culture, being dishonored is he ultimate humiliation So much so that women are often killed with no repercussion to the killer if it is deemed an “honor killing”. Yes, Adnon was Americanized, but make no mistake, your families culture rubs off on you. I was born in America. I’m extremely Americanized. But my parents are Cuban. And yes, some of their culture and backwards thinking has rubbed off on me a bit.
    I can understand the inconsistencies in Jay’s stories. The dude has been trying to minimize his culpability, so he’s been thinking of a thousand of different ways to explain why he never told the cops what happened before the day he was picked up and how he was going to explain his involvement with disposing of the body. I’m sure he tried to get his story lined up with what Adnon was telling him to say, but he simply could keep it all straight. I can understand that. But when all is said and done, he had no motive. When all was said and done, he came forward and gave a plausible story. And when all is said and done, the only thing we have from Adnon is his telling us he doesn’t exactly recall where he was or what he was doing that day. Come on now, that’s bull. Just like SK said, if you’ve been contacted by the police and told that your ex was missing and they were looking for her, are you really going to blow that day off like any other? No way! You’re going to remember every last detail of that day. You’re going to react like Hae’s new boyfriend Don did. As soon as the cops contacted him the day Hae went missing, the first thing he did was retrace all his steps, second by second so he could explain where he was and why it wasn’t him. Adnon conveniently forgets it ALL. No way.
    Detectives always look for motive, means and opportunity. We know Adnon had a strong motive. He had the means because of his physical strength to overpower Hae. And he had the opportunity as we all know Hae gave him a ride after school and they were alone in his car for some unknown amount of time. Motive yes. Means yes. Opportunity yes. Occam’s razor… when problem solving, absent any mitigating factors, the simplest solution tends to be the correct one. This is why, after so much debate in my mind, I believe that Adnon is guilty.

    • Mountain

      Manny, I have a few items to which I’d like you to apply Occam’s Razor:
      1. Immediately after school, Becky saw Hae tell Adnan that she couldn’t give him a ride that day.
      2. From 2:20-2:40, Asia saw Adnan at the library and chatted with him.
      3. Between 2:45 and 3:00, Debbie saw Adnan at the guidance counselors’ office.
      4. From 3:30 until practice ended around 5, Coach Sye saw Adnan at track practice.

      So, my question is: which theory requires fewer assumptions? If Adnan is innocent, we just have to believe these people who have no reason to lie. If Adnan is guilty, we have to believe all 4 witnesses are either mistaken or lying, and we have believe Jay, who admits to lying repeatedly, and whose story is contradicted by the cell tower pings, and by his own testimony.

      So, which should we believe?

      • Law_Dogg

        No: Coach Sye could NOT testify he saw Adnan at track practice, he didn’t know. One thing that was never brought up sufficiently, in my mind: the whole concept of Adnan asking Jay if he had gotten Stephanie a birthday present. I thought this was going to be a thread SK left until later, but it was never pulled. Adnan was “close friends” with Stephanie: Jay’s girlfriend, who by many accounts, he was obsessed with. He’d do anything to “protect” her. Adnan’s just broken up with Hae, he’s giving Jay’s girlfriend a birthday present, and passively-aggressively reminding Jay that he hasn’t. I think Jay (who clearly has some mental issues, just look at his more recent criminal record) thought Adnan was trying to steal Stephanie from him. Whether Jay killed Hae or not, or maybe even got one of his drug-supplying friends to do it for him, I think he pinned it on Adnan to get him out of the picture.

        • Tony Nylander

          Thats a little bit illogical, when he had easier access to Adnan and could of killed him instead.

      • Tony Nylander

        Due to the amazing work of Baltimore police most of these statements are tainted

  • Ronald Bandor

    This “theory” is hilarious. It really shows what is wrong with this whole story — it is just entertainment to people. It is for people who have seen one too many movies and feel like they need to guess the twist ending. It is not grounded in reality in any way.

