Serial: Unless Hae Was Lying to Don, the Note Found in Her Car Was Not Written on the Day of the Murder

As a manager for the Woodlawn wrestling team, Hae handled the scoring for their matches, and she traveled with the team when they had matches at other high schools. At Adnan’s trials, as well as in the podcast, it was assumed to be an established fact that Woodlawn’s wrestling team had a match against Randallstown on the afternoon of January 13, 1999, and that Hae was supposed to have been there.

As with so much else in this case, however, the “established fact” that Hae was going to a wrestling match is unsupported by the evidence. Hae was planning on going to work at LensCrafters that day instead.

Hae was Scheduled to Work at LensCrafters at Owings Mills Mall

On the afternoon of January 13th, Hae was scheduled to work at the Owings Mills Mall LensCrafters, from 6 to 10 p.m. On the LensCrafters’ employee schedule for that day, Hae was marked as “no call no show” — the first such time that had happened in the three months that she had working there. Hae did not have a practice of failing to show up for her scheduled shifts, and we know that, at least as of January 12th, Hae was intending on going to work that day, because “Don said he and Hae had made plans to meet up later that night of the 13th after her work shift ended at 10 p.m.” (Episode 12).

The wrestling match story does not seem to have come from Hae’s family. On January 13, Hae’s brother told Officer Adcock that he was “not aware if his sister had any engagements after school.” This doesn’t mean all that much, since it seems safe to assume that Hae’s little brother did not have detailed information about the schedules for her extracurricular activities, but it does mean he wasn’t the one to tell the police about any wrestling match she may have been at. Officer Adcock’s report also notes that he “[a]ttempted to contact the victim Lee’s high school with negative results,” which means he did not receive any information from the school  about where Hae might have been that afternoon. Officer Adock did speak to Hae’s manager at LensCrafters, however, and she reported that Hae had failed to show up for work as scheduled.

Inez Butler-Hendrix’s Statements and Testimony

According to police files, the first thing investigators heard anything about any wrestling match on January 13th came from Inez Butler, a teacher and athletic trainer at Woodlawn High School. In fact, prior to the podcast, Butler was the only witness who had ever mentioned any wrestling match that afternoon. No one else testified that Hae had been supposed to go to a wrestling match that day, nor mentioned any wrestling match to investigators.

So everything we knew about the wrestling match came from Butler. This is a problem, as Butler has given four very different accounts of what happened on the afternoon of January 13th, her testimony gives very little clarity to the wrestling match situation.

Detective O’Shea spoke to Butler on February 1, although he waited until February 14 — after Adnan had already been identified as a suspect in Hae’s murder — to write a report summarizing her statement. According to O’Shea, when he talked to her on the 1st, Butler did not mention that Hae had been planning on going to a wrestling match on the day that she disappeared:

[Butler] spoke with Hae Lee on 01/13/99. Hae was upset and told Ms. Butler that she was having problems at home. Hae also said she wanted to contact her father in California.

Ms. Butler said Hae was a manager for the wrestling team. Hae told Ms. Butler that she would not be at the match on 01/13/99.

There is no mention of what match Hae would “not be at,” although this does seem to suggest some sort of match had been scheduled. Butler’s second statement was given on March 23, 1999, this time to detectives with the Baltimore City Police Department, investigating Hae’s murder. Notes taken during the interview state:

Remember what she had on because her skirt was short
She put $ in cash box herself
Didn’t see Hae until lunch. She was taping for Channel 36. Aired one week later.
Memory refreshed because she (Hae) was missing the Tuesday.
. . .
Up here between 2:20-2:25, soon as the bus loop clears[,] she’s up in front of the school. Hae keeps car running. Keys in car[,] runs behind counter [and gets] Very Fine apple juice [and] Hot Fries.
We fuss — told her to go home and change clothes.
She said she had to pick cousin up before she could go to work, . . .
I left at 2:45. Could have been closer to 2:50. Couldn’t be closer to 2:15 because[ ] 2:25 buses leave. 2:30 she jumps from car
She didn’t want to wait with others, so she just ran behind counter.
Alice said Hae is late coming back today. (Butler’s 3/23/99 Statement) (emphasis in original).

Butler’s statements concerning Hae’s plans that afternoon are somewhat ambiguous, but she seems to have been indicating that Hae was going to work that day, not to a wrestling match. In fact, wrestling is not mentioned at all, although there is a note about “Alice” mentioning that Hae was late getting back to (presumably) the school. It is unclear who Alice is, but if she was a manager for the wrestling team who was at Woodlawn that afternoon, then Inez would not have needed to travel to any wrestling match in Hae’s place.

At Adnan’s trials, Butler’s testimony diverged radically from her prior statements to the police. Some of the differences are minor — for instance, although Butler initially told police that Hae had paid for her juice and hot fries, she testified that Hae had been in so much of a hurry that she said she would pay later instead. More significantly, however, Butler changed her story to say that Hae had intended to go to a wrestling match on the afternoon of January 13, and in fact was planning on catching the bus from Woodlawn with the team:

Butler: [Hae] pulled up in fro[nt] of the concession stand as she normally does and went behind the concession stand because it was a little (indiscernible) and . . . she went back there and got her own drink cause she knew what she wanted and a bag of hot fries and she said that she’d pay me later, and I knew she would because she was going to travel that afternoon with the wrestling team because she’s the manager. . .
KM: Did she indicate why she couldn’t wait in line with the other students?
Butler: She said she had to pick up her cousin who was in middle school that she had to pick up and take home and that she would be back in time before the team leave[s]. We were traveling to Chesapeake.
KM: And that was for a wrestling match?
Butler: Wrestling match. . . .
KM: Okay. Did you see her pull up in the car?
Butler: Yes.
KM: Can you described what you saw?
Butler: She speeded right in front of the gym lobby, jumped out, left the car running and came in, got the drink, the chips, and she got back — told me what she was going to do, and what time she’d be back, and told me to make sure the team didn’t leave her. (12/13/99 Tr. 180.)

CG: [Hae] indicated to you that she would be back before the team had to leave?
Butler: Yes.
CG: And the time the team had to leave was?
Butler: 3:45. . . [S]ince she didn’t come back, I had to travel with the team. [ ] That’s why I was aware [that Hae did not come back].
CG: Because there has to be a manager, correct?
Butler: Right. Somebody has to keep score.
CG: And if one of the student managers doesn’t show up then it falls to you?
Butler: No. There was two student managers but Hae was the only one who knew how to keep score because she had kept score for previous years
CG: Okay. And so her failing lo show was something unusual?
Butler: Yes.
CG: Is that correct?
Butler: Uh-huh.
CG: But her having to go pick up a cousin — a young cousin, was also something unusual, as far as you knew?
Butler: On that particular day, yes. (12/13/99 Tr. 192-93.)

So according to Butler, Hae was going to be back at school at 3:45 p.m. to catch the bus to Chesapeake to score the match. Since Chesapeake is about 45 minutes away, the match would not have been scheduled for anytime before 5 p.m. at the earliest, which means that unless Hae was going to go to the wrestling match and immediately turn around to drive back to the Owings Mills Mall, she would not have been going to work that day.

At the second trial, Butler’s story changed again, however. Here is what Butler testified to concerning her encounter with Hae at the concession stand:

KM: Did you see her later in that day?
Butler: Yes.
KM: Tell us what happened then?
Butler: She was also a manager for the wrestling team, and she had done that several years , and she was real good at the scoring and she traveled with the wrestling team. That particular day she came up real quickly to the concession stand and got a few items and told me she would pay for them later and said she had to get to her cousin to pick up her cousin from, I think it was middle school or elementary school, one of the two. But she said it wasn’t that far and that she would be back. And I kept reminding her what time the bus was leaving because the bus had to go to Chesapeake because it was a tri-meet and they had to get there on time.
KM: About what time of day was this?
Butler: It was about 2:15, 2:20.
KM: And where physically in the school did this happen?
Butler: In the gym lobby, and that’s right in front of the gym. It’s inside the gym but it’s right in front.
KM: And this was a concession area?
Butler: Concession stand.
KM: Did Ms. Lee wait in line at the concession stand before she spoke to you?
Butler: No.
KM: How do you know that?
Butler: Because she went right back there and got it like she usually does, and then she usually comes back and pays you when she gets back. She was always in a hurry.
KM: What time would she have to be back to go to the wrestling meet?
Butler: The team was leaving that day at 5:00. They [ ] had a 6:30 meet. And she said, I’ll be back before 5:00.
KM: And how is it that you are certain she didn’t come back?
Butler: I know she didn’t come back because I had to end up going with the [wrestling] team to Chesapeake to score the game. (2/04/00 Tr. 20-21.)

CG: Okay. Now, the wrestling meet you said was elsewhere and, therefore, the team would have . . . gotten together and congregated before leaving together at about 5:00?
Butler: That is correct.
CG: Because the meet was scheduled to be at 6:30?
Butler: Because the match would have been scheduled for 7:30.
CG: The match. Okay. And that’s because of where the Chesapeake location was —
Butler: That is correct .
CG: — and the distance from Woodlawn to there?
Butler: Forty-five minutes. (2/04/00 Tr. 60-61.)

CG: There were times when Hae Min Lee didn’t accompany the wrestling team; were there not?
Butler: Not that I am aware of because I never had to travel before.
CG: Okay. So it was unusual that she didn’t come back?
Butler: That is correct. (2/04/00 Tr. 62)

At the second trial, Butler claimed that the match against Chesapeake was now a “tri-meet,” and that it begun at both 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., which meant the wrestling team needed to leave Woodlawn at 5 p.m. This is in contrast to her testimony at the first trial, when she stated that the buses would be leaving at 3:45 p.m. instead.

Just because things weren’t confusing enough, Butler claimed at the second trial that her statements to the police had in fact been consistent with her trial testimony. She testified that, in her statement to Detective O’Shea on February 1st, she had told him about the wrestling match, and about Hae failing to show up for it:

CG: Now, on February 1st, 1999, do you recall  telling Detective O’Shea about your last conversation with Hae Min Lee ?
Butler: I probably told him about her coming and getting my keys and going to get her uniform.
CG: So the answer to my question is yes?
Butler: I think so, yes. . . .
CG: And you, of course, told him about the wrestling match that was scheduled for later that evening that she didn’t show up to?
Butler: I don’t know if I told him or not.
CG: Well, her failure to appear for a scheduled wrestling match you have told us was an unusual event?
Butler: What I’m saying is, I don’t remember exactly the conversation I had with him totally detail-wise. I know that at some points I told him about her not showing up. I do remember that. (2/04/00 Tr. 66-67, 72.)

So either Butler is lying, or Detective O’Shea’s report of what Butler told him was inaccurate. Either way, the result is that we have four different stories from Butler about what was supposed to happen that afternoon.

Summer’s Memory of the Randallstown Match

Summer was a junior at Woodlawn at the time of Hae’s murder, and a fellow manager for the wrestling team. She was never interviewed by the police, and did not testify at trial, but she did speak to Koenig after hearing Serial. She told Koenig that she remembered when Hae went missing, because she had been upset about Hae’s failure to show up at the Randallstown match:

Summer was friends with Hae. . . Hae told her there was an opening for another manager of the boys wrestling team, Hae was already doing that, so Summer joined her. The day Hae disappeared, the wrestling team had a match at Randallstown High School. Summer remembers talking to Hae after school in the gym area there, the wrestlers were milling around, Summer was preparing the equipment they had to load onto the bus and Hae came in to say “I’m not getting on the bus to the match, but I’ll see you there.” That wasn’t welcome news to Summer, she needed Hae by her side at the match because Hae was more experienced at scoring which can be tricky in wrestling if you’re new at it.

Summer: I was giving her hell because I’m telling her “I don’t know what I’m doing.” I needed her because we had to take points and things like that and she’s like “No no no, I just have to go and you know, pick my little cousin up.” . . .

SK: You’re sure that this is the day because it’s the day she didn’t show up?

Summer: I’m positive. I am positive. I’m very positive. I looked for her the whole time at the away game. I was really pissed because I thought that she stood me up.

Sarah Koenig: Hae told Summer she would make her own way to Randallstown High for the match. No one but me probably remembers this now but Inez Butler-Hendrix who worked at the school said Hae had told her she was planning to catch the Randallstown bus. However, Ines initially told the cops the opposite, so I trust Summer’s memory more and Summer is clear. Hae told her she was going to drive herself there. (Episode 9.)

Based on Summer’s memory of the “the wrestlers milling around” at the time of her conversation with Hae, the match against Randallstown must have been relatively early in the afternoon, since the team was already getting ready to load up onto the buses. This means that the bus was likely leaving Woodlawn somewhere between 3 and 3:30 p.m.

Summer is also very clear that she remembers the match being at Randallstown — not Chesapeake.

The Don Note and Hae’s Interview

At trial, the prosecution introduced a handwritten note that had been found in Hae’s car. The note was written on a folded up sheet of lined paper, with “Don” written on the outside. It was “recovered from the trunk area of [Hae’s] vehicle,” although it is unclear exactly where investigators found it (1/31/00 Tr. 85). Based on trial testimony from Officer Romano concerning other items found in Hae’s car, it appears that this note — the Don Note — may have underneath a red jacket in the trunk of the car.  (“The upper right photograph indicates papers that were found once the red jacket was moved to the side. These are the items that were found beneath the red jacket.” (1/31/00 Tr. 60-61.))

The Don Note

Hey cutie.

Sorry I couldn’t stay. I have to go to a wrestling match at Randallstown High. But I promise to page you as soon

as I get home. O.K.? Till then take care and drive safely.

Alwayz,

Hae.

P.S. The interview went well. I promise to tape it so you can see me as many and as often as you want. 🙂

Although the note was undated, it has been assumed that it was written on the day of Hae’s murder, because the “interview” referenced in Hae’s note is presumed to be the Channel 36 interview. In Serial, Koenig noted that, “The local station had done a student athlete segment on [Hae]. So the note was written on the 13th, the day she went missing.”

In a statement given on February 22, 1999, Woodlawn’s Athletic Director, Mr. Graham, told police that this interview had, in fact, taken place on January 13th:

On 13 January 1999, at approximately 0900 hrs., Mr. Graham had several student athletes in the athletic wing for a meeting with cable channel # 36. Mr. Graham indicated that several of his students were going to be interviewed for Ath[]lete of the Week. Mr. Graham indicated that the victim, Hae Min Lee was one of the students present. Mr. Graham further indicated that this interview started at approximately 0900 hours and was concluded at approximately 1300 hrs. Mr. Graham indicated that he last observed the victim at approximately 1330 hours, after the interview.

Graham was apparently referring to “Cable Channel 36, Baltimore County’s Public Schools’ Education Channel.” This appears to be the interview Graham is referring to, as the initial on the microphone — “TEC” — refer to The Education Channel:

Butler also testified that Hae was being interviewed that day for a TV program on the 13th:

Butler: Baltimore County Athletic Program was taping a program — scholar athlete  program. They were going to interview several athletes from Woodlawn High School at the time. [Hae] had to come to my room because Mr. Graham — who is the athletic director — was in class and she came to my classroom to get the keys to get her uniform so she could tape the show.
KM: Did you see her at any other point that day’?
Butler: At the end of the day.
KM: And what time would that be?
Butler: Between 2:15 and 2:25. (12/13/99 Tr. 179.)

Her testimony was largely consistent on this point between the first and second trials:

KM: At the time of her disappearance, had she received any special recognition as a star athlete?
Butler: Yes, she had. The Baltimore County School Board had come out, the Athletic Department, had come out to tape her for this particular award. Whenever the student has excelled and met all the qualifications for Baltimore County, then they do a taping session which is aired on the Baltimore County Educational Network. And they came out that particular day to tape her in her uniform, and at a later point they get like a gold medal and other certificates and awards from Baltimore County. (2/04/00 Tr. 11.)

KM: Did you see her that day?
Butler: Yes, I saw her that day because she came to my classroom, and I was in the middle of teaching, and she needed to get her uniform in order to be taped for the show, which she was supposed to get the day before, and she came to my classroom and I had to give her my school keys to go unlock the room to get her uniform out. (2/04/00 Tr. 18.)

It is worth noting that, previously, Butler said that Hae had come to her because Athletic  Director Graham had been in a class — not that Butler had been in the middle of class. Butler taught from 9:15 to 10:40 a.m., which seems to conflict with her earlier statements that she had not seen Hae “until lunch.”

The TL;DR

To recap, here is what we know about Hae’s plans for the afternoon of January 13, 1999:

  • LensCrafters’ employment records show Hae was working from 6pm to 10pm. On the day of Hae’s disappearance, Officer Adcock spoke to Hae’s manager at LensCrafters, who confirmed that Hae had been scheduled to work but did not show up. Don also states that Hae had been planning on going to work that day.
  • Prior to the podcast, Inez Butler was the only source of evidence indicating that Hae intended to attend a wrestling match on the afternoon of January 13th. According to a police report summarizing Butler’s February 1st statement to Detective O’Shea, Butler stated that Hae was not planning on going to a wrestling match on the 13th. At the first trial, however, Butler testified that Hae was supposed to go to a wrestling match that afternoon, and that the bus had been leaving at 3:45 p.m. to go to Chesapeake. At the second trial, Inez testified instead that the bus was leaving at 5:00 p.m., “to go to Chesapeake [for] a tri-meet.” On direct, Butler stated the match started at 6:30 p.m., but on cross, Butler corrected Gutierrez and said it would be starting at 7:30 p.m. instead  which started at either 6:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.
  • Summer said that she remembered Hae missing the Randallstown match. On the day of the match, she had a conversation with Hae, at around 2:45 p.m., while “the wrestlers were milling around, [and] Summer was preparing the equipment they had to load onto the bus.” Hae came in to tell her that she’d not be catching the bus, but that she would drive herself to the match.
  • According to Butler and Graham, Hae was interviewed for a student athlete segment during the school day on January 13th.
  • The Don Note stated that Hae “couldn’t stay” somewhere, because she had to go to a wrestling match at Randallstown High she had to go to. The note also referenced an interview that had occurred earlier that day.

These conflicting stories are hard to make sense of. Thanks to Beverly Funkhouser’s research at the Baltimore library, however, there is at least one fact that can be stated with certainty: Woodlawn did not play Randallstown on January 13, 1999 — and may not have had a wrestling match at all that day.

The Woodlawn vs. Randallstown Wrestling Match was on January 5, 1999

Woodlawn High School could not have had a wrestling match against Randallstown High School on the day that Hae was murdered, because Woodlawn had already had their match against Randallstown the week before, on Tuesday, January 5, 1999:

Sun - 1-6-99 - Report on Woodlawn - Randallstown Match

Woodlawn and Randallstown could not have had a re-match on January 13th, because Randallstown’s wrestling team had played a match against Carver A&T that day instead:

Sun - 1-14-99 - Report on Randallstown - Carver Match

Despite the fact that it would have been trivial for investigators in 1999 to obtain a copy of the Woodlawn wrestling team’s schedule and confirm the dates of any scheduled matches, neither the investigators nor the prosecution bothered to do this. Instead, the State simply assumed that Woodlawn had played Randallstown on January 13, and treated it as a fact, despite the lack of any corroborating evidence, and despite the fact that the State’s only witness to address the wrestling match had claimed that it had been against Chesapeake, not Randallstown.

Something as inconsequential as a lack of evidence would not be enough, however, to stop the prosecution from claiming it was an established fact that Woodlawn had played Randallstown on the afternoon of the 13th. In closing arguments, Prosecutor Murphy told the jury that the Don Note had therefore been written on the day that she died, and that this was proven by the fact that Woodlawn was playing Randallstown that day:

Take a good look at State’s Exhibit 19. This is  a note addressed to Don in Hae’s car. We know she wrote this the day she died. . . She refers to things we know she had to do that day: the taping, the taped interview, the wrestling match at Randallstown. Maybe she intended to put it on his car, we don’t know. She never had a chance to do it. (2/25/00 Tr. 55.)

There is no factual basis in the trial record for Murphy’s claim about the Randallstown game, and, as it turns out, there was nothing outside of the trial record to support it either. The story about the Randallstown match appears to be just another example of the prosecution refusing to let the evidence get in the way of its case.

Woodlawn May Not Have Had a Wrestling Match At All on January 13, 1999

So we know Woodlawn didn’t play Randallstown, but could they have had a match against Chesapeake instead, like Butler claimed? Maybe — but there is no evidence to support it, aside from Butler’s confusing and inconsistent testimony. The January 14, 1999 edition of the Baltimore Sun did not list any results for Woodlawn’s wrestling team, although it is at least possible Woodlawn had a match for which the score somehow did not get reported. (Neither of the Chesapeake teams appear to have had a wrestling match  on the 13th, either. There are two different public schools called Chesapeake — one in Anne Arundel County (“Chesapeake-AA”) and one in Baltimore County (“Chesapeake-BC”). It is unclear which team Butler was referring to; although it is more likely Woodlawn was playing another Baltimore County team, it is possible they could have had matches against an Anne Arundel school as well. In any event, neither team has scores reported for a January 13th match in any newspaper which covered Maryland high school athletics.)

Moreover, there is some evidence that Woodlawn did not have a wrestling match at all on January 13th — because they had a match against Loch Raven the day before, on January 12th. Although it is possible that the Woodlawn team had matches two days in a row, on both the 12th and 13th, it seems unusual that the results for the match on the 12th would have been reported, but the match on the 13th would not:

Sun - 1-13-99 - Report on Woodlawn - Loch Raven match

The high school wrestling schedule in the January 13th edition of the Baltimore Sun also failed to list either Chesapeake or Woodlawn among the teams to be competing that afternoon:

Sun - 1-13-99 - Wrestling Schedle

What This Means:

While it is possible that the Woodlawn wrestling team had an unreported match on January 13th, what we do know is that, if they did play a match that day, it was against a team other than Randallstown. This is important for two reasons.

First, this means, in regards to the Don Note, that either: (1) Hae did not write the note on January 13th, or (2) Hae lied to Don about having a match at Randallstown, or was mistaken about where the match actually was. Option 2 seems unlikely. There is no reason for Hae to have sought out Don just to lie to him about where she was going, and since the Randallstown match had been the week before, it is unlikely she would have mistakenly believed the match was that week.

That leaves Option 1. Hae did not write note on January 13th — she wrote it on January 5th, the day of the Randallstown match.

Summer remembers that Hae was going to drive herself to the Randallstown match, and that she was pissed off when Hae was a no-show. But what if Summer’s memory is correct about Hae not being at the match, but wrong about the date? Randallstown High School is only two miles from Owings Mills Mall, where Hae and Don worked. If she were driving herself to the match that day, that would explain the note: she planned to swing by the mall first and leave it on Don’s Camaro. Don’s timecards show that he worked at the Owings Mills store from 9am to 6pm on the 5th, so his Camaro would have been there.

This would also explain why the note was still in Hae’s car. The note was never delivered, because after writing to let Don know she was “sorry [she] couldn’t stay,” Hae changed her mind and decided she could stay after all, to hang out with Don at the conclusion of his shift. She stood Summer up.

As /u/j2kelley has pointed out, evidence that Hae went to Owings Mill Mall that day comes from Hae’s bank records, which show that Hae made two purchases in Owings Mills on January 5, 1999:

Hae - Bank Details - Owings Mills 1-05

As Hae did not work at LensCrafters at any point that day, there is nothing to explain why she would have been at the mall that day, other than to see Don.

But what about the interview mentioned in the Don Note? It is possible that both Graham and Butler were mistaken about the date of the interview, but there is also another possibility. What if there were two interviews?

According to Butler, the taping was being done by the Baltimore County Athletic Program, for “scholar athlete of the year” (first trial) or for a “particular award” that is given “[w]henever [a] student has excelled and met all the qualifications for Baltimore County,” for which “they do a taping session which is aired on the Baltimore County Educational Network” (second trial). In both trials, Inez described how Hae needed to get her uniform before the interview, because the network had come to “tape her in her uniform.”

In closing arguments, however, Murphy seems to have completely forgotten Butler’s testimony, despite the fact she was the one who handled the direct examination. She tells the jury the following:

Hae was very excited about being taped for a local news show. She recalls in great detail how Hae came running into the concession area at 2:15, right after class. She was in such a rush that she didn’t even pay for the snack that she got because she knew she was coming back. She had to go to the wrestling match, and Ms. Butler told you, with no hesitation, that these were in fact the clothes that Hey Lee was wearing on January 13th. She was wearing a skirt and light jacket and top. She wanted to look nice for the taping. (2/25/00 Tr. 52-53.)

So the interview was with a “local news show,” and Hae wanted to “look nice for the taping,” by wearing a skirt and top — even though Butler described how it was an award given by the Baltimore County Athletic Program, and Hae was taped in her uniform, not her regular clothes. Now, it is possible that Murphy just has no idea what she is talking about here. I can’t rule that out as a possibility. Maybe she didn’t listen to Butler’s testimony, and she was just winging it in her closing argument. The state made dozens of assertions in its closing argument that were factually inaccurate, so this could simply be another example of that.

Or, maybe, Murphy knows something about Hae’s interview that we don’t. Could there have been two days Hae was interviewed, one of which involved Hae being interviewed in her regular clothes, rather than her uniform? Remember, Butler testified that the athletic department “came out that particular day to tape her in her uniform, and at a later point they get like a gold medal and other certificates and awards from Baltimore County” (2/04/00 Tr. 11) (emphasis added). This may be an allusion to the fact that the Athletic Program came out on more than one day to film interviews. On the 13th, they came out to film Hae in uniform, but perhaps they had also come out on another day — like on January 5th — to film her for a longer interview segment.

Then again, it is also possible that Murphy and Butler were both just wrong, and there was only one interview, which was filmed on January 5th. After all, Butler was wrong about Hae going to the wrestling match, so she could have been just as wrong about the interview date, although Graham being incorrect is harder to explain.

Second, the fact the Woodlawn wrestling team was not playing Randallstown on January 13th means that Hae could not have been intending to go to a wrestling match that afternoon. The only way Hae could have gone to both work and to the match was if Woodlawn had been playing Randallstown. If Woodlawn was, in fact, playing Chesapeake that day, then there is no possibility whatsoever that Hae could have made it to both; the two locations are 45 minutes apart, and according to Butler, the game was scheduled to start at either 6:30 or 7:30 p.m., at the exact same time Hae was supposed to be working at LensCrafters.

Based on the inconsistency in Butler’s statements and testimony (and in particular her initial statements to police stating that Hae was not going to be at the wrestling match that night), it seems instead that Hae must have been planning to go to work all along. Perhaps Butler’s confusion comes from the fact she, too, remembered that Hae had failed to show up for a wrestling match, just like Summer also remembered — only she was confusing the Randallstown match for the one at Chesapeake. Or perhaps Butler is just too unreliable of a witness, and what she testified to cannot be considered credible. Either way, there is no reason to believe that Hae had intended to go to a wrestling match on the afternoon of January 13th.

-Susan (with special thanks to Beverly!)

198 thoughts on “Serial: Unless Hae Was Lying to Don, the Note Found in Her Car Was Not Written on the Day of the Murder

  1. Great stuff! The Woodlawn, Randallstown, and Chesapeake yearbooks would be a good source to corroborate where the wrestlers were on these dates.

  2. While I think it’s very interesting how poor people’s memories actually are, and important to keep in mind, other than showing how unreliable Ms. Butler’s and Summer’s recollection of Hae’s departure time, I don’t see the importance. Hae was supposed to pick up her cousin at 3:15. Any discrepancies in her itinerary afterwards isn’t terribly important.

    On the topic of sports schedules, I find Stephanie’s stated 3:30 team bus departure on January 13 much more compelling. Having played basketball at a Baltimore County high school, I know that a 3:30 departure on a mon-thurs would be very out of the ordinary. Typically, both JV and Varsity players rush down to their lockers as soon as the final bell rings and to hurry onto the team bus. And often teams are dismissed prior to the final bell if the school is relatively far away. While Friday games are usually later, my recollection was never having County games late on Mon-Thurs. I thought maybe I was mis-remembering so I checked a few County teams’ schedules for this season and this is still the standard. While I don’t remember any schools not having a JV team when I was in high school, from nieces now at County high schools, I know that it isn’t unusual for a couple County schools not to field a JV girls team if they don’t have enough girls. But I would be surprised if this were the case for either Woodlawn or Parkville in 1999, and can’t think of any other reason why the bus would leave this late.

    • WELL SAID! My whole thought reading this was “ok, anddddd? What does this have to do with anything?” I really feel they should spend more energy finding hard evidence, instead of speculation over irrelevant holes.

    • I’ll admit I have a lot of difficulty understanding the position that Hae’s plans for that afternoon were not “terribly important.” The Don Note, if written on 1/13/99, is hugely relevant to the case, because if there was evidence that the victim had plans to go tearing off on some bizarre and illogical goose chase for a Camaro, that was an important issue that should have been a priority to address. There is no reason for Hae to have written that note on Jan 13th, so if it was, indeed, from the day of her murder, then there is a big hole about Hae’s plans that we know nothing about.

      Also, the wrestling schedules show that matches were scheduled anywhere from 3:30 to 7:00 p.m., so there was quite a range of possible times. Woodlawn did not have a JV wrestling team.

      • Susan, I thought it was confirmed that Hae was going to pick up her cousin almost immediately after school on the 13th and never showed at the cousin’s school. Am I mistaken?

      • Ms. Simpson, you’re misquoting me. I stated that “Hae was supposed to pick up her cousin at 3:15. Any discrepancies in her itinerary afterwards isn’t terribly important.” And yes, I do think any information about her itinerary after 3:15 that could point to where she was between 2:20 and 3:15 would be important. But while unclear, I was referencing the difference between Hae planning on being at Randallstown High at 5:30 or work at 6:00. Frankly, at this point, it doesn’t make a difference. As for your statement, “if there was evidence that the victim had plans to go tearing off on some bizarre and illogical goose chase for a Camaro, that was an important issue that should have been a priority to address.” So you’re saying that it’s important to disprove a possible, and “illogical” scenario that the Detectives should have looked into but failed to? i.e. You’re saying that given the note, the detectives should have looked more closely at the possibility of Hae running around to find Don before 3:15 (despite the fact that he was working a half an hour away in Hunt Valley and there was no evidence for Hae to have any reason to go all the way up there to simply turn around and race back to pick up her cousin), but the detectives didn’t, and now you’ve proved that they were correct not to, but for the wrong reasons. ??

        • First of all, it’s a relief to have some kind of explanation that makes sense for the letter found in Hae’s car. It’s been a real bugger for those of us rather obsessed with this story. It must be even more important to Hae’s family, who are less obsessed about whether or not Adnan did it than they are about what exactly happened to their daughter. So yes, it is very relevant when and where wrestling and interviews may have taken place, because not only is it out of respect for the victim and her family that we not dabble in assumptions and lies, bit because perhaps it will lead us to the truth of what really happened.

          • Agreed. Nice to see that mystery resolved.

            The theory about the note being written on a different day makes a lot of sense. In retrospect, the interview was said to have aired on the 13th in the evening. It would not make much sense for her to write a note promising to tape it when she was not planning to be home before or during the airing (unless she was planning to set up a VCR at her cousin’s)

      • And again, Stephanie’s 3:30 departure on the team bus for Parkville has gone unquestioned. BALTIMORE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL TEAM BUSES DO NOT LEAVE FOR WEEKDAY GAMES AT 3:30. They leave at 2:25. Or even before school lets out if the game is relatively far away. A basketball team bus leaving at 3:30 on a Wednesday would be very out of the ordinary.

        Again, I think this is a much more compelling discrepancy than whether or not Hae planned on being at Randallstown High or at work at 6:00. I’m not currently in Baltimore, but maybe Beverly (a long-time friend of mine) could check the Sun Archives for any info on the Parkville-Woodlawn basketball game.

      • Also, I think the “because if there was evidence that the victim had plans to go tearing off on some bizarre and illogical goose chase for a Camaro, that was an important issue that should have been a priority to address” idea falls a little flat. From limited info, it seems very possible that the detectives didn’t look into plans to go to the most logical places. Is there any evidence they even considered the possibility that Hae would have stopped at home between school and picking up her cousin? Because that is the single most likely place for a Woodlawn high school student to go between school and 3:15–to use the bathroom, to get food, to pick up gear or anything they needed for the rest of the day, to use the phone, etc.

        • Mason Perry.
          You refer several times to ‘Stephanie’s 3:30 bus departure’. Did you mean to say Summer? Just want to make sure I haven’t missed anything.

        • I guess that if Hae was in the habit of buying food before work that could well be reflected as a buying pattern in her bank statements. On the other hand, if she generally picked food up from home (which sounds logical to me) then this might also be reflected by the absence of payments for food before work.

    • Hi..I’m actually writing a paper on this case and there is a question that I have…first I am from the area.. I went to milford mill even though I lived on Featherbed lane which is about 3/4 of a mile from Woodlawn sr. So I am well aware of how difficult it would be to make it to best buy in 21 minutes after school going in either direction (woodlawn dr. To security blvd…or woodlawn to dogwood..and make a left and go past martins west) that being said..is it possible that the jv wrestling team had a match the day she went missing..jv records would not be published in the news paper..If you have any information about that please let me know..Thank you

  3. I think you may be close to showing that the prosecutions case had holes in it, but there is enough evidence, although circumstantial, that Adnan did it. Based on my readings of the case so far, I think it was a heat of the moment accident, not a premeditated murder.

    • Excuse me, but you sound like somebody who hasn’t been following this case very closely. What evidence do you speak of? Because I’ve been listening and reading since the podcast first started and I’m having trouble remembering the evidence that you seem to think exists. Please, enlighten me.

    • “I think you may be close to showing that the prosecutions case had holes in it”??!?!
      Susan, and others, have been highlighting the many holes in the states case for a while. I think that even those who believe that Adnan is guilty would admit that.

  4. It’s so crazy to see that we literally know nothing about this case. Even the simplest details we thought we knew, come to find out, we actually don’t.

  5. WOW. Incredible work! Susan, you amaze me — you’re like a real-life Veronica Mars. 🙂 I cannot believe (except that I *can*) Christina Gutierrez didn’t at least fact-check this stuff. If you and Beverly can figure out such a huge part of the mystery 15 years later, it surely would’ve only taken someone a few minutes to figure it out back then. And how do KM and KU sleep at night? This case should never have been brought in front of a court. The fact that they got lucky enough to get a conviction out of this pile of nonsense is absolutely shameful–and terrifying. Anyways, thanks for sharing your awesome work, Susan! I want to be like you when I grow up! Haha. 🙂

  6. It’s a pity that Reddit seems to have imploded — I’d love to see people attempt to rationalize this. On the one hand, this plus the information about the receipt suggest that a lot of the Hae-encounters-Jay narratives are probably false (or at least seriously flawed). On the other hand, it both confirms Adnan’s insistence that Hae was intending to go pick up her cousin before doing anything and suggests that at least some of the memories people have about Hae’s plans that day (up to and including Adnan asking for a ride – and almost *certainly* repeated memories of Adnan asking for a ride) may have been partially reconstructed after the fact.

    (Hm. Was Adnan’s car in the shop in early January / late December? Alternately, could Krista’s memory have been of Hae asking *Adnan* for a ride after *her* accident?)

    I’m inclined to *still* believe Asia, but that’s mostly because of the timing — reading between the lines, it’s possible the fight she had with her boyfriend was partially because *she* was flirting with Adnan, and then she was stuck at his place overnight.

  7. So, does this mean that Butler’s testimony that she saw HML after school on the 1/13 completely unreliable? If her testimony is confused and erroneous, as it appears to be, to the point where Butler testified that there was a wrestling match that day when there was none, does this mean that testimony that she saw HML with her car parked in the circle running to the food stand, 2:20 pm etc.,also likely untrue and misremembered? And her conversation about HML changing her clothes and her very high heels, [for the wrestling match] also unreliable? If so, this does not auger well for the defendant as it widens the window of opportunity. Likewise, the gas ticket receipt/transaction which would have placed the victim at a distance from Woodland had that purchase been made on the 13th, is now found not to have been made on this date, thereby discrediting Information that was used in Syed’s 2002 Appeal as indication that HML was not in the Woodlawn area when she was murdered.

    “Andrew Davis, Appellant’s investigator, testified that Hae’s bank records showed that
    on January 13, 1999, she made a purchase of $1.71 at Crown gas station at Harford Road and
    Northern Parkway, which is far from Woodlawn. (2/24/00-1 06)”

    • can you share where it was discredited that the $1.71 purchase at Crown gas Station was not made on the 13th of January? I must have missed that. thanks.

      • The Crown Gas Station Receipt

        One of the items recovered from the trunk of Hae’s car was a receipt from a Crown gas station in eastern Baltimore:

        • Although the date on the receipt was illegible, Hae’s bank records show that the transaction at the Crown gas station — for a $1.71 purchase — had a post date of January 13, 1999, the same day that Hae was murdered. As Hae would not have had an opportunity to make a purchase from that gas station on January 13th, there has been a great deal of theorizing about whether the Crown gas station receipt was connected to Hae’s murder, and perhaps represented a purchase made by her killer.

          It wasn’t. A review of Hae’s bank statements shows that the “date posted” for purchases made on Hae’s check card is not the same as the data of the underlying transaction. In addition to the “date posted,” the actual date of each purchase is listed separately, under the “transaction” column. Just like the receipt for the $10.00 withdrawal on 1/10/99 shows a posted date of 1/11/99, but a transaction date of 1/11/99, that the transaction at the Crown gas station shows a posted date of 1/13/99, but a transaction date of 1/11/99.

        • Just curious…and she was buying gas at this location because?
          (Poor person, we really are raking what are probably just normal events over the coals…but … someone has gone to prison for life over following these otherwise casual events . . .they remain important)

          Since someone seems to have had access to her bank account, did she make any further gas purchases in the days following? Of course, cash…

          If anyone sees the photos of the steering column, do they show how much gas in car?

          • There is no evidence that anyone had access to her bank account. The transaction in question was two days before she disappeared and only posted on the 13th. The bill shows no activity after that at all (in the last two days of her life or after her death) except for a monthly bank fee.

          • Also the gas column info means nothing unless we know what her gas level was before top up. We don’t even know if what she was buying was gas or whether her account is her only source of gas money.

  8. The video has a clock in the background. It’s a little blurry, but it looks like ~6:50. If the video was filmed on January 13, then it had to be filmed at 6:50 am. That would appear to contradict the quotes about the timing of the taping. (Graham said the taping started at 9:00am.)

    Of course, the other answer is that this segment of the video was filmed on another day at either 6:50am or 6:50pm.

    • If it Woodlawn was anything like my high school, the clock might have stopped awhile before and no one fixed it because it is so high up. I notice that the clock doesn’t move between the two cut scenes, though it is hard to tell (and maybe they were shot close together in time).

      • in one scene it’s 10.35, in the next scene it 10.30. Which, though bad editing – does at least suggest the clock was working…

    • actually it looks like the clock says 10:30 which really seems to be more likely if the taping starts at 0900 hrs and ends at 1300 hrs.

  9. I can’t figure out how Summer could have confused that event, however. She describes being mad at Hae for not showing up and presumably would have later found out that she had not skipped the meet but had in fact gone missing. It is hard to conceive of how she could have confused those events.

    • If her memory is not tied to Randallstown, but simply to Hae missing a match, it could be that Hae didn’t miss the Randallstown match (or wasn’t scheduled to work it) but instead missed the 1/12 Loch Raven match. If Summer (who was in a lower class) did not see Hae on 1/13, then six weeks later (or 15 years later) she might have assumed that was the day she went missing.

      • This is a very interesting theory. The one point I’m stuck on though is that all this time we have been told over and over how reliable Hae is. How unusual it was she didn’t pick up her cousin, how she was very responsible. Her skipping a wrestling match to hang out with Don would be out of character for her according to virtually everyone who had known her.

        • Wow. Just read Susan’s comment above that the police never subpoenaed Hae’s pager records. WHAT?!?! A young girl is killed and there is no concern for who was in contact with her on the day she died? What her contacts were like typically? Anything out of the ordinary? Seems like gross negligence. [Side note: I have been similarly interested in what Adnan’s cell records were like in the weeks following Hae’s disappearance/murder. Might evidence of Adnan’s typical calling patterns give us more insight on who had the phone and who was calling who on 1/13?]

          A sort of related but unrelated question: Couldn’t Jay have needed to wait at Jenn’s house for a call on the landline be due to Jay having lent Adnan’s phone to someone else and he needed to get the call to get the phone back?

    • Summer wasn’t questioned by the police back then (why would a thorough investigation of who Hae could’ve possibly seen/talked to that afternoon not have led them to the other student who would be scoring the wrestling match–you know, just to be thorough?). Summer came forward after hearing the podcast, but 15 years had passed and the encounter she describes is very, very brief. People who were questioned at the time couldn’t remember things very well, so we can’t expect Summer’s memory to be faultless. Summer and Hae weren’t close friends, it doesn’t sound as though Summer was in the magnet program, so it’s entirely possible they didn’t see/talk to each other on a daily basis, which also makes it believable that a week could’ve passed between the two events and she remembers them as being the same day.

    • Susan, I love your careful, thorough analysis of each detail of this case. With this particular theory, though, what I struggle with is this: if the match that Hae missed and left Summer to score on her own was on January 5, wouldn’t Summer have told Hae she was ticked off the next time she saw her? So Summer, looking back years later, wouldn’t be able to think that Hae had missed the match on the day she went missing, because Summer would remember having a conversation with Hae about it later. The only way this wouldn’t have happened is if Summer did not see Hae again between January 5 and January 13. Is that likely when they went to the same high school? Possible, no doubt, but likely? Thanks for all your hard work!

      • Summer only spoke about this event 15 years later — that’s a lot of time in which memory can be distorted. The fact she never spoke to police or school officials about it at the time also suggests that, for some reason, this encounter did not seem that important at the time.

        I would love to know, though, if Summer specifically remembered Hae missing the Randallstown match, or if that might have been unintentionally suggested to her by Serial, when she contacted them. The Loch Raven match was on 1/12, and it’s directly on the way to Don’s house. It’s also possible that Hae went straight to Don’s instead, and Summer didn’t see her the next day.

        • Susan, I know I’m assuming, but don’t you have any access to Summer? I was hopeful that a lot of the people who spoke with Sarah K would make themselves available to you, especially if the were friends with Hae and Adnan.

          Are you able to contact any of the people involved in the case, or do you prefer to let them approach you? I know you wouldn’t want to be seen as harassing anyone. There are so many potential witness’s who were never contacted or, if they were, the documentation is missing. Not to mention, the ignored evidence. I hope all these puzzle pieces eventually come to light.

          Thank you for your tiredness work.

  10. Wrestling teams often have JV matches that are unscheduled and not reported in papers. Unfortunately I don’t think absence of scheduled match proves anything. Actually maybe Summer was supposed to score this one as she was learning asked for Hae’s help and Hae forgot about agreeing to work. Either way still interesting that this was never looked into further in1999.

  11. Hello from Europe. Please correct me if I’m thinking wrong but doesn’t the first line in Hae’s note ‘Sorry I couldn’t stay’ indicate that she and Don met on that day right before she was going (go) to that match, b/c why woud she wrote that line anyway? And second when did she wanted to deliver or leave him the note?

  12. Can we all read these posts by Susan with the mindset that Adnan is innocent, and that the evidence is supposed to prove him guilty, and not the other way round. Not “ok there probably wasn’t a wrestling match but he still could have done it.” Where is the irrefutable evidence, except the testimony from one individual whose story has been deconstructed more times than I can count.

    • Why are you asking for “irrefutable evidence” when the entire case is ALL circumstantial evidence? or did you employ so much sarcasm it slipped past my Poe’s Law filter?

  13. This is disgraceful. Please tell me there are going to be at least some kind of professional consequences for the prosecutors. I have never been so eager to hear that unaired tape of Koenig’s interview with Murphy. What bits of incriminating, embarrassing, juicy goodness must be on there?! After all this new evidence has been uncovered regarding their gross misconduct and abuses of power, and after Urick tried to make Sarah/the Serial team look bad by subtly calling them liars in public and disputing their stories, Koenig is a better woman than I for not releasing it.

  14. I brought this up in several other forums (always getting shot down immediately) that it was odd that all the newspaper articles around the time Hae went missing through the trial they all said the same thing “Hae Min Lee was last seen Jan. 13 driving away from the Baltimore County school in a gray 1998 Nissan Sentra, on her way to get her 6-year-old niece and go to work at a LensCrafters store.” Never did one article say she was on her way to a wrestling match and I could never figure out how in the world she could be knowingly scheduled to work and and double book herself by committing to be at a match that day.

    http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1999-02-12/news/9902120061_1_hae-min-lee-block-of-rockridge-road-lee-s-father
    .
    https://web.archive.org/web/20141111230151/http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1999-02-04/news/9902040039_1_baltimore-county-college-of-baltimore-randallstown

    I had a feeling someone was mistaken about the match being that day. HML seemed like a busy girl with a lot of commitments but also like a girl who does not flake on those commitments and would not double book herself with the knowledge that she will be disappointing 1 of those commitments. She seemed to be too responsible. She also was 100% supposed to be picking up her cousin from school and that was never disputed. The new info brought to light about the non wrestling match and/or mistaken memories of Inez and/or Summer are going to through so many theories out the window now. I do not find it hard to fathom that the memories of Inez and Summer could have been molded by the detectives and prosecution to better match their needs.

    • Maybe I’m being dense but I just don’t see what theories this throws out the window. We know: She was seen after school let out. She had to pick up her cousin by a certain time. She didn’t pick up her cousin and was never seen alive again. What am I missing about the significance of where she was planning to go later?

      • the many theories regarding the note, Don, ect… and when I say “theories” I mean the theories that are on FB and reddit and such.

      • First, this is just more stuff to add to the pile of evidence that the prosecution (and defense) did a crappy job and that people’s memories are poor or easy to be messed with. Second, where Hae went or was supposed to be may lead to the truth of what actually happened, and we won’t know unless we actually try to figure out where she was supposed to be and what happened when she wasn’t there. Third, even if it doesn’t, this information certainly might matter to Hae’s family, which is reason enough, in my opinion, to care about it at all. If I lost my daughter, I sure as hell would want to know what really happened to her, not a bunch of hogwash, assumptions, and lies in order to “get “the bad guy. Especially since it seems that if they got the right guy, it wasn’t because they had evidence or knew what really happened to her. Which is sad, because nobody may ever know who really killed her (except Hae, and her murderer, obviously).
        Susan is doing what the lawyers and detectives should have been doing from the start. Seeking the truth, no matter where it may lead, rather than trying to make the “evidence” (which was slim to none, as those of us who listened to the podcast and now follow Rabia and Susan and read Jay’s interviews, etc etc now know) fit their theory.

  15. I seriously let out a gasp when you revealed that the Randallstown match had been the week prior. The reports that Hae had plans to go to pick up her cousin, go to the wrestling match and then work seemed like the most solid and corroborated reports of the day- between Inez, Summer and the note. Now that’s all in question. The initial investigation has me blown away.

  16. Can anyone from Hae’s classmates (including Adnan) confirm if she was really having the interwiev Jan. 13? I’m sure someone would remember if she was missing a class for hour or two during the same day she went missing. No?

      • Maybe I’ve missed that but I assume that every person that had been in personal contact with Hae on the day she went missing was contacted at some point throughout the process, so that includes the reporter (who certainly has a name!) who interviewed her if the interview was taking place 01/13.

          • That’s exactly what I was thinking. We cannot assume that any part of this investigation / prosecution has been conducted properly.
            If anything, this case could be used as a textbook study in incompetence and misconduct.

  17. Wait a sec, Randallstown has results shown on the 14th (assuming referring to the 13th match), but they do not show up on the wrestling schedule for the 13, along with Westlawn and Chesapeake. Why is that?

    • The sports schedules do not appear to be 100% reliable, which is why I leave open the possibility that Woodlawn had a wrestling match against some other team on the 13th. What the records do show though is that a match against Randallstown didn’t happen. Randallstown’s results for the 13th were reported — and they included only results for a match against Carver.

      • I’m curious about what role (if any) the weather could have played in the wrestling match schedule. If the weather was bad enough that school was canceled on the 14th and 15th, could a match have been moved earlier (the 13th) to make it up? I acknowledge the possibility that Inez and Summer both have their weeks mixed up, but how could Summer not remember that her being “passed off” about Hae’s no-show was misplaced considering the eventual reason she was a no-show?

        • Baltimore County Public Schools would not move up the date of a sporting event to try to get it in before bad weather.

  18. It’s all interesting but does it make any difference? It seems to me that the only thing that matters is she was supposed to pick up her cousin that afternoon by a certain time, and she did not. Whatever the plans were for later don’t matter, IMO

    • It’s not as directly exculpatory for Adnan as some of Susan’s other posts… but it does show the prosecution’s absolute sloppiness and disregard for the facts… if they couldn’t get something this simple right, they clearly had no interest in accuracy.

  19. I was in high school at this time, and I was an athlete. It is beyond astounding to me that no one acquired a hard copy of an accurate schedule for the wrestling team from the school, an interested parent – anyone!

    Admittedly, wrestling usually isn’t as popular a spectator sport as many others are, but man, I just gotta think there were a whole lot of parents and students who could have provided actual evidence of what the wrestling schedule was.

  20. Excellent work as always, Susan. Even though the “fact” that Hae was missing from the wrestling match seems like a minor one, there are lots of implications from the discovery that Butler was wrong about that. Foremost is that sworn witness statements of even impartial witnesses can be faulty when recounted much later and after being subjected to lots of other information and questioning. I’m guessing her first account would be the most accurate, and since she said she saw Hae pull up and leave the car running but didn’t say anything about seeing Adnan in the car, then it’s a valuable clue that the state’s version of Adnan’s “plan” was wrong.

    Can we be sure she was remembering the actual day of the murder in that account? No, but she gets some details right, like what Hae was wearing and it stuck in her mind cause she clearly didn’t approve of it. (In fact, do we have any solid explanation for why Hae was dressed up that day?) The one thing we suspect she got wrong was that Hae was supposedly taping for channel 36 that day, but perhaps when Butler commented on Hae’s clothes, Hae lied and said she was dressed up to tape an interview that day too (as an excuse).

    Another implication from Butler’s account is that Hae had to have been there well before 2:45, and that she was in a hurry to go pick up her cousin (niece? I dont remember). It wouldn’t take 30 minutes to drive to Campfield (google maps says 10-11 minutes, and it wouldn’t have been rush hour at that time), so that implies she intended to make a stop before the pick up. Best Buy isn’t even out of the way if she were planning on taking 695 to get there, since it’s right near the entrance ramp.

  21. In the video, when Hae is speaking into the microphone, it appears that part was filmed outside and that it was dark out. Or am I just imagining that?

    • No, you’re not imagining that. I noticed it, too, and it makes 10:30am for the interview seem unlikely doesn’t it?

      • I keep telling myself, she must be in an auditorium or a hallway where the lighting is low, but then I wonder, why go to a different location than the gym to film that part? Maybe for better sound quality or something? I have read “places” that the crew filmed her before school, but that never made sense because of Inez Butler’s testimony about it taking place during school hours.

      • I don’t think she’s in a hallway; I think she’s outside. The lighting forms a straight line along the top of the bricks behind her and I can’t see how indoor lighting would do that, but light from a lamppost behind the interviewer would. I also think if there were a ceiling above her some of the light would be visible against it – looks to me like a dark sky.

        • I think she is in the same sports hall. If you look at the very end of the 1st shot where Hae runs across screen you can see the brick wall with the downlighting above it in the background. Also the audio sound more like an indoor location since there is some echo there that you would get from an exterior location. (BTW I do work in television)

          • Also with this kind of filming the crew would have wanted to get it done as quick as possible with the minimum of fuss. So filming everything in one location is highly likely. Moving to and setting up in a different location eats into donut eating time!

          • Paddywack – I agree – two visits to film a story of this nature would not be justifiable cost wise. Filming Hae in various action poses and interviewing her would have been done at the same time, almost certainly in the same room. Examining the footage, I notice that the floor also appears to be grey in colour both in the shot by the brick wall and in a strip along the wall in the wide angle caption you mention.

          • Keep in mind, though, that this was the Baltimore County Public School systems’ channel, not some local news show. Based on Graham’s description, the shooting on 1/13 went on all day, and involved lots of students. Maybe it was for “action shots” of various students doing their thing, which for scheduling reasons couldn’t be obtained at the time of other 1-on-1 interviews?

            From how Inez described it, this sounds like something they do as a regular occurrence:

            The Baltimore County School Board had come out, the Athletic Department, had come out to tape her for this particular award. Whenever the student has excelled and met all the qualifications for Baltimore County, then they do a taping session which is aired on the Baltimore County Educational Network

            I wonder if they had like a weekly “student athlete” segment. If so, filming two different weeks would make sense. They’re going out to various schools sorta regularly.

      • Pretty sure it is indoors, in a lobby, presumably by the gym.

        The brick wall is illuminated with downward facing accent lighting. The purpose is to highlight the texture of the wall for use as a design element. Exterior accent lighting is usually upward facing.

        The floor in front of the accented brick wall looks like an interior floor, possibly carpeted. An exterior sidewalk would show expansion joints and would not be free of debris, like a candy wrapper or a leaf.

        Hae looks warm. She appears comfortable in her short sleeve shirt. It would have been 35 degrees with a light wind before school on the morning of January 13, 1999, and similarly cold on other potential January taping dates.
        I don’t have statistics on this topic, but the gym lobby of my high school looked like this as did many of the schools I visited (for basketball games, etc.).

        • Yeah, after watching countless times I’ve decided it must be the lobby of the gym. There’s a door behind Hae and it looks like an interior door, the kind I remember being between the lobby of the gym and the basketball courts at my high school.

  22. It seems logical to question everyone who was involved with the taping that morning. Could there have been an outsider, like a cameraman or a reporter, that took a shine to Hae? If that someone knew which car was hers they could have easily followed her to her next location after leaving school.

  23. Or what if third-party murderer is someone *posing* as local news reporter or cameraman, and that’s the thing Hae has to do after school? What better way to lure someone to remote location or “studio”? Perhaps say that you saw her on Ed-TV the week before and would love to film it for local TV. Would just take 10-15 minutes, etc. That’s why she,s dressed up, etc. Just spinning this thought in my mind…Not sure how Jay/Jenn fit in this scenario though…

    • It shouldn’t be this hard to pin down when the channel 36 interview was taped. Didn’t all Hae’s classmates report that she was present in class and at lunch in the morning, which would seem to contradict Graham’s and Butler’s account of it being taped that morning?

      If it were taped on the 13th, certainly the film crew would have been interviewed by detectives and all their footage (not just that which aired publicly) be examined closely in the investigation? If it were actually taped on the 13th, maybe Hae had a chance after school to quickly view the footage before it aired, and that’s what she had to do after school?

      It does seem odd that if filming did happen on the same day as her disappearance, there was no mention of this remarkable coincidence at the time. Do we even know whether this aired at all in 1999?

      • I’ve worked on campaigns with the press. To get a film crew out, it would be normal practice to prepare a press release and send that out to appropriate target press. Dates, times and locations for press filming/interviews have to be specified or can be arranged specifically for particular press. The press have tight schedules to meet so they must be sure that things will be ready to ‘go’ when they arrive. I would expect that there must, at some time, have been a written record, either in the form of a press release, press company’s diary or room booking of the event.

        • If a press release has been picked up by a TV company, I would bet that printed media could well have covered the story – local papers, local sports or entertainment magazines, perhaps even local radio.

          Also, I doubt the organizers would arrange for Hae Min Lee to do a media interview/event late at night. Her parents would most certainly have had to have been informed, and transport arrangements made. Also, a TV company would not go out at 10.30 at night to film a story like this. Film crews are hugely expensive and this story wouldn’t warrant overtime payments. This would be a day time media event. I’m certain of that.

          • One last thing. Media events are often arranged to allow media organizations time to attend the event; quickly go through the interviews and gather supporting images (photos/film) and then give the media companies time to forward the film/photos to the broadcasting company/publisher and then prepare a story which would almost certainly be based on the contents of the press release and they need to match up the footage/photos to the sequence of the story. 10.30am would be a good time for a lunch-time story and, with any luck, an evening news article as well.

        • This was not a local news show, though. It was something done by BCPS for student athletes ‘whenever they meet certain requirements.’ Since it was all internal with the school system, I doubt they’d have kept the same types of records as you’re describing.

          • Thanks Susan. I’m not familiar with this type of media. Was this something that was done for the families or for a particular programme for the local schools publicity campaign? I would doubt that the records would still be available, but, and its a long shot, if receipts were required for hiring equipment, rooms, arranging written /e-mail trail permission for Hae Min Lee to skip classes for the filming etc, maybe the date could be located that way or any funder reports of activities funded. I can’t imagine that’s likely though. Hae’s diary seems the best bet to me. This event would have had to have been arranged in advance so Hae would have been told about it to ensure she was available, agreed with the press release contents and knew if she had any requirements to fulfill like wearing her sports outfit.

          • And, as a minor, her family should have been asked for permission to film her (or at least the organizations I’ve worked with would do that).

          • People in the reddit sub have on occasion noted as curious that, per the podcast, Hae asked Don on 1/12 to help her pull off “an excused absence, rather than just playing hooky” on 1/13, despite the interview being lined up for that day. Don’s memory did seem reliable, since he had the fill-in work obligation the following day and the conversation took place just a day before she went missing. Maybe skipping school wouldn’t have been an obstacle to participating in the interview and god knows the above post tells us that anecdotes can evidence confusion as much as fact.. BUT it’s still interesting to revisit given your theory that the interview maybe happened the week prior, along with the confirmed Randallstown/ Woodlawn match. Awesome work!

          • That *clunking* sound is the sound of my jaw dropping. Of course, that makes perfect sense.

      • Someone can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that it did air the same night that she went missing?

        I wondered about the film crew too but I couldn’t reconcile a stranger killing her in that way. I know that criminal profilers exist who make links between the facts of the crime with personal characteristics of the killer. I am not sure what they would say about this but that kind of death seems like it would be personal. No sign of sexual assault or robbery and choking is an awful act that would require a lot of emotion to commit.

        I wonder what Susan’s thoughts are on the validity of criminal profiling and whether that field might narrow or widen the field of theories available in this case

        • Does the profile change though, given what we know about her head injuries and lack of defensive wounds? We know strangulation can be a personal (even emotional, like you said) crime, but given the possibility she wasn’t conscious when it happened, it seems like the same rules might not apply. That could make it seem to err on the impersonal side (lack of weapon, impromptu, etc.). Although the violence of the blows could be seen as emotional…IANAProfiler, anyone know the theories regarding this?

          • That is almost more personal. If someone strangled her while she was unconscious, it means premeditation, no? Who could want to kill her?

  24. The transcript is garbled, but Debbie in her interview with police mentions Hae was going to what appears to be a “junior” wrestling game that day. http://www.splitthemoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/DW30.jpg. If you say they didn’t have an official JV team, they may have had a split squad matchup.

    Also, from long ago, I remember the subtext that Hae may not have planned on making the bus to the school, she was going to drive. If you look at Google Maps, Randallstown High School in the present day is less than 10 minutes from the Owings Mills Mall Lens Crafters where she expected Don to be, about which she may have been mistaken, That’s the answer for why she had a note, she probably wanted to be very efficient, get her cousin, drop him off, get to the mall for a little time with Don before getting to the wrestling match.

    • I wonder if Hae’s family would have a vcr copy of her interview(s)?
      I saw that her brother was on Reddit once–maybe he’ll see your article and contact you? It would be great to have confirmation of multiple interviews or confirmation of the date.
      (great work Susan!)

    • There was no JV team or split squad — most the squad was made up of underclassmen in fact.

      Debbie also says there was no filming for Channel 36 that day, so what’s the basis for accepting her incoherent reference to junior as proof of a junior varsity wrestling squad, but not accepting her statement that there was no interview? Or that Hae was wearing jeans?

      • Evidence Prof just posted that Debbie recanted @ trial in response to the same comment. Thanks for this info and for showing how good investigations are done. The date of the Don note & what Hae had on her itinerary seems VERY important…..but all details of evidence are. For me the reference to the interview needs more clarification to show there were two. However looking at evidence in a new light is a good thing. The donation of your time is much appreciated,

  25. I’m really shocked at comments on this along the lines that none of this matters – what Hae was doing, going to a wrestling match or to work. I would say “BIG PICTURE. EVERYONE LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE”. If evidence was taken at face value and never corroborated (which obviously the Don Note was) and the wrestling match — what else was taken at face value as being true. This post by Susan is prima facie evidence that the human memory is fallible — very fallible. The worst evidence in Court is eye witness testimony. (Don’t believe me, fine, google it). I don’t believe Adnan murdered Hae, however, even if he did, the case the prosecution presented was terrible. Our justice system is founded on the principle of letting1000 guilty men go free before you convict an innocent man. Please be empathetic. What if you or your child was caught up in a situation like this. Is this the evidence you would be satisfied with? If our system wasn’t convicting innocent people, the innocence Project would be useless. I thank God or Allah or whoever that Adnan was not given the death penalty. His life is diminished by this even if he is exonerated one day. A 17 year old, intelligent boy who had big plans for the future. That’s all gone and we only get one shot at this deal and if he’s innocent, this is tragic.

    • I am also shocked that ‘Hae’s plans after she was supposed to pick up cousin are unimportant’ statements. Victimology is the most important info. What she was doing & planning to do & whom she saw & talked to in the days preceding her disappearance are the factors that lead to whom Hae would’ve come in contact with on 1/13! finding out about Hae should’ve been what should’ve been focused on! Instead, LE decided to find out all about Adnan instead! so much so that prosecutors couldn’t even get the correct events of the day. Hae’s parents, Don & Lens crafters verified that Hae was scheduled to work. Prosecutors totally ignored that?!, but instead they presented a story based on Butler stating a wrestling match!

  26. I work in a school and weather messes the sports schedules up. Could there have been a meet on the 13th that was a makeup because of previous bad weather (seems like there was bad weather that winter)? It seems possible that it wouldn’t have been publicized or listed as well if it was a makeup.

  27. In Deborah Warren’s interview with police on 3/26/1999 she seems to imply that there was some sort of athletic event at another school that day that Hae was attending. The transcription (or perhaps her actual statements) leave a lot to be desired though.

    Q: Ok. Did you see Hae after school?

    A: That day we talked in , um, the lobby area of the school um, with someone else and um, she was on her way to go somewhere else. To pick up her cousin cause there was a game that day um, he were rustling the basketball, but she was going to the junior um, I think it was at another school not at Woodlawn.

    LInk: https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1391660/syed-petition-for-post-conviction-release.pdf

    See page 30 of the interview

  28. I plan on contributing a longer response tomorrow at some point, as this post has got me thinking. In the meantime: it should theoretically be possible to chase down Channel 36 to determine the date(s) that they had crew out at Woodlawn High School. Happy to do some of the legwork for you Susan and report back…

    • I doubt they would have any records in that detail but worth checking and asking to see the original footage in higher quality than YouTube. Presumably they were filming on something better than VHS even in 1999. It would have been SD not HD but probably UMatic or BetaSP and I’m sure you would get a clearer picture of the clock. that would at least clear that one up. I’m sure they don’t have the rushes either, otherwise someone would have bought them up already, but worth asking. Most news tapes were reused pretty quickly after they were edited back then.

    • I used to work at a cable access station (that did mostly local educational stuff) at around the same time. They’re pretty likely to still have the tape logs used to enter timecode, which should account for when the footage on Hae was filmed. – Somewhere, trick is finding who has the old edit system backup hard drive, timecode/tape log binder, or actual tape in some 15 year old box in their garage.

      This footage was rebroadcast on the local news, it was known to be of value. Somebody will have something related to this and more than likely the timecode it was filmed. Even in a big school district, I have a hard time believing that there isn’t a long paper trail for the tape because of all the public accounting for tape, materials, time that goes along with these channels.

      PAPER TRAIL: At least in the job I worked at (which was underfunded and publicly accountable) we had a frankenstein system of donated camera, various editing systems, etc. we had to do manual backups, because stuff would crash. Because technology was in a lot of flux at that point we had both a paper log in a binder where an intern enter timecode and log footage in the project bins where the tape’s timecode was automatically read by final cut (the editing software) and tied to each clip. Those computer files were backed up over and over again. The paper trail would also include crew time cards, gas receipts, etc.

      PHYSICAL COPIES: Besides the hard drive someone probably has the actual tape. We only reused tapes for in studio little shoots. Everything out in the field was kept for end of the year specials, filler programs, promos, etc. That stuff is the gold that keep the station running – generic “great kids” footage that can be recut for school board presentations, fundraiser, etc. Even on our shoe string budget you had enough tape for weeks of programming and reusing tapes always came back to bite you in the ass.

      I would be surprised if he tapes of Hae’s disappearence were wiped between Jan 5 (or 13th) and the date the body was found in Feb. and even then that no-one kept the tape just in curiosity, for her parents, in the event the police requested it, etc. Also technology then was changing so fast every 6 months we’d switch to a slightly better camera someone donated and we’d usually buy/get a bunch of new tapes). Let us know if we can help track down the crew, techie kids, interns, donators, etc. to find out who the station pack rat was.

      • Thanks for filling in the details followthetapes. I work in the UK so working practices and especially college TV is very different to that in the US. Might you have been recording on DVCam in 1999 seeing as it was 1st introduced in 1996? Final Cut only appeared on the market in late 1999 so the item wouldn’t have been edited on that but could have been done on Avid or Media 100 but wouldn’t it more likely have been done tape to tape at a small scale community channel? Not that this really matters except to know whether any original tapes still exist that might shed some more small glimmers of light on this dark case.

      • Would it be more common for an interview like this one to be aired the day-of, or is it more likely that it would be edited, etc., and aired a few days after the filming?

  29. Excellent work again Susan. To all the naysayers this stuff really does matter. People stood up in court under oath and came out with this stuff as the truth, and it wasn’t. The defences job is to point out these errors, sadly Adnan seems to have had council who was unable to do that. But also the police should have had a duty to check this stuff out. I can imagine the episode of Columbo now where the detective is just about to leave the room but hesitates and turns in the doorway:

    “Oh, there’s just one little thing that’s been bothering me Ms Butler”
    “Oh?”
    “Yeah, I just can’t seem to get it out of my head”
    “What’s that Detective?”
    “You said you had to go to the wrestling match that night ‘cos Hae didn’t turn up”
    “Yes, that’s right”
    “Well I’m a bit of a sports fan myself”
    “That’s nice.”
    “Yeah well the trouble is I’ve gone through all the sports pages and spoken to the team manager”
    “Yes”
    “There was no wrestling match that night Ms Butler!”

    Oh if our detectives had been more like Columbo, Miss Marple or even Miss Simpson then we might have the truth of the matter.

  30. Susan you truly are a modern day Sherlock Holmes. When I heard the first Serial podcast all I could think was “how was he convicted with this evidence?”.

    I have read many accounts by murder detectives who say if you want to find a killer you need to find out who the victim was. Did Hae normally dress up? Would her family have thought it was odd to see her in a short skirt and heels? Was the January 5th match the one Hae missed? Would she have dressed up to see a boyfriend? Was she a trusting person? Did she ever buy marijuana? I am now 100% sure that the note that the prosecution alleges was written on 1/13 was written on 1/5. Is it possible that the witnesses from that day are conflating events as they were not interviewed until many weeks/months/years later. Hae seems to have blown them off on 1/5 and spent that time with Don. So where was Hae between 2:20-4:00 on 1/13/99? Why would her family have been SO sure she would be at the school by 3:15? Had she ever been late? Why call the cops by 7:00 pm? Were they worried about her skipping town or that she would have to been hurt or in an accident to miss the 3:15 pickup? Why did they call the cops within 3-4 hours? That seems weird given her age or unless she NEVER deviated from a routine and to have done so would mean she was hurt or missing. Any way to get more information about how long she had been picking up her cousin and was this an established part of her afternoon routine? Also where did the cousin live?

    • Regarding Hae’s clothes: If she was going to the mall to work at the Lens Crafters store, it makes perfect sense that she’d be a little “dressed up.” The store probably has a policy that their employees have a neat appearance, and everything I’ve read about Hae tells me that she’s responsible and would have taken such a policy seriously. This makes a lot more sense than dressing up to go and score a wrestling match.

      • I agree about dressing up for work. When I was 17-20 I worked in retail and I would wear skirts, dress shoes, and a nice top especially if I thought my boyfriend may stop by, It does not make sense that she would dress up to score a wrestling match then think she had enough time to get to work within an hour. I am thinking that between not showing up at her cousin’s school ( the school would have called a family member to get the child by 3:30-3:45 in my experience) and not showing up at work ( my experience again the manager or someone would have called her house) that her family would have been extremely worried and called the police to see if she had been in an accident or maybe missing by 7:00 pm.

        • It also makes sense that this would be her work “uniform” of sorts (skirt, hose, heels) so that Butler might have been remembering her dressed this way on another day (she might have changed for work right after school on some days and not on other days depending on how rushed she was). Also explains why Jay would be able to know anything about her clothing.

    • Agreed. The cousin was pretty small so no doubt her family would have been upset if Hae were a no show. Perhaps they paged her, got no response, called her at work and found out that she had not shown up, called her friends with no luck before then calling police to inquire about accidents or to report her missing. I am more shocked that the police got on it that quickly.

  31. Hello,

    I just have one question regarding Inez. There’s a record on her for 2014. I won’t go into the specifics bu do you know if these charges were for an offense prior to 2014 ?

    Thank you for your comprehensive posts. Always a pleasure to read them.

  32. Hi Susan

    I have just listened to serial for the first time, I’m not what you would call an “early adopter”

    Really impressed with reading your blog, a lot of detail about the case. I’m not convinced by the idea of a third party. Time window is too small and Jay knew where the car was. I found the phone logs really interesting and came up with an idea that I hadn’t seen anywhere before, just wanted to run it by people:

    In the afternoon Jay is at Jenn’s house

    Adnan is at school and Hae agrees to meet him after school or give him a lift as he has lent his car and phone to Jay to buy a present for Stephanie.

    The 14:36 call; phone is with Jay at Jenn’s house (as per cell mast data). Adnan calls Jay and asks him to drop off the phone with him at the library. Adnan will need the phone for Jay to pick him up after the murder and take him back for track practice. This may even have been preagreed as it is a very short call.
    Jay then leaves Jenn’s house and gives the phone to Adnan and then heads back to Jenn’s house in Adnan’s car and waits for him to call. So the car and the phone become separated. At trial I think Jay testified to leaving the house at this time with Jenn’s brother and that Adnan called before they left.

    Phone now remains in the woodlawn / best buy area Re: call at 15:15. The 15:21 call to Jenn’s home is then the “come and get me” call with Adnan calling Jay to come and meet him to take him to track practice. This was the difficult call for me. If Jay made the call why was he calling Jenn just before or after the murder?? If Adnan made it why was he calling Jenn’s hosue if Jay wasn’t there?? If Jay was at Jenn’s house then this would fit but would put the phone with Adnan at woodlawn /best buy.

    Jay then picks up Adnan from best buy. The 15:32 Nisha call is then an accidental dial whilst they move the body, timing would fit if Jay drove to best buy from 15:21 to 15:32 or Jay witnessing Hae’s murder or Adnan just really needed to ring Nisha??? (for the same reason Jay was meant to have rung Jenn at 15:21??)

    I like this idea because it explains that Jenn was telling the truth largely. Jay left around 3:30 (but for the second time!), Jay was acting jumpy waiting for a call (he knew what was going on) and Jay received calls on both Jenn’s landline and on Adnan’s cell phone.

    Also explains why Jay lied. He cannot tell the police he dropped Adnan’s phone back to him before the murder as that would imply consipiracy very much before the fact. Equally he cannot admit that the 15:21 call to Jenn’s home was the come and get me call because then Adnan’s phone is at woodlawn and Jay is at Jenn’s, so somehow the phone must have transferred itself to woodlawn and he is in the same situation as before. All the changing of the story about burying the body and what Jay did later on just deflects attention from the time when Hae was killed.
    ??
    Don’t know if you’ve already run through this and shot holes in it already but thought I would put it out there

    • I’m not gonna check all the details of this hypothesis (maybe Susan will), but I’d exspect someone to have seen Jay in this version when bringing the phone back to Adnan in the library

    • Glad you’re getting into this fascinating case, is it as big a deal in Britain as it is in the US? Interesting theory you put forth, but the first problem with is that the act of Jay delivering the phone to Adnan at the library (if true) is not that big a deal legally. Jay testified that Adnan told him at least once before the day of the murder that he was going to kill her, then lent him his car for the specific purpose of picking him up after he killed her, so I really don’t see how bringing him a cell phone while he’s in a public place would be something Jay would need to (or attempt to) lie about since it’s possible for someone to have seen him at (or in front of) the library making the delivery.

      I’m as interested in alternate theories as anyone, but the fundamental question to answer to give any of them a shred of reason is: why would Jay concoct the story that he did and risk prison (or worse) by telling?

      • Thanks Dan I have no idea how big a thing this is in the US or the UK.
        I just wanted to raise the possibility that Jay may not have had the phone at the time of Hae’s murder and this would explain the call to Jenn’s house and some aspects of Jenn and Jay’s early interviews with police. All of the other posts I’ve seen tend to assume Jay had the car and the phone at the time Hae was murdered but can’t explain the call to Jenn’s house.
        I really don’t think Jay would have gone up to Adnan in the library and given him the phone but they could have met somewhere nearby (parking lot or the mall) or Jay could have dropped the phone off at a prearranged spot for Adnan to pick up later. Thanks for commenting on the legal implications I have absolutely no idea about that and thought it may have spoken to Jay’s motive for lying.

        • Since we are dealing with Jay here, and as per Occam’s razor, it is much easier to assume that he lied to please the detectives w/o knowing or worrying about what that lie imply – calling Jenn from her own house. Obviously, he was not expecting, after 15 years, the whole world will be scrutinizing his words. That’s is for sure!

    • Nice thinking. I can tell you are interested in the case and are trying to piece things together for yourself. Don’t be surprised though if “Adnan did it” theories run up against some opposition in these parts because most people following this blog have been doing so for quite some time and have examined a lot of the exculpatory evidence that Susan has presented in many of her other posts. These posts are beginning to form a coherent version of events for 1/13/99 rather than just standing on their own. That being said, your theory is a bit difficult to consider if we factor in the Asia/library and track alibis and Hae’s likely whereabouts at the time of the 2:36pm call (sorry, I’m switching back to the 12-hour clock to match the records). The following things are probable:

      1) Hae was doing “something else” between 2:20pm and 3:30pm, a “something else” which not only Adnan most likely didn’t know the nature of but also couldn’t have been present with her for because he was in the library. You didn’t explain how, between 2:36pm when he makes a call and whenever the murder takes place, Adnan actually finds Hae. You seem to be assuming that he must have.

      http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2015/03/a-few-days-ago-i-postedan-entryabout-the-actual-murder-window-for-the-death-of-hae-min-lee-based-upon-the-evidence-that-the.html

      2) Adnan was at track practice by about 3:30pm, give or take (see link elsewhere on this blog). This makes the 3:21pm and 3:32pm calls quite difficult to reconcile with Adnan getting his hands dirty and also being at track on time.

      In summary, your timeline assumes that Adnan makes a call at 2:36pm, waits some amount of time for Jay to deliver his cell phone, uses some amount of time to find Hae (where? how? in what vehicle!?), takes the time to murder her and handle her body, and then makes it back to track practice by 3:30pm (give or take). I think this is a highly improbably scenario.

      • Thanks for the reply. I have read your blog which is really good work. At the outset I only think that Adnan could have done it I am not really up to believing he did it any more than I believe Jay did it. I think anything that can narrow down Adnan and Hae’s timelines is good to do.
        It is interesting that both Becky and Asia say they saw Adnan at two different places at 2:20, is this another reason why Asia’s testimony wasn’t persued?? Asia also says she saw adnan for “10 (crossed out) 15-20 minutes” which means Adnan’s gap begins about 2:35 – 2:40.
        Hae leaving straight after school is a big point. It is possible she could have met Adnan in the library car park at 2:40ish after the school car park had cleared. Equally, as you suggest, it raises the possibility she was in a hurry to meet a third party. Would that third party have to be connected to Jay somehow given the subsequent events??. I think there is further evidence of third party involvement in the way in which Hae was buried.
        I wasn’t aware that track practice started at 3:30. I thought it started at 4 but if we can be more accurate about this then that would be a really big point given the timings of the Jenn and Nisha calls (Of course these phone calls assume that at least Jay was involved somehow at the time of the murder). If track practice started 3:45 to 4 then there would be opportunity for Adnan to get back in time for track practice after both those calls were completed.
        There are so many unanswered questions in this case by both Jay and Adnan.

  33. Susan – I think your logic and research is incredible.

    I know I keep on about this, but I would have thought Hae’s diary would be a great help here. Surely Hae would have noted any long TV interviews she featured in and, probably, her hanging out with Don on 5 Jan – especially if she’d upset a friend by not turning up at a match.

    Great and amazing work Susan and others.

  34. The entire post is based on the assumption that there was in fact a letter intended for Don. This is a widely held mistake.

    If you look closely at the letter you can see the letter “D” in the top left corner if you look down and to the left where you would expect to see the “o” and the “n” you will notice that they aren’t there. The letter was in fact intended for “D”. The source of the mistake is the police evidence report which states that the note says “Don” on the back. The mistake was then propagated by Sarah Koenig in the podcast. But it is obvious if you look closely that the note was intended for “D”. It seems the police saw a note intended for “D” and assumed that D stood for Don. They were then sloppy when they wrote the report.

    It seems to me that it is extremely likely that Adnan was called “D”. In this way the note would corroborate the story that Adnan told Officer Adcock on the day Hae was murdered, that he intended to get a ride with Hae but Hae left without him. Unfortunately the information needed to prove this is not in the public domain. If you have access to Hae’s diary I would recommend that you check it. I think you will likely find the proof there.

    • This has got to be the craziest theory I’ve read today. First, there is absolutely no reason to believe Adnan was ever called “D”. Second, the note is written to somebody Hae appears to be in love with. Unless you believe it was written weeks or months before her disappearance, that person would not be Adnan. And finally, there was no wrestling match with Randallstown on the day she disappeared! The note has nothing to do with Adnan.

      • The fact that it says D on the back is indisputable. It is clearly visible to anyone who looks at it closely. The question becomes who is most likely from amongst Hae’s friends to have been called D. We have no evidence that anyone was called D including Don, Yet we have a note addressed to D. The note was written slowly with a meticulous handwriting. She was not rushed when she wrote it. If it was intended for Don she would have taken the extra second to write two more letters unless Don was called D. There is no evidence that Hae was in love with the recipient. It is addressed to Cutie which is perfectly consistent with someone she had dated for a while and with whom she was still on good terms with. It should also be noted that Adnan claims that she wanted to get back together with him.

        • Why would it be likely that Adnan was called “D” as opposed to Hae simply using Don’s first initial which is actually “D”? The police and the prosecution had access to Hae’s diary. If there was any chance at all that Hae could have been writing to Adnan instead of Don, I would have imagined that they’d use that letter as proof that they were planning to meet up.

          • It would seem unusual for Hae to have written someone’s initial if that wasn’t what they were called. She had written a long letter not a short note. Even if we were to assume that it was someone’s initial the last person it could have been was Don. Obviously she hadn’t tried to meet him that day and notwithstanding Ms. Simpson’s valiant efforts there are two witnesses who attest to the fact that Hae was heading to Randalstown High and there is no evidence that there was another day of taping.

            As to your second point the police and the prosecuter were likely working under the assumption that the note said Don. The note was probably catalogued soon after it was found and filed away never to be seen for fifteen years. The police evidence report says that it says Don on the back and that is all anyone had to work with. If by some chance the prosecutor knew that it said D, and thought it was for Adnan, the last thing he would have done would be to present it at trial. It would have destroyed his case all by itself. While it is true that it shows that Adnan intended to meet Hae, it also indicates that she left without him.

        • Yet she was the one who said, in her earlier note, that Adnan wasn’t respecting her decision to break up. And she sure sounded annoyed and wanting to move on at that point. Someone who had that stance on their former relationship wouldn’t be likely to be flirtatious and hint that a video of her would give her ex could see her as often as they wanted.

          • “D” being Adnan has no basis whatsoever in the evidence, but the assumption that “Someone who had that stance on their former relationship wouldn’t be likely to be flirtatious” isn’t accurate either.

            Hae’s friends talked about how Hae would continually page Adnan even after they broke up the second time. Also how, after they broke up the first time, Hae decided to get back together with him when she became aware he was flirting with other girls at parties.

    • Any number of scenarios can be speculated. Without anything to support your argument, nothing in your theory is “extremely” likely. Arguing that Adnan is known as D is a hell of a logical leap. An idea only becomes useful if you have methodically sought out evidence that confirms and disconfirms your idea of events.

      • That it says D on the back of the letter is not speculation it is fact. Given that fact you need to ask yourself who was the letter intended for. Since the contents of the letter indicate that it almost certainly was not intended for Don, it must have been intended for someone else. The contents of the letter are perfectly consistent with the story that Adnan gave on the day Hae was murdered hence unless there is someone else whose name begins with D, that I am unaware of, Adnan would seem to be the most likely candidate for the letter.

        • I think it’s good that you’re questioning things that don’t add up. The note was so utterly confusing to me. I think we should all question everything we “know” about this case. That certainly wasn’t being done back in ’99. But, I think the point the other commenters are making is that when you look at it and think about it, Don or Adnan, which is more likely to be called D? The one whose name begins with a D. Plus, from the entries in Hae’s diary that have been shared we know that when she refers to Adnan it’s always by his name or “my baby,” never D, which I think would’ve been noted if she had.

          • While I agree with you that in a vacuum it would make more sense to assume that the D is for Don, but the letter does not not exist in a vacuum. In order to say that the D is for Don you also have to make sense of the contents of the letter. Since millions of people have seen the letter and no one seems to be able to make sense of it if D stands for Don the only logical thing to do with that information is to assume that D does not stand for Don. Once you eliminate Don as a possibility then the second choice is Adnan. While Adnan has the disadvantage that you have to assume that he was called D it also has the striking advantage that the contents of the letter suddenly go from being totally uninteligable to being almost expected. I think the reason people are having a hard time wrapping their heads around the possibility that the letter was to Adnan has more to do with the fact that most people have been under the impression that the letter said Don then anything else. I think if the question was placed in front of someone who is hearing the case for the first time he would say it is much more likely that the letter was for Adnan then for Don.

        • The contents of the letter are perfectly consistent with what we would expect to see addressed to Don, but rather on a different day than originally thought. They are no more likely to be addressed to Adnan than to Don. The contents do not refer to anything specific that might implicate Adnan. What you are saying can only seem logical if you start with the position that Adnan is guilty and seek evidence only to prove that claim

          • While I wouldn’t put much stock in Butler’s memory, she seems to be all over the place. Summer’s memory of that day is very clear and specific. While her testamony was not given at trial it seems very unlikely that she is mistaken and there was indeed a match with Randalstown that day. At the very least it is more unlikely that there was no match with Randalstown then that Adnan was called D. It is also unlikely that there were two days of taping. It is also unlikely that if Hae had written the note at some time earlier it would still be in the car. There were not many things in the car and she seems to have kept in neat. If the letter had been written earlier and never used it likely would have already been thrown out. Each one of these things by themselves is arguably more unlikely then the assumption that Adan was called D. The reason why you are prepared to accept all of these possibilities and you are so hung up with the possibility that Adnan may have been called D is because you and everyone else has been asking the wrong question. The question everyone has been asking has been “There is a letter to Don how do we make sense of it ?”. While the question they should have been asking is “There is a letter to someone, who is it and what does it mean?”.
            Here is a thought experiment if no one had ever seen the back of the letter there is no question that everyone including you the police and the prosecutor would have assumed it was intended for Adnan. If after reading the body of the letter you would turn it over and see the letter D would you say I must have been wrong and the letter was written to Don or would you say that is strange why does it say D on a letter that was clearly meant for Adnan

          • I forgot to mention I am not sure why you assume that I think Adnan is guilty. If it were ever proven that the note was to Adnan then it would be as close to a proof of Adnan’s innocence as you can get. If Hae indeed left without him then obviously he couldn’t have killed her. While I guess it is theoretically possible that he chased her down and caught up with her it seems pretty unlikely.

  35. Was just wondering if you happened to notice on the anonymous call report, the writer describes adnan and yasser as Asian as well..a/m/17. That, coupled with knowing yassers telephone number and address, is enough of a reason to at least point in the direction of someone at the mosque. Also when the police tried retrieving the number by way of whatever their version of *69 is.. The message they got was caller was “outside calling area.” I’m pretty sure that could only happen if they received that call from a cell phone..which could also narrow down people as I’m sure they were not typical for many teenagers. If the caller was in fact Bilal, which I know is just speculation, and the police knowing it was him and possibly revealing it, it makes sense for him to not testify at trial. Perhaps his testimony on behalf of adnan verifying his presence at mosque would lead prosecutors to rip through his credibility on cross examination when exposing him as the person responsible for pointing the police in adnans direction. It just makes sense to me on the reasons CG didn’t call him to testify, Bc I think since he was not convicted of the charge he was arrested for it would not have been a brady violation if he was called, but I could be misinformed about that.
    Just a theory, but what the hell.

    • My apologies this comment was out of place! I meant to post it under your article that adnan may have been the suspect even before the anonymous call but must have hit the back button before typing. It’s all relevant though so I’ll label it “minor mistake!”

    • The person who made the anonymous call has confirmed their identity to Rabia – it was a Muslim friend of Jay’s who smoked pot with him. It’s very likely he heard (some version of) the same story as the rest of Jay’s friends and was the only one who actually felt compelled to report it.

        • Couldn’t this also imply Jay was behind the anonymous call, to throw the police off his scent? If he was involved surely he’d be panicking once the body was found…

        • Jay definitely told (variations of) the story to several people – that came out in the podcast. None of those people reported it, but obviously one of his friends decided to do so. It makes the anonymous call a lot less significant as it doesn’t really give us any new information – just one more person Jay mouthed off to.

      • This is definitely an interesting point. Can you link to its source? In my opinion, this does make the anonymous call less compelling. I wonder how that person feels now, knowing he might have sent an innocent teen to prison.

        • It was on either Rabia’s blog or twitter – I’ll have to have a look. It came out after Jay was implying the source was Bilal.

          I think from what Susan’s found out since, the guy can rest easy – the police had zeroed in on Adnan well before the call, and frankly given how they conducted the investigation if the call had been a tip-off about some other party they’d probably have ignored it!

          Frankly I think it’s surprising he was the only one who heard the story who called it in. No matter how much you suspect your pal/acquaintance is prone to making stuff up, a girl really was missing and then really was found murdered. Surely that should have been enough for you to think well even if this is nothing, the police should at least know…

  36. Could the January 11th credit card charge have coincided with another match that Monday? What other reason could Hae have had to be on that far side of the city?

  37. Just another thought about the day of filming. Didn’t Don recall that the evening of the 12th she asked him to call in sick for her so she could skip school on the 13th? Would she have done that if she were filming that day? Maybe the filming wasn’t on the 13.

  38. Question for Susan:

    Clearly this is solid (if not totally concrete) evidence for what Hae was NOT supposed to be doing that afternoon. My question is: based on the latest evidence and revelations (including Krista’s approved version of events during the morning in EvidenceProf’s blog), what is your theory of what she was supposed to be doing besides picking up her cousin? Specifically, if she first agreed to give Adnan a ride after school, then told him as class was letting out for the day that “something had come up”, what do you think came up? And more importantly, HOW do you think it came up? If she was in school all day, without a cell phone, how could she have made new plans unless they were with someone from school?

    • If “something else came up,” then the most likely explanation for how that happened would be her pager.

      Since the police never subpoenaed Hae’s pager records, though, that doesn’t leave us with much to go on.

      • Hi Susan, just wanted to confirm that Hae’s pager records were never pulled and are gone gone gone. All evidence of who in the WHS circle called or paged Hae after her disappearance comes from their records/testimony, correct? Thanks!

      • Susan: I agree that Hae’s plans after school were very important. What route was she taking, where was she going? I’ve never heard/seen mention of what school her 6yo cousin attended. I’m curious as to what direction she’d be driving in to get there, what might be a quick stop along the way? Exactly what time was she expected there, what was the range of pick up times for the kids at that school, and what time exactly were the cousin’s parents informed no pick up had occurred? Further, where is the cousin’s home that Hae would have been dropping off the cousin off after picking her up? I’d love to see the cousin’s school and cousin’s home plotted on the cell tower maps. I’d love to see if perhaps that map might match Hae’s path. Adan’s statement on the podcast that “Hae wasn’t doing anything after school until she’d picked her cousin up” suggests this “something else” that came up for her was something she could do that did not conflict with the cousin pick up. Maybe the “something else” Hae was doing involved picking up someone else. Someone who was known to not have a car but who did have Adnan’s cell phone. Someone she’d been wanting to talk to anyway about cheating on her friend. Someone who is known to have been in her car that day b/c he knew where to find her car later.

        • Campfield Early Learning Center is only 4 and a half miles north from Woodlawn HS, 9 mins driving. I threw out the idea earlier that Hae might have thought to do a quick rush to see Don at Hunt Valley before picking up cousin – she sounded a bit over-the-moon about him so this might have made her a bit irresponsible. Hunt Valley would be another 20 mins drive further north from Campfield. She would pass near Campfield on the way to Hunt Valley. I speculated that she may have met up with Jay on the way or at Hunt Valley either by chance or arranged, either for weed or for the Stefanie confrontation. She may have thought she could pick up cousin later, say around 4 and that would be OK. Something must have happened before 3.15pm (cousin pick-up time) or she blew off the precise cousin pick-up time and the typical teenage reason to do that would be to see a boy (or to get weed).
          However I based this speculation around the note to Don, assuming it was meant for him when she popped in to Hunt Valley to see him and he wasn’t there working as he had told her he would be. if she didn’t go to Hunt Valley then any of the above could have gone down elsewhere, interrupting the cousin pick-up. But given Campfield is only a few mins away from WHS is quite conceivable that she thought to sneak in another task, whatever that was and in doing so got into a situation that went awry.

  39. Sorry to be a Jonny Come Lately — I’ve just got a wee observation. Mr Graham states that the filming took place on 13 Jan, between 9-1, and that he last saw Hae at 1.30. However, that clashes with the 4th period and the psychology class attended by Adnan, Becky, Aisha and Hae that day (12.55 – 2.15) . On the Serial timeline for Adnan, it’s noted that Miss Paoletti recorded Adnan coming in late, at a very exacting 1.27. If Hae too had come to class late after filming, wouldn’t this have been noticed and noted down too? Thanks for the splendid work. If I were fitted up for a crime I didn’t commit, I’d want you on the defence team. Cheers!

  40. Please correct me if I’ve missed something.

    Why are we sure about the time of death? If the body was found so much later how can we know an exact time?

    If lividity was fixed on her front, why do we believe she was killed in the car? Or kept in the car? Isn’t that consistent with her laying face down? Could she have been killed or kept in another location?

    If she was buried late that night/early the next morning, as I believe she was, what difference does any of the earlier alibis and cel phone data make?

    I truly believe that jay got mixed up with someone else who killed Hae. And he has been protecting them. That’s why he was so so scared. I also believe his story keeps changing because he was coached during pre-interviews to try and make the facts fit.

  41. Pingback: Undisclosed Podcast - The State vs. Adnan Syed.

  42. I’m going to throw some speculation out here: the last part of Hae’s note mentions that she’ll tape her interview for Don. If that interview was scheduled to air on 1/13, I wonder if Hae’s plan after school was to swing by Best Buy and purchase a couple video tapes for that purpose. Maybe she realized during the school day that she needed to buy them before taking her cousin home or else she would miss the taping. Then she runs into Jay in the parking lot because she recognized the car he was in.
    This is of course assuming she really was killed at Best Buy.

  43. I apologize if this has already been mentioned, but have you explored the possibility that “Randallstown” hosted the match for another school? I’ve seen this happen when gyms have been double booked for other sporting events. Also, if this was a JV match (or make up match) it would not have been reported in the newspaper as part of the schedule. I think your concerns about the inconsistencies are valid but your conclusions don’t account for all possible scenarios.

  44. One of the questions I have always had all along- while listening to Serial, while listening to Undisclosed, while reading articles and blogs- is maybe Hae was not killed that very same day. The state’s timeline, I think, has thrown everyone off. Just because Hae was last seen after school on January 13th 1999, does not mean she had to of died January 13th, 1999. Her body isn’t found until one month after this date. Who’s to say she wasn’t held captive (which would explain the lividity/pressure marks of being elsewhere) days after? This entire case almost makes no sense. I am baffled at how ANYONE was convicted based on any of the information presented during trials. Everyone’s story has changed regarding that as well. Not one person has had the same repeated story more than once- days are mixed up, recanting statements are made, numerous locations are inserted then removed…. to me, this seems extra bizarre. How is it that not ONE person can recall anything correctly. It’s a complete mess! I have become thoroughly preoccupied with this case and only hope the TRUTH, the actual real TRUTH, surfaces in the near future. Poor Hae’s family and friends, Adnand’s family and friends, Jay’s family and friends- everyone who is involved. And most importantly, the poor soul of Hae. I can only hope she has found peace.

    • Claudia,
      Your comments are spot on. It seems very possible that Hae was abducted and kept somewhere, perhaps until a day or two before she was found.

      As you point out, the lividity itself indicates that she was someplace for at least 8 hours that had an even “floor” or place where he body could have rested in that prone position. If lividity is even on the front of her body she had to be laid out flat. At 5 foot 6 inches tall, that’s not going to happen for Hae in a car.

      None of the witness testimony feels reliable. It’s as if everyone interviewed was given a nudge in a certain direction by police investigators.

      What is clear is that the entire investigation has to be revisited. And there absolutely has to be a new trial.

  45. Ok. I have an idea about the “excitement for interview” concept and the context of the note. What if Hae found out she was going to be interviewed for the TV segment one week in advance and was very excited? This would make her statements about being excited coincide with the note found in her car and the fact that she was probably at the mall with Don instead of going to the Randallstown match. So the note is from Jan 6 or 7, not Jan 13. Makes sense.

    What did she buy on Jan 13 though with her check card? All reports make it sound like she went to school that day and then disappeared. She went somewhere called Crown though…

  46. Inez Butler testified that she recalled Hae Min Lee getting a drink and snack from the concession stand; at one point Ms. Butler remembers the snack as being hot fries which could be the kind sold in a bag with the brand name ‘Andy Capp’s Hot Fries’.
    Does the autopsy report suggest anything?

    ALIMENTARY TRACT:
    The tongue exhibited no evidence of recent injury. The esophagus was lined by gray-brown, smooth mucosa. The gastric mucosa was arranged in the usual rugal folds and the lumen contained 40 ml. of mucoid and tan fluid containing fine white particles. The small and large bowel were unremarkable. The pancreas was autolyzed, but the ducts were clear. The appendix was unremarkable.

  47. Im wondering if on the 5th, the news crew came to interview her but since she did not have her uniform they just did some questions and said they would come back the next week to take the action shots. This could explain why Hae talks about the game and the interview as well. I do remember Summer’s testimony on how Hae said she would drive herself and Summer was not comfortable taking score without her. I believe she did stand Summer up to be with Don.
    Perhaps she was waiting in the parking lot and decided she was tired of waiting, etc. and wrote the note. Then Don showed up and they went into the mall together.
    Im guessing that on her wrestling nights, someone else was responsible for picking up her cousin from school.

  48. Hi Susan – I was just revisiting a couple episodes of undisclosed and started googling about the don note which lead me here. It occurred to me that there is an assumption that the don note was never delivered. Isn’t it possible that 1) it was actually delivered to Don, and ended up back in her trunk because Don was in contact with her on the day she died and put it there (accidentally or on purpose) or 2) that she was intercepted by someone else when attempting to deliver the note and that it ended up in the trunk as part of what happened to her? I don’t know if this has already been discussed elsewhere.

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