  • Hammer_Dallas

    I have listened to this, twice now, and for me your theory is the most plausible I have heard so far. Maybe not 100% as you readily admit but again you’re definitely on to something here. I would call this a minimum of 85%.
    As difficult as it is to be certain about anything in ths story I have to look at the facts and trust my gut.
    Facts & Gut:
    1) The cell tower in the rough neighborhood did ping. What were they doing there and why has that never come up in any of the testimony nor the trial? If we are going to use the cell towers as evidence then we have must use all of them.
    2) Jay has changed his story multiple times. Jay is an unreliable witness.
    3) Neither Jay nor Adnan have expressed any animosity towards the other. To me, it feels like Adnan is protecting someone.
    Whoever this third guy was why do we not considerthat he may have helped bury Hae’s body.

    All along, again twice now, I am convinced Adnan is protecting someone.

    It is also told me that Jamie and Adam were involved but they are not

    The above facts are undisputed. The above “gut,” thanks to your help, is the only way that I can reconcile those facts. Regarding add nine’s memory or lack there of it is not a problem. My daughter was born that year; 1999. It was an emergency birth which was harrowing for both her and my wife. Presenting myself with the challenge of remembering that day, I am amazed the lack of details that I recalled ask questioned myself about it.
    What time did I get the call at work?
    What time did I pick up my wife?
    Who was in admissions with us?
    What did we watch on TV?
    Did I call my mom or did she call me?
    What time?
    I remember none of these details on one of the most important days of my life.

    I realize now why this case since I’ve been so difficult for me: everyone is lying but not blatantly. They are lying around the truth and in the case of the police using “good evidence” not the “bad.”

    Of this I am convinced;
    Jay and Adnan were (criminally) involved but they are not killers.

  • Kim De Quip

    I love this. I have come to the very same and similar conclusions. This makes sense to me. And I think Jay was rewarded with a job in the Porn Store, where the Maff could keep an eye on him… Josh is talking tosh about Jay fearing the ‘Middle Eastern, Arabic speaking… Pakistani’s ( that almost made me laugh – Americans need to travel more or get an Atlas and read some (language) books). Sorreee Americams. Thank you Sarah Koenig for humanising journalism and reporting… She made it a captivating story that lost none of the tragedy. There’s some bad people still out there, strangling teenage girls for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, putting drug money before all else…?

  • John

    This theory is ridiculous. Just because Jay and Adnan smoked weed does not mean they were involved in a high stakes criminal organization that would get Adnan protection in jail.
    My two cents… Jay killed Hae. He was cheating on his gf, Hae knew it, she was going to rat him out, so he killed her.

  • joegrubb

    Interesting, but wrong. Way wrong. Jay done it and he’s gonna pay.

  • Uknow Law

    If all this is drug related. and Hae was killed as a message to warn the boys. Then why would jay even get involved at all by admitting to help bury Hae. Why haven’t the boys collaborated a story which doesnt involve any of them in jail. Wouldnt they stay away from being suspects so they dont compromise the drug thing more in case biggers bosses kill more people. Your theory has plot holes.

  • Rory Wojtusiak

    This is the dumbest theory I’ve ever heard. Why would Adnan not try and blame Jay if this were the case? ?

  • Law_Dogg

    No one — not Adnan, not anyone — would take a life sentence just to avoid the (stretch) possibility that some Baltimore drug dealers might off him…they’d try to escape, go undercover, move to another state, change their name, etc., etc. They would TRY. Certainly, they wouldn’t (as Adnan did) feign TOTAL ignorance. I think Jay more likely did it. What I think more, though (as an attorney) is that his lawyer screwed up bad: there was clearly more that sufficient evidence to establish reasonable doubt, and get him acquitted.

  • NKristen

    This! I just finished binge listening to Serial yesterday! As soon as the last episode was over my
    first thought was that both Adnan and Jay were mixed up with the wrong drug dealers and Hae was simply killed as a brute show of force for a debt not paid. Both Adnan and Jay owed enough money really piss off the drug dealers. (We know
    Adnan was stealing from the mosque – perhaps to keep his creditors at bay?) Jay had Adnan’s phone & car, not because he was trying to set up Hae, but because they were probably plotting some way to get enough money to pay off what they owed buy more drugs? Steal?). Unbeknownst to the guys, Hae was targeted for murder for their debts. Hae was chosen because she was easy prey and took the
    same route daily. My guess is the murder was carried out by low level enforcer/s that were unaware or thought Adnan was lying about his recent breakup with Hae.

    Once Hae was murdered, the killer took her body to Jay to show him first because Adnan was at school. When Jay was with the police repeating the words of the killer, he used an inner city urban dialect to describe how the
    killer strangled Hae. Those words sound like an uneducated, very inner city person speaking, not a 17 year old honor
    student, but because Jay heard the words directly he repeated them verbatim. The killer and Adnan speak almost different languages. It was enough to be jarring when I heard the tape of Jay repeating what Adnan allegedly said.

    The drug gang guys forced Adnan and Jay to dispose of the body which is why he knows so much about the
    killing and body disposal. He was there for that part of the story.

    Jay’s terror is genuine because he is being watched and he was told they would kill Stephanie too. They killed Hae, he saw the body why wouldn’t they kill Stephanie?

    Neither Jay nor Adnan killed Hae which they can say with absolute, wholehearted conviction because
    neither of them did it. After all of these years, that part of the story doesn’t change.

    Adnan does not speak negatively about anyone or rage against anyone because he and his family are still
    in danger. It’s also why he has to continue the charade that the day Hae was killed was just a regular day even though he
    knows exactly what happened once Jay picked him up. This is why he needs to focus on the facts and no extra fluff.
    He does not want to draw any attention to any part of the story other than the fact that he did not commit the murder.

  • Chelsea Granger

    i mean this makes sense and I thought of that too but the “evidence” that founded the theory is all incorrect as discovered by the lawyers in undisclosed. so the theory could be true still, but the evidence to back it is wrong.

  • Tony Nylander

    Like most of those posting here, I did not know about this case when I graduated in 99′. I first caught wind with Serial and Sarah K. Even though humans do not all think alike, anyone that is good at retaining, absorbing, and filtering information, pretty much convicted Adnan by the final episode of Serial. Whether Sarah meant to paint him as someone unshaken or indifferent isnt clear, but to be fair she did not have access to info that came out after her show exploded. Eitherway she proved Adnan should be legally free to an extent.
    Rabia (who I dont fully trust for obvious reasons )and her new podcast gives me the info I and the Jury probably needed for the second trial. Rabia doesnt point to Adnan as someone with out a recollection. She doesnt make him unemotional and calculated. On top of that, they pretty much prove that as many mistakes and misteps Adnan’s Lawyer made, that City police and County police corruption blead all over this case. Almost all witnesses have had their testimony debunked, and the police records of early interviews are all lost or doctered. Their time line, lack of investigation, disposal of records, feeding information, and ignoring other info completely prevents any real solution to this case. We know Jay and Jenn are lying from their earliest interviews, and you are never told how they got away with doing that in court, and also not being charged with accesory to murder. By Adnan’s rights, the nature of their legal agreement should have been disclosed. Also Adnan should have recieved bail but they didnt know he was under 18, and they apologized? When Rabia investigates you get to look at it from the first investigators point of view. What the case looked liked with not story to it.
    The problem with this case is that its full of lies, most of which come from the prosecution side, almost making Adnan’s lies if we can actually believe he did lie almost irrelevant. Undisclosed said Jay did all this including the anonymous tip for $3075 reward money to by a vehicle. Jenn went along because shes either cutting a deal or in love with Jay. Adnan still has no clear explanation or Alibi, and what I think is weird, does not seem to be willing to discuss his accusers. Hes Never called Jay a liar or murderer, and has nothing to say about Jenn or Stephanie. Presently it seems he has No tears for Hae and her “unsolved” murder. I hope Rabia and her team investigate by finding all the interviews that were not done, including the investigators from Baltimore police. There are barely any untainted facts thanks to the hardworking Bmore Police force..
    Only details to work with:
    -Hae Min Missing
    -Suspects, California, Don, Adnan
    -Police Phone interviews( still inconsistent)
    -Anonymous tip( very shaky records)
    -School survey about Hae and Adnan
    -phone records to trace Adnans steps.(Jay, Jenn possibly questioned at this point, although the cops had many people to look in on those records.
    -Body found
    -Adnan picked up in Swat team fashion.



KQED Pop is a daily blog edited by Emmanuel Hapsis that critically examines the social and cultural impact of music, movies, television, advertisements, fashion, the internet and all the other collective experiences that make us laugh, cringe and cry. We focus on local, national and international experiences with a Bay Area lens. We don’t do reviews.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor